At the 20 year anniversary celebration of Survival Flight, which transports critically ill or injured patients from different locations to the University, a crowd of people gathered to express their appreciation for the program that saved their lives.

Survival Flight is a separate entity of the University of Michigan Hospital System. It flies in people from around the world to the University Hospital. It also transports organs from hospital to hospital and provides backup for public safety agencies.

“We fly in good weather, bad weather, ” Terry Macon said, a Survival Flight pilot for two years who averages about three flights per day. “It is definitely rewarding and nice to see the patients afterward,” Survival Flight site manager John Campos added.

Pilot Terry Macon said one dramatic memory involved transporting an Iraqi patient to the University Hospital.

Macon said he still feels sad when a passenger dies. “You’ve tried your best and they die. You get a feeling like – is there any more I could have done?”

Jerry Gratz, a massive stroke survivor who was taken by Survival Flight to the University Hospital in 1988, said he really appreciated everything that was done for him.

“Jerry was originally taken to Seaway Hospital in Trenton and the doctor told me that he only had a small amount of time left,” Jerry’s wife, Susan Gratz said. “I told him that I wanted a different doctor and within 20 minutes Survival Flight came and brought him to the (University Hospital). The hospital and staff were excellent and we are very grateful to (the University) and Survival Flight,” she added.

Denise Landis, Manager of the University Medical System’s Survival Flight, said the reason the program has met such success is because of its partnership with the University. It was the first program of its kind established in Michigan.

“There are six programs in (the state of) Michigan. Survival Flight … stands out in its relationship with the institution,” she said. She added that this partnership enables Survival Flight to get victims from any point back the hospital.

“This is the 20th anniversary. We have recognized patients, staff, and community for support. Twenty years is a long time and we’re real proud of this,” Landis said.

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