When Minutes Matter (Down East Magazine)

LifeFlight of Maine is ready during Mainers’ most critical moments.

(Down East Magazine) VINALHAVEN, Maine — In August of 2004, when she was 38 weeks pregnant, Megan Day started feeling an unusual back pain. A doctor diagnosed kidney stones, but a few days later, as her husband made lunch in their Vinalhaven home, Day walked upstairs, realized she’d started bleeding, and hollered for help. 

“The next thing I know,” she says, “I’ve got an EMT yelling at me because I kept going unconscious.” 

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Much of what unfolded felt almost scripted: Day’s lobsterman husband was home only because it was a summer Sunday, when commercial fishing is prohibited. In Rockport, Pen Bay Medical Center’s entire labor and delivery team was on-site, celebrating the babies they had delivered over the prior year. Most fortunate of all, a LifeFlight of Maine helicopter crew was on the island, conducting a training exercise with the Vinalhaven Fire and EMS crews, and was able to resuscitate Megan. 

Reaching the hospital by boat would have taken more than an hour; Day’s LifeFlight helicopter ride took just five minutes. The doctor who performed her emergency C-section later said that two more minutes would have cost both Day and her baby girl, Kyra, their lives. 

Kyra was taken by ambulance to Portland, to Maine Med’s NICU, while Day stayed at Pen Bay, where surgery revealed a renal-artery aneurysm. After a second LifeFlight trip, this time to Portland, doctors saved her kidney, and she recovered three floors down from her new daughter. 

“When you’re critically ill or injured, time and geography are as big a determinant of how you’re going to do as the disease itself,” says LifeFlight of Maine founder and executive director Tom Judge. “It’s incredibly important to know that help is there when you need it. That’s why we built this system.” 

LifeFlight currently operates a fleet of three twin-engine helicopters and one airplane, and the organization provides ground transport in partnership with local EMS agencies. As a nonprofit, LifeFlight cares for all patients regardless of ability to pay — a commitment made possible by the support of generous donors. “It really is of Maine, for Maine, by Maine,” Judge says. “We take care of each other. We have a responsibility for each other.” 

Four years after Kyra’s birth, Megan took a job with Island Village Childcare, Vinalhaven’s only childcare center, and in 2014, she became its director. Every year, on Kyra’s birthday, Megan sends a photo to LifeFlight, thanking the organization for the quick action that saved both of their lives. This summer, she sent her 18th photo, just months after Kyra graduated high school. 

“We owe a debt of gratitude to LifeFlight,” Megan says. “It’s definitely a great service to have available in the state of Maine.” 

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