Sask. STARS Air Ambulance teams wins 2nd at international competition

A Saskatchewan-based STARS air medical crew challenged the best in North America at a critical care skills competition. They won second overall at the Association of Air Medical Services' 2017 Sim Cup.

This was the first time a team from Saskatchewan was represented at the competition

Flight paramedic Shannon Koch and Thomas Froh are the first STARS air ambulance team from Saskatchewan to compete in an international critical care skills competition. (Supplied/STARS)

A pair of Regina-based air ambulance workers have come in second  at the Association of Air Medical Services' 2017 Sim Cup.

The annual critical care skills competition challenges air ambulance crews from around North America. Flight paramedic Shannon Koch and flight nurse Thomas Froh with STARS in Regina beat out five other STARS bases in western Canada before moving on to the competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

This was the first time Saskatchewan has been represented at the Sim Cup. Koch said that after making it to the top four,  any result would have been great.

"Anything after that was just icing on the cake. We were happy with second place and relived that it was over. It's like a stressful few days," said Koch.

Learning experience 

On the first day of competition, the pair were the first go.

They had two simulated situations occurring at the same time: First up, a 26-week-pregnant woman who was a high risk pregnancy. The mother had been evacuated from a hospital due to an impending hurricane. 

By the time they got to her, the mother had delivered her baby and was now toxic and bleeding. The prematurely born baby was also in need of care and with limited staff at the hospital, who were also evacuated due to the storm.

The second simulation occurred entirely in the back of the helicopter.

"That was a logistics twist," said Koch, since the equipment used was different from what Koch and Froh were used to.

Regardless, they handled a 50-year-old man who had gone into shock after suffering a heart attack as they made their way back to base. 

"We thought the preliminary scenarios would be a lot more straight forward," said Froh. "We had to manage the patients independent from each other while communicating."

The volunteer fire department from the town of Pense, Sask. shared this photo on Twitter of the STARS air ambulance responding to the rollover on Tuesday evening. (Pense Fire Department/Twitter)

The final competition put the pair on familiar ground. "It was a farm scenario, which was kind of fun that we were from Saskatchewan and we were on a farm," said Koch.

The simulated incident itself was not as fun, though. The pair had to respond to an explosion on the farm which left several people poisoned. 

Regardless of the entire event being simulated, the teams treat it with the same attention they would an actual emergency call. Which is why when they are back on shift, they may eventually apply some of what they learned in competition.

 "I know the medicine pretty inside out and backwards of how to treat these cases," said Froh. "We knew before, but now we have some practical skills that really cement it."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend