RUMFORD – Dozens of third-graders from Meroby Elementary School visited Rumford Hospital on Thursday afternoon for a tour and a special surprise: A look inside a LifeFlight helicopter.

Hospital employee Sue Hedrick said students visited the laboratory, an ambulance, the emergency room, the operating room and the X-ray department.

She said students didn’t know the helicopter would be there until after the tour ended.

“It’s the first time that (LifeFlight of Maine) had the helicopter come up from Lewiston to visit for a student tour,” Hedrick said.

When it approached the landing pad, students inside the solarium yelled with  excitement. They were greeted by nurses Sam Schaab and Lori Metayer, and pilot Karl Hatlemark.

Schaab said the helicopters are used when “someone is hurt in an area that an ambulance can’t get to, or if they need to get someone who is injured to the hospital faster. Our helicopters can move three times faster than an ambulance drives,” he said.

One teacher asked Schaab what education he needed to become a flight nurse.

“Well, first I had to finish third grade, and then fourth and fifth grade,” he said to students’ laughter.

“After I graduated from high school, I went to college to get my nursing license,” Schaab said. “After that, I had to work in the hospital for a number of years to gain experience. After awhile, I applied to be in the LifeFlight program. It’s a lot of on-the-job training.”

Asked if he still got butterflies when flying, Schaab laughed and said, “No, it doesn’t give me butterflies, because I do it every day.”

Schaab showed the students the inside of the aircraft, telling them, “We basically have an entire hospital inside of the helicopter, so we can take care of a wide variety of problems,” he said.

One student asked if a baby had ever been born in the helicopter.

“No, we’ve never had a baby born inside the helicopter, but we have transported babies inside,” Schaab said.

“But you could deliver a baby inside of the helicopter if you had to, right?” a teacher asked.

Schaab was quiet for a moment and said, “We could, but we’d really prefer not to.”

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