In the moments after a major accident, immediate medical care can mean the difference between life and death.
But when the victim is out in a remote area, the air ambulance is perhaps the most important medical tool we have.
This week thousands of air medicine specialists are in Reno for an annual meeting and I attended and now bring you the latest in aviation medicine.
Trauma choppers like Careflight, which is based at Washoe Medical Center, are essentially ambulances in the air. Today we heard from a survivor who credits this technology for saving his life.
The last time 16-year-old Randy Davis rode an air ambulance, he was unconscious, paralyzed, and hooked to a breathing machine. "Me and my friend collided - I hit the ground, my helmet broke and came off - I slid into the tree," he said..
Randy had been training with his freestyle ski team in Squaw Valley and his mom happened to be skiing nearby and came over when she saw the commotion. "He focused on me then his eyes rolled back in his head," Nanci Davis said.
As ski patrol paramedics stabilized Randy, a CAL-Star chopper - similar to Careflight- sped to the valley. "We were the first advanced life support on the scene," said flight nurse Mark Haase.
Doctors say without that intervention, Randy probably wouldn't have survived. "It saved my life," Randy said.
"I owe them everything, I have a normal son because of them," Nanci said.
About 500 choppers like CAL-Star are flown throughout the United State. This week, aviation medicine technology is the focus of a weeklong conference in Reno.
"It's an opportunity to share education, lessons on how to do it better. We have a great responsibility," said Thomas Judge, of Air Medical Services.]
And in an era where terror attacks have been added to the list of domestic emergencies, that responsibility of immediate, advanced medical care is even more important.
Those in aviation medicine say they're trying to increase education about these resources and help other cities improve their emergency response.