After 25 years of coming to the aid of 2,500 victims, critical care flight nurse Rose Gaither has not lost any measure of her passion for her job and for those she routinely helps.
On June 22, Gaither will celebrate her 25th anniversary as a critical care flight nurse with Calstar. Gaither has participated in the transport of approximately 2,500 victims and has been exposed to a wide variety of trauma. She remembers victims ranging from those who have been shot or stabbed to those who have been in automobile crashes, fallen out of the sky when their parachutes failed to open and anything imaginable when it comes to people wanting to have fun until something goes “sideways.”
Calstar is the busiest of the 10 Calstar helicopter bases in California, according to its website. Its 150 nautical mile range extends from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Luis Obispo, providing emergency medical services to six counties: Santa Clara, Merced, San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo.
“Rose’s anniversary is a true milestone,” said Chief Operations Officer Tad Henderson. “Rose exemplifies what Calstar is all about-taking care of people in their greatest times of need, and no one does it better than Rose.”
A celebration noting Rose’s anniversary took place at a downtown Santa Cruz restaurant. In attendance were CEO Lynn Malmstrom, Henderson, a large number of Calstar co-workers, local area firefighters and other first responders, friends and family.
Lynn and Tad presented Rose with a model MD 902; her initials inscribed on the tail number.
One of Gaither’s most memorable calls happened during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. After arriving on scene, Rose rushed to the collapsed Cypress Freeway to be by the side of the driver of a big-rig truck who was trapped in his cab near a ton of rubble. She stayed with him for nearly two hours until two firefighters were able to extradite him, using the Jaws of Life.
In spite of having both of his legs crushed as well as other serious injuries, the driver, according to Gaither, was quite lucid. After numerous surgeries and physical therapy, the driver recovered. “Every Thanksgiving for a number of years, he came by the base to thank me and the rest of the crew,” Gaither said. “He was such a nice man.”
Gaither earned an associate’s degree in nursing from El Camino College in Torrance and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Dominquez Hills University. She discovered Calstar while working behind bullet proof glass at a hospital in Inglewood. She saw a flight crew come in one day and knew instantly that she wanted to be a flight nurse.
She describes working at Calstar as the “greatest honor of my life.”
Many things have happened in her 25 years on the job. “We have advanced tremendously in a technological sense,” she says.
“The greatest adjunct to our safety has been the advance of technology. Examples of this are night vision goggles and upgrading our fleet to the MD 902 Explorer. We now fly in this wonderful aircraft called the MD 902 and we have something called a monitoring equipped glide scope-a much advanced piece of technology that allows for advanced airway procedures.” Perhaps the single largest advance is for the crews to have night vision goggles. “These goggles make such a huge difference,” she says.
Rose notes that MD 902 helicopters have terrain awareness and warning systems, as well as traffic and collision avoidance systems. She is quick to add, “The bottom line is due diligence and the human factor. Our pilots are absolutely the best of the very best.”
Off the job, four Bichons and a 16-year-old cat keep her entertained. She describes the Bichons as “four little fluff balls…. and they are my lifeline.” She added with a smile that everyone who knows them as her “four pack.”
Now 57, Rose has no plan on retiring anytime soon. “I will do this for as long as I am physically able.” For those who know here, that is likely to be a long way off. That’s because she loves to bike and swim and compete in the occasional triathlon. For fellow crew members and for those she regularly rushes to help that is, indeed, good news.