North Flight EMS services have expanded over the years, and their quick response has made the difference a countless number of times. Especially for the Kelley family after a car crash 10 years ago.
It started as any other day for Melinda Kelley and her family. Ten years ago, with then 5-year-old Quinn and 1.5 year-old Kendra in the backseat, she was turning left on Garfield and Hammond in Traverse City when everything changed in a moment.
"So I'm turning and I see something coming out of the corner of my eye and 'bam.' I felt my shoes fly off my feet and that was it," Kelley said.
North Flight paramedics arrived within minutes and found Melinda, Kendra and Quinn shaken up and some suspected the worst.
"Where we were hit was right where he [Quinn] was sitting...I just remember one of them saying will you get some of that glass of off her eyes?" Kelley said.
Once at Munson Medical Center, they soon realized how serious Quinn's head injury was and that he needed to go to Devos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids in the North Flight helicopter.
"They had already gotten him all ready and he was on a stretcher and he was wrapped up and he looked safe and secure and just like a perfect little angel," Kelley said.
North Flight Ground formed in 1984 after the Grand Traverse County ambulance millage failed, but the community still needed an emergency service. Now North Flight Director Joel Baillie says they've grown to ground, air, and even bike paramedics and can help almost anyone who needs them between the ambulances, helicopter, plane and bicycles.
Baillie explained due to North Flight's extensive mobility, they offer a service called repatriation. If someone gets hurt far from their home, such as a visiting relative, North Flight can safely transport them back to their home even if it is a different state. These types of offerings set North Flight apart from other emergency services.
In the Kelley family's case, the EMT's quick action made all the difference for Quinn.
"Everyday we wake up and my family is in tact and I know it's because of them," Kelley said.
"It takes a special person to deal with those situations that are stressful quite often chaotic, and occasionally rather thankless unfortunately," Baillie said.
Occasionally thankless, but not this time. Melinda offered a very big thank you to North Flight and all of the people involved after her crash by posting a heartfelt letter to the Grand Traverse 9-1-1 Facebook Page.
"I wanted to say it in a really public way I really wanted lots of people to know that they saved his life," Kelley said.
In her letter she wrote: "Dear GT 9-1-1, 10 years ago on March 19 my son Quinn, then 5 years old, survived a serious car accident at Garfield and Hammond..... Thank you all so much, thank you for saving his life... Everyday is a gift for us, there are many others whose names I don't know but I would like to say thank you so very much... GT dispatchers and EMTs are the best. -Melinda and Kevin Kelley."
Each anniversary the Kelley family looks back at the crash that happened so many years ago but more often they are looking to the future.
"He has come a very long way. He still has a lot of work ahead of him too because people think brain injury is better when you're young and it's actually the opposite," Kelley said. "And it's still not easy...we can keep working forward and he's going to have a good life."
To learn more about North Flight, visit their website.