SAGINAW, Mich. (WJRT) - Lori Smith has flown into some of the worst trauma and medical cases in Mid-Michigan for more than three decades aboard a FlightCare helicopter from Ascension St. Mary's Hospital.
She is planning to fly out for the final time on May 31 and retire.
Smith first flew on a medical helicopter in Ohio, where she worked as an intensive care nurse. She applied for a nursing position at Ascension St. Mary's after moving back to Bad Axe and joined FlightCare in 1989 -- two years after the medical helicopter service started.
Since then, Smith has become the longest serving flight nurse among all of Michigan's medical helicopters.
"I love my job, and when you enjoy something that much, the time flies quickly," she said. "It's truly humbling to have been able to help people all these years."
FlightCare has transported more than 12,000 critically ill or injured patients over the past 36 years. The service flies to and from crash scenes or other hospitals to transport patients.
Flight nurses like Smith must have three years of experience as a registered nurse focusing on intensive or critical care. They also must complete training as a paramedic and specialized tools, such as night vision goggles.
"It takes a special kind of person to be a flight nurse and a really special person to do it for more than three decades," said Lucas Summers, clinical supervisor and flight nurse paramedic. "Lori has been climbing in and out of a helicopter since shortly after the program's inception."
He said some of Smith's patients have called on the anniversary of their critical care helicopter transports to thank her for the care she provided.
Some people call her every year on their 'incident anniversaries' to thank her for the care and compassion she gave to them."