Need for air ambulances has helped Santa Rosa company boost revenue by 33% last year, expand into Oregon, Illinois

  • Business/--REACH 1 lifts off from Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, Wednesday July 16, 2008.(Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)2008

Saving lives is a growth business for REACH Air Medical Service, which uses helicopters and airplanes to transport critically injured patients.

The Santa Rosa company's revenue grew to $40 million last year, up 33 percent from 2006.

It has expanded rapidly in the past three years, adding air bases in Oregon, Illinois and remote areas of California.

Demand for air ambulances is strong in Sonoma County and other locales where hospitals with trauma units can be more than an hour's drive away for some residents.

REACH's appeal is easy to understand: In the remote coastal enclave of The Sea Ranch last week, a 79-year-old resident collapsed of an apparent heart attack. His heart was barely beating, about 10 beats per minute. At that point, without treatment, his remaining life could be measured in minutes.

A REACH medical helicopter touched down in The Sea Ranch 15 minutes after his collapse.

Todd Peltier, a registered nurse with REACH, jumped out of the helicopter and rushed to his side.

Peltier and a REACH paramedic loaded the patient into the helicopter and got to work, inserting a breathing tube and applying an external pacemaker, which brought his heart rate back to 70 beats per minute.

The REACH team had the patient at Sutter Hospital within 30 minutes of the heart attack -- a trip that would have taken more than an hour by ambulance.

On Thursday, the man was moved out of the intensive care unit -- a new pacemaker in his chest -- and was expected to make a full recovery.

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