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Air Evac Lifeteam partners with racing organization

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Special to The Ellis County Press

It was a normal race day for the Strawbridge family. They were at a race in Wortham, Texas at Freestone County Raceway.

The family races in Texas Off Road Nationals races, although this wasn’t one of them.

What Melissa Strawbridge didn’t know was that a decision made by the owners of TORN Racing would help her daughter, Katie, during a medical emergency, even though it was not a TORN race.

TORN Racing was formed four years ago when Curtis Kirchmeier saw a need beyond the other clubs out there.

"I have been racing most of my life and wanted to be able to offer a good racing club with good quality tracks that would be suitable for families," he explained.

Based in Arlington, TORN Racing and holds races within 100 miles of their base.

"We first learned about Air Evac Lifeteam when they came out to one of our races to pick up someone. We have an ambulance ground crew on site at all races and they determined one of our riders needed to be flown, so they called Air Evac," Kirchmeier explained.

"I got some information about the membership plan and contacted the coordinator about our racers getting a membership."

This was the saving grace on June 6, 2008 when 13 year-old Katie Strawbridge had a wreck and broke her leg. They were also concerned she might have had head and neck injuries.

"Katie was racing and did a jump. While in the air she collided with another bike and she hit the ground head first," explained Melissa Strawbridge, Katie’s mom.

"After that another bike made the jump and came down on her leg. I was on the other side of the track but I could hear her screaming.

"The EMTs on site were great. They got her on the backboard and in a neck brace by the time the helicopter arrived," explained Straw-bridge.

"They must have called for the helicopter immediately because it seemed like they were there instantly."

Strawbridge explained how confident and comfortable she was with the flight crew who took care of her daughter.

"They explained everything about what they were doing to Katie in a calm voice," she recalled.

"They were professional and also had compassion. They took my cell phone number and even gave me theirs."

The track was about two hours away from Parkland Hospital in Dallas, which is where they took Katie.

"They kept me updated the entire way. They called to tell me they were almost to the hospital. They called to tell me they were there and when they got in the ER. They even called to tell me they were going to stay with her until I arrived.

"They even came back the next morning after Katie’s surgery to check on her. They were just wonderful."

Katie had a broken femur and needed a rod placed in her leg, but she’s doing fine now. According to her mom, she was back racing six weeks after the accident.

The requirement to be covered by TORN racing is pretty simple explained Kirchmeier. "We ask that riders participate in the first two races of the year when they join TORN. Then after they make this commitment, we purchase Air Evac Lifeteam memberships for them."

However, this membership is not just for the racer or for when they are racing. Kirchmeier met with membership coordinator Michael Derfler and agreed upon a plan that would cover the rider and their family for one rate.

"Of course this membership covers them when they are together at the race, but it also covers them any other time at any place that Air Evac Lifeteam flies," explained Derfler.

"We just felt this is something we needed to do to help insure the safety of our riders. With this type of sport, we do everything we can to promote safety and make sure everything is up to code. This is just another way we can help keep people safe," added Kirchmeier.

Air Evac Lifeteam crews in the area of the race actually fly to the site and stay around for a few hours each race.

"This is a great opportunity for Air Evac to interact with more members and potential members and do some great PR work," Derfler added.

Last year 293 of the TORN Racing members qualified for the complimentary membership from Curtis and Angie Kirchmeier. This year they have 280. "That’s a big expense to us," explained Kirchmeier, "but it’s the right thing to do."

If a racer doesn’t make the first two races, but still plans to be involved with the TORN racing for the remainder of the year, they can purchase memberships themselves for the contracted price.

"The only difference is the family pays for the cost of the membership and not the race organization. It is still good anywhere that Air Evac Lifeteam flies and covers each member of the house," explained Derfler.

"We’ve raced with the TORN organization since the start," explained Strawbridge.

"For the last four years we’ve been to every single race and we do this as a family. I had not heard of Air Evac Lifeteam before TORN racing, but because they were there and Curtis had purchased us a membership, the flight was made at no cost to us.

"I can not say thank you enough. I know it’s their job to fly patients, but they were so calming and professional and I appreciate the reassurance they gave me that they were going to take care of my daughter," Strawbridge said. "We are lucky to have this service and I want to say thanks to Angie and Curtis for realizing the benefit this membership can have for all of the TORN Racing family."

Air Evac Lifeteam, an air ambulance service that provides emergency health care and rapid medical transport to rural communities throughout the central United States. The company currently operates 85 air ambulance bases in 14 states and is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems.

For more information about Air Evac Lifeteam services, call 1-800-793-0010 or visit www.lifeteam.net. Air Evac Lifeteam is a registered service mark of Air Evac EMS, Inc.

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