WADSWORTH — When Ron Narog was a nursing student at Case Western Reserve University, he initially studied anesthesiology, but soon realized he didn’t enjoy working in an operating room.
Then one day while he was an undergrad, he was assigned to the intensive care unit at Mercy Health St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital and he experienced a career awakening.
“I saw an emergency helicopter land and thought, ‘Wow, that was really cool.’ I’ll never forget it.”
Today, about 15 years later, Narog is part of the Cleveland Clinic emergency helicopter team newly stationed at Wadsworth Municipal Airport. The helicopter, which started flying here Oct. 15, relocated from Akron Fulton International Airport.
On Saturday, Cleveland Clinic and the airport showed off the helicopter and its critical care transport team to residents and families. A small but steady stream of visitors had a chance to peek inside the helicopter, climb aboard and sit behind the controls.
Ethan Prude, 5, of Akron, was there with his mom, Denise Prude. He spent a lot of time in the patient section of the helicopter, trying on headphones and asking questions.
“As you can see, he’s pretty inquisitive,” Denise Prude said, laughing.
Crew member Jackie Gill, a nurse practitioner, explained to one family that the emergency helicopter averages two or three flights a day. The number of flights can reach six on a busy day, but on slow days the helicopter never leaves the ground.
Also checking out the helicopter were Kathleen Bailey and her son, Ian Bailey, both of Wadsworth Township. She’s a retired nurse, and he is studying to be one.
Kathleen Bailey remembered when she worked in the neonatal intensive care unit at Akron Children’s Hospital in the 1970s and 1980s. At the time, critical care transport didn’t exist, at least not like today. If a baby needed emergency care, the National Guard sent a helicopter at no cost, and she accompanied the patient.
Bailey was impressed that the Cleveland Clinic helicopter contained a built-in ventilator. In her day, she used a bag and mask, manually pumping air into the patient during flight.
“Today we have this wonderful, seamless system of care,” Kathleen Bailey said. “Back then, we just patched things together as best we could.”
The helicopter relocation project included renovations to a hangar at Wadsworth Municipal Airport. The cost was covered by Cleveland Clinic’s aircraft vendor, PHI Air Medical.
Cleveland Clinic’s second critical care helicopter will remain based in Cleveland.