Words on a School Seal Foreshadow Student’s Life Choices



Blake Huggins

Blake Huggins


By Guest Contributor: Carolyn Drinkard,Freelance Writer

July 29, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)

It was the school year 2000, and like so many high school seniors, Blake Huggins could not decide what he wanted to do with his life. A gifted musician and artist, he thought that maybe his future might be in the arts, but fate had other plans for Huggins.


During Huggins’s senior year, he joined with other members of the Thomisana Staff to create a school seal for their yearbook. The students wanted something that would be permanent and used to represent the schools in other publications. They planned the seal around four areas of school life: academics, arts, sciences, and athletics, using Greek symbols to represent each area. The staff decided to use the motto that the District had previously been using, so “Enter to learn. Leave to serve” was added. These students also wanted a phrase that represented the spirit of their thirteen years of preparation for life, so they chose the Latin phrase, belle est posse, which translates “To be willing is to be able” or literally “where there is a will, there is a way.” Huggins did the original sketches that went before the School Board for adoption. Ironically, the words on the seal would become a mantra for Huggins’s quest to find himself.


After graduation, Huggins went to the University of Mobile to major in music and graphic arts. But after two years, he felt a desire to do something else with his life. “I realized that my music and my art were hobbies that I enjoyed,” he explained. “They were not my passions.”


Returning home to attend Alabama Southern Community College, Huggins took a friend’s advice and completed a basic EMT course. He then moved to Gulf Shores, working with an ambulance company, serving as a lifeguard, and taking courses from South Alabama for advanced paramedic certification.


After receiving a job offer in Colorado, Huggins packed up and went west. Before beginning the job, however, he and a friend spent a month backpacking through Europe. “This began my obsession with and desire for adventure, traveling, and seeing the world,” he explained.


In 2011, he accepted a job offer to go to Kuwait to serve as an ambulance paramedic on U.S. military bases.  He spent a year in Kuwait working and traveling the world as often as his vacation time would allow.  “I really enjoyed studying and learning about the Arabic/Middle Eastern culture, and I traveled extensively throughout the region,” he added.


Returning to Colorado, he began studying to obtain the necessary advanced certifications that he would need in order to achieve his goal of becoming a Flight Paramedic.  In 2013, he received his Critical Care Paramedic and Flight Paramedic certifications and started working for Angel MedFlight  as a Critical Care Flight Paramedic. Angel MedFlight is a fixed-wing, air-ambulance company, transporting patients all over the world on a private jet that is the equivalent of a hospital ICU in the air.


“It is the ideal job for me because it allows me to combine my passion for traveling and adventure with my career in the medical field,” Huggins explained. “Many of our patients become sick or injured while on vacation here in the U.S. or abroad, and they are too sick to travel by commercial airline back home.  Our patients are often stuck in third-world countries with a severe injury or illness in a hospital or clinic that has neither the capabilities nor the training to appropriately manage their conditions.  These patients are trying desperately to return to the U.S. where they can receive the appropriate, often life-saving, care that they need.  That’s where our company comes in.  We fly there, pick them up, and bring them back to the states where they can receive the care that they need. It is very rewarding being a part of the process that gets these people back home and back with their families,” added Huggins..


Huggins is quick to express his appreciation for the education he received from Thomasville City Schools. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at TCS. I learned many valuable life lessons, thanks to the great teachers who taught me,” he added. “I was prepared for higher education, and TCS gave me the foundation for reaching my goals in life.”


In 2000, a young artist, etching prophetic words on his school’s seal, could never have imagined the paths he would travel or the heights he would soar to find his life’s mission: to serve others.


Pets Beneficial to Health and Wellbeing

Woman Tenderly Hugging and Kissing Pet Dog


“They motivate us to play, be affectionate, seek adventure, and be loyal” – Tom Hayden


June 23, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)

All throughout history, people have been taming wild animals to become their pets.  Companionship, love, and pure loyalty are what human beings crave, and are received from owning pets.  Now, it is coming to light that pets actually provide mental and physical health benefits.  At any age of a person’s life, owning a pet will benefit him or her in ways that they will not even realize are happening.


Having a pet around a baby provides the benefit of increasing the immune system.  The more germs a child is exposed to, the tougher their immune system will become.  In an age when ‘anti bacterial’ is listed on every product, and antibiotics are prescribed for everything, building a good immune system can be hard to accomplish.  Immunity must be created at a young age.  Dr. David Sack, CEO of Promises, says that “A study found that children ages 5 to 7 from pet-owning households attend school three weeks more per year than those who don’t have pets”.  This is a result of a child with a strong immune system who is able to fight off being sick.  As it is known, dogs and cats are the best cuddle companions on the planet.  When they are snuggled up with a baby or a little child, they are providing more than just something warm and soft to cuddle with; they are helping that child to have a longer, healthier life.


When people enter adulthood, all the pressures and responsibilities of the real world come pouring down.  Unhealthy habits develop. Stress and depression become a reality. This is where owning a pet becomes very beneficial; allowing people to take a break from all of the struggles of life and relax.  Doctor Mark Hyman says that “Numerous studies, including those funded by the National Institute of Health, show that dogs can provide better social support and stress relief than even our friends and family can offer”.  Having a pet can help one deal with loneliness, depression, and many other mental struggles.  Dogs help get their owners up and out, making them exercise.  According to the CDC, this can help with cholesterol, blood pressure, weight control, and mental health.


Pets have a calming effect on people of all ages.  They are used in many facilities as part of the therapy and recovery process.  They allow patients to have a sense of purpose, developing responsibility, and give them a reason to be active.  Having these positive feelings is necessary for overall health and wellbeing.


As an air medical transport provider, Angel MedFlight strives to provide the highest level of care for its patients, continually seeking ways to elevate the medical flight experience.   Angel MedFlight recognizes the benefits of pet companionship and allows pets to accompany patients on medical flights, another way to help the patient feel relaxed and safe during a very stressful time.






Joint Training Promotes Safety at Angel MedFlight

Wendy Whitaker

June 20, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)

Angel MedFlight uses a unique training philosophy to promote safety. We had the opportunity to sit down with Angel MedFlight Safety Officer, Wendy Whitaker, to learn about the benefits of the training methodology used and other safety procedures in place at Angel MedFlight.


Angel MedFlight follows the FAA’s training guidelines for Air Medical Resource Management training or AMRM. *The focus of AMRM is training all of the air medical service team members together on a number of topics that focus on member’s job. For example, pilots will be familiar with what flight coordinators do and flight nurses will understand what pilots do. The AMRM philosophy was developed to enhance the safety culture within the air medical community, by promoting team cohesiveness. The FAA suggests that the AMRM training be customized for each individual organization to reflect that companies operating philosophies, polices, practices and procedures.


The success of an organization’s AMRM training program isn’t guaranteed. It’s really based on how well the training is implemented and the instructors providing the training. Luckily, at Angel MedFlight we have excellent trainers in Clinical Educator, Matt Greenwell RN, Chief Pilot, Kindle Tannery, and Safety Officer, Wendy Whitaker. This group of educators trains the Flight Coordinators, Dispatch, Logistics, Medical Crew, Flight and Maintenance Crew all together in joint curriculum classes. This training methodology is at the heart of the AMRM philosophy. Together the group will learn about each other’s roles and this creates better communication between departments and crew and promotes safety. The classes are taught using real-world problems, scenarios and tasks as well as visual aids.


Joint Training Works – Crew Curriculum includes topics like:

  • Federal Aviation Regulations
  • AMRM – Air Medical Resource Management
  • Emergency Procedures and Equipment
  • Flight Physiology
  • Patient Care
  • Passenger Care
  • Safety Management Systems / Emergency Response Plans
  • Just Culture / Threat & Error Management
  • Logistics and General Operations
  • Flight Coordination
  • Human Factors


“It’s a very big deal that we do this type of training. Each department understands a little about each other’s jobs, which unifies departments and really creates a strong team mentality,” says Safety Officer, Wendy Whitaker.


This type of training promotes safety, as a result of departments and crew communicating effectively with one another. Safety is the number one priority at Angel MedFlight, and is apparent with our ARG/US Platinum Rating.  The Platinum rating is the highest safety rating awarded and to be Platinum rated you must have what’s called a Safety Management System (SMS) in place. Part of Angel MedFlight’s SMS audits all of the departments for safety, using various guidelines. Another part of the system allows employees to report safety concerns anonymously. Both systems are important to maintain safe operations.


Before every flight, pilots do a risk assessment of the flight.  Pilots take a “snapshot” of the flight; enter data such as terrain, weather, and time in the aircraft into the risk assessment application developed by our in house software programmers. The application will in turn assign the flight a risk value of low, medium or high-risk flight.  If the app determines the flight to be high risk, it will not allow the pilot to proceed any further with planning the flight until the fight is approved by the Director of Operations, or the Chief Pilot.  If the flight is deemed to be too high risk, the flight will not be done at all.  “Our Director of Operations and Chief Pilot do a great job in evaluating the conditions surrounding risk values, like weather, fatigue, duty times, etcetera, and offering alternative solutions to reduce our risk values to an acceptable level,” states Whitaker.


At Angel MedFlight, it’s everyone’s joint responsibility to operate safely together for the benefit of the patients we fly. That’s why safety is paramount at Angel MedFlight.


*Source: FAA AMRM Advisory Circular – Date: 9/22/2005

Angel MedFlight Takes GOLD!



June 18, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)

Angel MedFlight was pleased to learn on June 13th, that we had been awarded two Gold Stevie® Awards for excellence in videography from the American Business Awards. The two winning videos were from Angel MedFlight’s Emmy® Award winning series “My Real Life Moment™.”



My Real Life Moment™: Team Jaxon Air Ambulance Transport”received a Gold Award in the Motivational Public Relations Category. In this video, the parents of 5-year-old Jaxon Davis tell the impassioned story of the brain cancer victim. When their son’s condition deteriorated during a family vacation, they reached out to Angel MedFlight. With the help of an anonymous family and Angel MedFlight, Jaxon and his family were transported to San Antonio, Texas.


“My Real Life Moment™ 2013 “Holiday Homecoming”landed it’s Gold Award in the Public Relations: Media and Entertainment Category.  In this uplifting story, Lori McFate met the bone marrow donor that saved her life in 2006. You’ll share in the moment as Lori and her donor, Michael Henkel of Germany, meet for the very first time in Lori’s hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa.

Lori McFate and Michael Henkel

Lori McFate and Michael Henkel

Angel MedFlight is glad that we can share some of our patient’s stories with the public and humbled by the generous awards that we’ve received for them; however the real winners are the patients and families who open their hearts and homes to allow us to share these real life moments. To them we are eternally grateful.

Angel MedFlight May Logbook

Al Hamra Tower - Kuwait

Al Hamra Tower – Kuwait


June 11, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)

The month of May proved once again to be very busy at Angel MedFlight, with both domestic and international transports up from last year. Our Flight coordinators have done a great job with the increased number of transports to coordinate.


Our pilots and medical crews sure have been seeing a lot of the world. We flew to:
  • Hungary
  • Mexico
  • Kuwait
  • England


We transported a patient 6,627 miles from Kuwait to Massachusetts and another patient from Hungary to Texas. We’ve seen an increase in international transports and we’re glad that we have the capability to help so many people worldwide. Domestically, we flew in or out of 36 states in May. Florida continues to be the top sending state and Texas the top receiving state for transports. Notably, our youngest patient was only 15 days old and our oldest 98 years old. The major reason for air medical transports in May was oncology related.


Angel MedFlight transports patients with many types of medical issues including, but not limited to, neonatal and pediatric cases, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, status post trauma, transplant recipients, respiratory illness, cancer patients and burn and wound patients.


Angel MedFlight anticipates another busy month in June as summer travel results in a higher number of illnesses and injuries.



Training Together Proves to be Beneficial for Employees and Patients




Essential to the success of any organization, is the quality of its employees. Angel MedFlight actively seeks talented individuals who share the same work ethic and passion for exceeding standards that the company was founded on. Finding talent, however, is just the first step in building and maintaining an exceptional team. After initial new-hire orientation, individuals need ongoing, specialized training in two very technical fields: aviation and healthcare.

Angel MedFlight has designed and implemented a world-class training program providing instruction in every department including aviation, aviation maintenance, safety, operations, flight coordination, medical, quality management, legal, claims, human resources, IT and business development. Cross training employees allows employees to experience what it’s like to be in another’s role; for better understanding of how departments must work together for improved overall operations.

Matt Greenwell, RN, CFRN, NREMT-P, FP-C, Angel MedFlight’s Director of Clinical Operations teaches one of the training courses; Flight Physiology. He explains how pressure and altitude affect patients, flight crew and medical crew alike. Pressure affects people differently, an important consideration when transporting critical patients. A patient is going to react differently at sea level than at 40,000 feet.

“It’s very important that the patient’s history and condition area taken into consideration when the flight coordinators plan the flight,” says Greenwell, adding, “Altitude and air density, cabin pressure and the condition of the patient all play a role in coordinating a flight and determining the correct altitude and cabin pressure.” Greenwell teaches all the laws concerning pressure including Boyle’s Law, Charles’ Law, Henry’s Law, Graham’s Law and Fick’s Law. These are all complex theories that will need to be understood in depth. Greenwell stresses the importance of the medical crew and flight crew needing to communicate when it comes to adjusting cabin pressure. Because of their cross training, they’ll all have an understanding of the situation and be able to communicate effectively. This is one of many examples why a cross-training approach coupled with an in-depth curriculum are such integral pieces of an effective training and development program.

Greenwell also includes a training segment outlining the 4 types of hypoxia including hypoxic, hypemic, stagnant and histotoxic and the potential effects on patients and crew. He recalls a time when he had the training opportunity to spend time in an altitude pressure chamber; which simulates an aircraft reaching different altitudes and tests the effects it has on people. He explains that in his experience, it only took about 90 seconds to begin to feel the effects of hypoxia. He said he felt confused and experienced pain in his neck. Hypoxia can affect everyone differently. Personally experiencing a pressure chamber is an excellent way to understand first-hand what the effects can be. Greenwell hopes to incorporate altitude pressure chamber training to the curriculum in the near future.

Chief Pilot Kindle Tannery joins Greenwell to teach a segment that explains all of the 9 stressors that can affect not only the patient during the flight but the crew as well. The stressors are:

  • Hypoxia
  • Barometric Pressure
  • Thermal
  • G-Forces
  • Noise
  • Vibration
  • Third-Spacing
  • Decreased Humidity
  • Fatigue


Together, they explained the importance of the flight crew and medical crew to remain hydrated, eat healthy and the proper amount of rest in between flights so that they are able to perform their job functions to the absolute best of their ability.

It’s necessary for pilots and flight coordinators to learn and understand flight physiology; not just the medical crew. Although flight coordinators remain on the ground, they must be able to effectively communicate this information to patients, families and case managers that they work with to coordinate medical flights.

Angel MedFlight’s training and development is continually evolving in order to remain on the cutting edge of technology. Because air medical transport encompasses both the aviation and healthcare fields, ongoing training and continuing education requirements are important to remaining leaders in the industry.  The flight physiology course is just one part of the extensive training curriculum.

Angel MedFlight’s commitment to hiring, training and developing talent is essential to delivering operational excellence on every level.


Memorial Day Weekend Starts Summer Travel Season

The long Memorial Day weekend marks the start of family summer fun with outings and vacations. According to a recent Airlines for America (A4A) report, a predicted 1.5 percent increase in air travel means there will be more people traveling by plane this summer than in the highest recorded years of 2007-2008.  A4A predicts that airlines will transport 210 million people this summer. Not only will the roads be busy, but so will the airports. They also report that the top destinations this summer are Mexico, Canada and the U.K.


More travelers mean more people may be visiting your favorite summer destination. With more people, comes the possibility of more accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the holiday weekend is one of the six deadliest holidays involving automobile fatalities. Staying alert and aware of other drivers on the road, refraining from drinking and driving, only using mobile devices when vehicle is pulled over or stopped and wearing a seat-belt  are all simple but potentially life-saving tips.


If you’re traveling, have fun, but remember to be safe around the water at the beach, pools and water parks. Make sure children are always under a watchful eye, it only takes seconds for a drowning to happen. If you are celebrating at the beach, park or other places with large crowds, be sure to have a plan in case you and your children get separated. Deciding on a predetermined place or landmark to meet should you become separated is always a good idea. Remember to drink plenty of water so that you stay hydrated and make sure to pack sunscreen and perhaps a small first aid kit for emergencies.


Something else to consider during your holiday weekend: when participating in risky activities that could potentially cause a serious injury, like a traumatic brain injury (TBI), it’s important to wear protective gear including a helmet. Every year, in the United States alone, 2.4 million people, including 475,000 children, sustain a TBI.  Experiencing new adventures is an important part of living a full,healthy life; especially when enjoyed safely.


As we finish Memorial Day Weekend and head into the summer travel months, keeping safety in mind will ensure you will have a fun and safe summer.