When a police officer is injured in the line of duty, every minute counts. The same goes for their K-9 partners. A medical chopper service in Texas aims to protect those loyal four-legged officers.
The Memorial Hermann Life Flight's helicopter fleet is now equipped to triage K-9 officers and get them to vet clinics quickly.
“Once we get them on board the aircraft we'll start doing definitive care, such as airway management, oxygen administration, IV fluid administration,” said Memorial Hermann Health System’s Tom Flanagan.
How are medics, who have been treating human patients for so long, taking on the challenge?
“The medical crews are ecstatic. They're all trying to figure out who's gonna be the first one to actually get called,” Flanagan said.
Pre-COVID, Life Flight trained more than 280 handlers across Texas. As part of their training, officers are taught to pack wounds, perform CPR and use tourniquets to help stabilize their K-9 partners. The Houston-based service is inspiring agencies across the country to reimagine triage care for K9s.
“People in California and New York that have actually reached out and said, ‘Hey, when, when can we attend a class? When can we do something like this, or learn more about it?’” senior police officer Kristin Uhlin said.
Uhlin and her K-9 partner Sita worked side-by-side for the Houston Police Department for nearly 12 years before the dog died of a seizure over the summer.
“When she walked into the room, she just wanted to meet everybody and see everybody and then she just had this never quit, working attitude,” Uhlin said.
Sita's legacy is still working. She was the model for designing Life Flight’s air ambulance service for police dogs.
About two to three dozen K-9 officers die in the line of duty every year, most often getting hit by gunshots or cars.
“Life Flight is the best, so if those guys are gonna show up there is a chance that your dog in a few different minutes could have a life saved,” Uhlin said.
She still misses her K-9 partner and is proud that Sita’s work lives on.