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Thursday, March 13, 2014 - North Flight Makes 'Scary Day Seem Just a Little Better'


Evan Burch and his mom, Kim, before their flight to Grand Rapids.
Below are North Flight EMS Flight Medic Brendan Keenan, and
Flight Nurse Izzy McCormack.

You Made a Scary Day Seem Just a Little Better’
Kingsley boy and mom thankful for quality of care after fall results in broken neck

Evan Burch, 6, found more adventure than he ever imagined when he jumped on a slide to climb it backwards at Kingsley Elementary School during a cold wintry day on Monday, Jan. 20.

Before the day was over, the first grader would be wheeled into two emergency rooms, spend time in two ambulances, and fly from Traverse City to Grand Rapids on North Flight Air’s twin-engine King Air B200.

By the next day, he would be in surgery to install a halo to protect a C1 fracture to his neck and have to spend the rest of the week at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Kim Burch, Evan’s mom, characterizes the care that first day as “seamless” as Evan’s diagnosis became clear. Brendan Keenan

“The care we received at Munson Medical Center, from North Flight, and at DeVos made a very traumatic experience something we could deal with,” she said. “Every person we came in contact with that day went above and beyond to help us.”

Evan told his mom the “scary day” began when he tried to climb a slide during recess as another student was coming down. He was knocked off the slide and fell on his head and neck. By the time a playground attendant arrived, Evan was standing, but a little woozy as the playground attendant walked with him to the school office.

Kim, who works in Traverse City, received a call from the school that Evan was hurt and was suffering from a possible concussion. Kim called a friend to pick up Evan and take him to the Munson Medical Center Emergency Department, while she headed over to start filling out paperwork.

When Evan arrived, Munson Emergency Department’s EMT John Hogarth met him with a wheelchair and placed a C-collar around his neck. Once inside in a room, physician Jill Burden, D.O., and nursing staff started an evaluation. A concussion seemed likely, but Dr. Burden advised a CT scan just to ensure there were no issues with the spinal cord.

“Jill Burden was amazing, she was charged with making the call of what to do and she did the exam right away and told me the pros and cons of radiation. She was leaning toward doing a CT scan, but left it up to me,” Kim said. “I wanted to be sure.”

The exam showed the C1 fracture. Dr. Burden was quickly sitting beside Kim with her computer image of the scan and explaining the need to transfer Evan to DeVos. Meanwhile, North Flight Air got the call. Flight Medic Brendan Keenan, NREMT-P, and Flight Nurse Izzy McCormack, R.N., had just finished delivering another patient to the hospital.

The North Flight Air crew was joined by North Flight Grand Traverse paramedics Wayne Mervau and Dave Grattopp to help “package” Evan for the flight by using special material to restrict any spinal motion and strap him to special backboard for transfer. Izzy McCormack

“From the time North Flight came into the room, Brendan was amazing,” Kim said. “I don’t know if he loves his job, or loves kids, but he was at Evan’s level telling him what they were going to be doing. Between Brendan and Izzy, it was great team to be with kids, they did everything to make a bad situation OK.”

A North Flight ambulance transported Evan, Kim, and the flight crew to the airport as pilot Pete Morrison went through his pre-flight checks of the airplane. An extra seat on the plane allowed Kim to go with Evan. Meanwhile, her husband Scott, and twins Cecil and Emmaley, who had joined Kim at the hospital were headed back to Kingsley, where Scott would drop the children off for care and then head to Grand Rapids by car.

Kim remembers Keenan and McCormack as being extremely competent and confident as they engaged with Evan while administering care, and helping her understand what would happen once the plane landed in Grand Rapids.

A Life EMS ambulance met the plane at Gerald R. Ford International Airport and the North Flight crew continued care all the way to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at DeVos where a team was waiting for them.

“Brendan and Izzy stayed in the ER room to give the report and files to the trauma and ER doctors. It was a full circle transition,” Kim said. “At the end they came back to me and checked in with me to ask if I had everything I needed. They just went above and beyond.”

After an MRI at DeVos, and consultation between specialty physicians, followed by a meeting early Tuesday with an orthopedic surgeon, the Burches learned the best treatment option for Evan was a halo. Surgery followed and the halo was installed to immobilize his neck while healing occured. After discharge a few days later and a week of additional recovery, Evan was able to go back to school. His halo has to remain in place for 12 weeks.

“Whatever relationship that Munson has with DeVos, I am thankful for,” Kim said. “The transition was seamless. They didn’t rely on me for information, which was a good thing. They knew everything.”

Once home, Kim wanted to thank the North Flight EMS team for their care with a gift. Evan decided he would draw them a card of thanks, complete with depictions of Izzy, Brendan, his mom, and himself on the card.

“Dear North Flight Team: Thank you for the AMAZING care you gave us during our transport to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital! You made a scary day seem just a little bit better. God bless you all,” the card reads.