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More than meets the eye

It's so easy to assume that your chosen profession is the only job in the world that has ins and outs that no one will ever understand - until you take the time to go look at another man's work and you instantly realize the error of your thinking. Over the last several days, I have had several calls and text messages about whether the rumor is true that AirEvac was leaving the area and we would no longer have a helicopter or jet for air transport in emergencies. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly half-truths spread and boy, social media is certainly no help. I have never understood how that accurate information for verifiable sources can garner 5 views and maybe a couple "likes," but let there be some juicy gossip that is riddled with misinformation... you'll have 40k views and 2,000 shares by sun-up.

So, yes, there is some truth to the rumor. AirEvac management met with the hospital last week and informed us that the jet they operate has become way too expensive to continue operating and are aggressively looking to replace it with a larger helicopter that can fly in virtually all weather conditions. There are a number of reasons for the decision to end that service in our area, but a diligent search for alternative resources to meet our needs in McCurtain County.

One, and rightfully a huge contributor, was the closing of our airport in the spring. At the time, there was full expectation that the closure would last only 10-12 weeks. There was a lot of contributing factors that lead to the re-opening date being pushed out and these factors were outside of everyone's control. Today, I was invited along by Mayor Craig Young to tour the airport and see the construction that's taking place there and I got a chance to carry a conversation with the Mayor. I was extremely impressed by Mayor Young's personal feelings that he is somehow responsible for the delay in opening our airport. Listening to Mayor Young take personal responsibility for something that is totally outside of his control, admiring his leadership and willingness to accept responsibility for something that was in no way his fault, made me pose the question to him, "Mayor, why did you run for this office?"

"Brian, it's because I truly care about the people of my community and I wanted to make a difference." he said.

Mayor Young drove me out to the airport and I saw first hand the extensiveness of the project the city undertook to resurface our airport runways. I snapped a few photographs and while there, we were brought up to speed by workers who explained that due to all of the rock in the ground, they had destroyed equipment while trying to drill holes for new lighting down each side of the runway. The resurfacing of the runway looks absolutely amazing, the part that is complete, but that too has been issue after issue with the soil.

The good news is, the airport is truly within a couple of weeks of reopening and when it does, as Mayor Young pointed out, the airport will be good to go for many, many years to come.

I mention all of this to get to a point I want to make. That point is, whether it's this challenge or some other, I continue to be amazed at the level of care and concern by a number of people within this county for the citizens here. Darren Citty came by my office today upon me asking him to and offered me any assistance I needed in finding a work-around due to the loss of the jet service. Wade Patterson, the director of the county's EMS service came by, and he, too, agreed to work with me on a solution to the potential problem this might present.

Former county commissioner, Jimmy Westbrook, also reached out and offered any assistance he might could provide in remedying this situation.

I suppose the point I am trying to make here is that there are so many in this community that are focused on making life better for the residents here. This city and county is fortunate to have leadership that puts the people first and I have continued to be impressed with the willingness of our city and county government to work with me and the hospital on health care. I have been the administrator at the hospital going on two years now and I have not had a single instance where I was not able to call on our city or county officials for support and was rejected. I'll be the first to admit we've not always seen eye to eye and that's okay. You want elected officials who question things and who always have the communities' best interest at heart. But equally, you want government and a hospital that serves the people and I am proud to say I have the honor and privilege of working with like-minded people on important matters that make this community more viable, safer and sustainable.

The airport is near completion. I am really impressed with the work being done there and I cannot wait to see the finished product. I think the newly updated airport will be of huge value to the City of Idabel, the hospital and residents of the great town. The leadership in town deserves some praise for their work on this project and so many other projects they've worked on to make this a great place to live, work and raise families. I could not help but look out across the current empty field that adjacent to the airport and think, soon, there will be a brand new hospital that stands there and will serve this area for many years to come. We have so much to be proud of in this area. I do not live here, I admit, but I have worked so hard to make this community as much my own as it is yours.

Today, I am reminded, there is so much more than meets the eye when it comes to all of the people it takes, working together, for the common good of a small town. It first takes a willing person with a servants heart. With a heart to serve, we can accomplish anything.

We will find an alternative to the fixed-wing (jet) being taken out of service here for medical flights and we will work with our friends at AirEvac to find alternative solutions, as well as our very good friends at McCurtain County EMS and the City of Idabel. This is not the end of the world. We are working on a solution and the start of that is completing the renovations at our airport. Until then, we still have our helicopters provided by AirEvac and highly capable Paramedics and EMT's when the call comes in.

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