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After Grisly Accident, One New York Man Hopes Governor Will Sign Air Ambulance Law

Travis Flanagan
The Flanagan Family

On the mend after a brush with death in the spring, a man from New York's Southern Tier is hoping New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will sign the Air Ambulance Bill.  WARNING: This story includes some disturbing details that might not be appropriate for everyone.

In March, 36-year-old Travis Flanagan was working alone, operating a corn harvester on the family farm, 30 minutes north of Binghamton in Broome County, when tragedy struck.

“My dad and I do farming together. And we were actually picking grinding corn. And I ended up getting off of the machine to push on some corn stalks with my hand and I stepped wrong, and I got pulled into the machine on the opposite side, and I ended up losing both of my legs is what I did. But in the process of that, I lost my phone as well. So I wasn't able, I was there by myself, because I sent my dad away that day, at that time to go do something else. And so I was in the field for about 45 minutes to an hour by myself until my dad returned. And when he returned, he called 911.”

Flanagan, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, says the field is not easy accessed by truck. The call to 911 was answered by a company of volunteer firefighters, who were by chance attending a training less than 10 minutes from the field where Flanagan worried he might bleed to death.

“They arrived and they asked for a helicopter to be dispatched. When they called for the helicopter to be dispatched, LifeNet, which is a New York State medi-helicopter, was already busy and dispatched somewhere. So Guthrie Air came. So I was awake for this whole entire time. I did get some medicine that made me forget a few little things. But I was conscious the whole time, talking and everything, telling them I did not want to be intubated, asking to see my wife and everything like that. And Guthrie Air actually gave me two units of blood right in the cornfield, physically in the cornfield. And it wasn't till a couple days later after I was in the hospital that I found out if LifeNet had responded, the New York State medi-helicopter, I would not have had that blood. “

Senator Michelle Hinchey says New York is the only state that does not allow aeromedical crews to carry and transfuse blood unless they are transporting patients already receiving transfusions from one hospital to another.

Hinchey, a Democrat from the 46th district, co-sponsored a bill that amends that law.

“And so it's fundamentally important that the governor sign this bill so that we can have equity across our upstate New York communities and make sure that people can get the lifesaving care that they need and deserve. There's no reason that our air ambulance and air paramedics should not be able to do the service.”

Flanagan says his left leg was essentially amputated by the machine. His right leg had to be amputated as well and he underwent three surgeries during a two-week hospital stay in Syracuse. Eventually he went home to his pregnant wife and their two small children.

“I want to go back to work and I'm going to go back to work. I was fitted for prosthetics the other day and the hope is that sometime in July I will be taking my first steps. We also are expecting, my wife is, and I, are expecting, to be determined boy or girl, because we didn't find out this time. She is due July 15. And it's gonna be amazing. And I'm going to be there, which is something that really could have been taken away. My wife could really, and family could be really thinking about something different right now as the baby comes right? But I'm going to be there and I'm either going to be standing on my prosthetics or I'm sitting in my wheelchair, and I'm going to get to help deliver the baby.”

The Cuomo administration did not respond to a request for comment on the bill.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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