STARS VIP Charlotte McHugh defies the odds

Author: Haylie Huber

One foggy August morning, Charlotte McHugh left the family farm for her nursing job when a one-ton truck barreled through a stop sign and into the driver’s side of her car.

The collision left her in critical condition, but STARS saved her life.

STARS was dispatched to the crash site with Pat Jeffery, a nurse with decades of air rescue experience, and Chad Hegge, a 13-year paramedic and staff educator on board.  When the STARS crew met Charlotte in an ambulance on scene, her blood pressure was so low it was tough to tell if she had a pulse. 

Immediately, the crew went to work saving her life. First, they took control of her breathing with a mask device, then they placed needles into her chest cavity, which indicated her chest was full of blood.

“I later learned that a broken rib had cut into my heart,” said McHugh, who also fractured her pelvis.

Hegge and Jeffrey knew that time was not on their side; they administered low blood pressure medication and sedated Charlotte, which required placing a tube in her throat, using a video laryngoscope.

“This is one of the most technical skills we perform,” said Hegge. “One misstep may have severe consequences and that’s why a costly video device is required for the job.”

After take-off, the crew administered two units of blood as quickly as possible; they placed her on a mechanical ventilator and used a handheld ultrasound machine to provide critical information to the receiving trauma team about her bleeding, and her heart and lung function.

“Her injury was just catastrophic; she didn’t have time,” said flight nurse Pat Jeffery, “she should have died from her injury, but it was the blood that kept her going.” 

Because STARS’ Emergency Link Centre had already contacted the hospital, a trauma team was waiting for her when the helicopter landed. 

Three years later, Charlotte visited STARS to say thanks to her crew and allies like you who donated and made her mission possible.

“I knew about STARS before my accident, but I had no idea of the depth of their experience,” said Charlotte. “I think they pulled out all the stops to save my life and used almost every piece of equipment in there.”

“I have three kids and I would not have survived by ground ambulance,” she said. “Instead, I got to see my daughter graduate this year.”

It’s stories like Charlotte’s that encourage our team at Viterra to support the vital, life-saving service that STARS provides on a daily basis.

“I love supporting STARS for so many reasons,” said Shannon Antonenko, Facility Sales and Admin at Viterra Lloydminster. “STARS provides an important service to us all, and it’s a cause near to my heart. I have a close friend that works as a STARS nurse and I love being able to support the work that they do.”

Over the years, STARS has touched the lives of Viterra employees, customers, and their families. This partnership helps ensure that STARS can continue to provide immediate medical attention in critical situations.

Help support STARS by donating or purchasing your 2021 STARS calendar and merchandise at your local Viterra facility, or online at www.starscalendar.ca.

Click here to learn more about STARS' lifesaving work!