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GundersenAIR RN reflects on emotional, rewarding flight

GundersenAIR flight RN Tony Hovey calls one flight in 2018 the most emotionally challenging experience of his career. 

This flight, he says, was not about saving a life. This was about delivering superior care in someone's final hours.

"I consider end-of-life care a privilege," Hovey says. "This was my first flight where I knew how it would end."

Hovey, paramedic partner Lance Luther and a Viterbo University nursing student flew to a regional hospital to transport a woman suffering from cancer, respiratory distress and pneumonia.

"When I saw her in her room, I knew this was not about life-saving measures."he says.

"This was about getting her to a place where they could get her turned around and her head clear so that she could interact with her family before she died."

The team moved slowly and methodically, working to keep her comfortable and alert before the flight to Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.

"We had one chance to get this right," he says. In air, she responded to therapeutic touch with only low-dose sedation to ease anxiety. She arrived alert and oriented after the 27-minute flight.

"That was our goal," he says. Now in Critical Care, the woman's family made it to her bedside, where she remained lucid in her final moments because of the care Hovey helped deliver. She died the next morning.

"Of the greater than 500 flights that I have completed for GundersenAIR, this flight was probably the greatest use of the culmination of skills that I have acquired as a nurse put to use all at once on one flight," Hovey says.

"Just thinking of the flight and the challenges it presented us and the pride in the job we were able to do still brings tears to my eyes. This flight is representative of why I became a nurse and why I remain a nurse."

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La Crosse, WI 54601

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