Sometimes, it takes a village to complete a major project.
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That was the general consensus as community leaders gathered in the autumn sunshine for the dedication of the Klein Family Helipad at Mercy Hospital of Folsom on Oct. 9.
The helicopter landing pad, located just east of the hospital parking lot, allows air ambulances to safely and quickly transport critically ill patients to Mercy Hospital of Folsom for treatment and from the hospital to other, higher-acuity hospitals, such as Mercy San Juan Medical Center, UC Davis, UC San Francisco and Stanford.
Fundraising efforts were kicked off in 2005 by the Rotary Club of Historic Folsom. With the guidance of the Rotary Club of Folsom, the then newly minted club chose the helipad as its first project. The club hosted a M*A*S*H Bash fundraiser in 2006 that residents of Folsom talk about to this day
“We anticipated that about 100 people would come,” said Jim Pelley, event chair and past Mercy Community Council chair. “Over 500 people from the community turned out.”
“It’s great to see this project is now completed,” said County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan. “There are so many people and groups that contributed to make this happen.”
Nearly every community group in the tri-county area supported the project in one way or another. Scouts and Camp Fire youth raised funds. Children in elementary school held bake sales. The Folsom City Lions, Rotary Annes and Andys, the Mercy Hospital of Folsom Auxiliary and the many faith communities all pitched in.
So did many individuals in the community, including Neva Cimaroli and her late husband, Sevy, and the couple who stepped up to put the capstone on the project — Rod and Mary Louise Klein.
As the community worked to raise funds, the project faced many challenges.
The hospital added an emergency pavilion that caused the planned location for the pad to be moved. Plans to place the pad on the roof of the hospital were scrapped as too costly.
“There were many years of plan changes,” Pelley said. “In the end, it takes a village. So many people helped to improve this project and to make it better. It’s so wonderful how the Kleins stepped in to complete the project.”
Rod and Mary Louise are very aware of the need for a helipad in Folsom.
“It is so important to have this helipad in order to save lives,” Mary Louise said. “Rod had a client who was injured. He hit his head on a rock. He was unconscious and bleeding internally. He didn’t make it because the emergency services couldn’t get over the traffic. They couldn’t get him to a major critical care unit.”
“Emergency services are needed immediately in every community,” Rod said. “When the helipad project was organized and they needed funds (to complete the project), I remembered that my own life was saved by a life-flight helicopter. I had suffered an esophageal aneurism and lost many units of blood. I had to be taken by helicopter to UC Davis. The people on the helicopter were the ones who started my treatment.”
The presence of the helipad means that traffic will no longer have to be blocked by the Folsom Police Department on Creekside Drive so emergency aircraft can land.
“This helipad provides the communities surrounding Mercy Hospital of Folsom, including Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park and the entire Sierra Foothills region, with a much-needed resource to ensure that the most critically ill patients receive the care they need in the fastest possible manner,” said Michael Ricks, president of Mercy Hospital of Folsom. “The real value of this helipad will not necessarily be measured by the number of patients it serves, but by the hope and opportunity it offers to those patients who need it most.”
Pelley concurred, and summed up the emotions felt by those assembled as, “Relief. Joy. It is so humbling to see it all happen. At last. At last.”