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Albertan thanks STARS Air Ambulance for saving her life a decade after rural crash

Albertan thanks STARS Air Ambulance for saving her life a decade after rural crash
An Alberta woman who credits STARS Air Ambulance with saving her life is speaking out about how vital the non-profit organization is as it undergoes its annual fundraising campaign. Tiffany Lizée reports.

WARNING: This story contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some readers.

An Alberta woman who credits STARS Air Ambulance with saving her life is speaking out about how vital the non-profit organization is as it undergoes its annual fundraising campaign.

Justeen Kolody got a second chance at life after being in a severe accident when she was only 17 years old.

She was driving on a rural road near Vulcan, Alta., in 2008 when she lost control and rolled her vehicle into a ditch.

Justeen Kolody/Submitted
Justeen Kolody/Submitted Justeen Kolody/Submitted

In an emotional interview with Global News, Kolody said she thought she was going to die.

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“I got out of the truck and both my knees were blown out, and I could tell I was covered in blood, so obviously not a good situation to be in,” Kolody explained. “I started hearing coyotes, so I knew I had to get back in [the vehicle.] That was one of the toughest things because both my legs didn’t work. It was just very surreal.

“I ended up sitting there for about five and a half hours before anyone found me,” Kolody said. “By the time the ambulance came out, they saw that my injuries were very severe.”

READ MORE: STARS lottery dream home holds special meaning for Lethbridge home builder

Kolody was rushed by ground ambulance to hospital in Vulcan, where she was then transferred to the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary via STARS Air Ambulance.

Global News
Global News Global News

The Albertan said she doesn’t think she would be alive today if not for STARS.

“They were making sure there was no glass in my eyes, and they wanted just to make me comfortable,” Kolody  said. “I think they had to do blood transfusions in the helicopter on the way [to the hospital] because I had lost so much blood.”

READ MORE: Man, 78, trampled by cattle in Alberta: STARS

STARS relies heavily on donations to keep its helicopters in the sky, and a big part of their funding comes from the STARS Lottery Alberta.

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There are 2,575 prizes featured in the 2020 lottery, including a 2,680-square-foot home in Calgary with an estimated retail value of $1,149,542, and another home in Edmonton (2,656-square-feet) with an estimated retail value of $927,780.

Early bird tickets are available until Feb. 27, followed by the early bird draw on March 13.

The final ticket deadline is March 19, 2020.

If the lottery sells out, the foundation will raise $12.4 million, which will be put toward Alberta’s three air ambulance bases in Edmonton, Calgary and Grande Prairie.

According to the STARS website, the approximate cost to operate the bases is $10 million each.

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READ MORE: Strathmore teens fighting for their lives after being rushed to hospital

“The calls that these paramedics and the team go to, it is life or death,” Kolody explained.

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STARS Air Ambulance said crews in Alberta went on over 1,400 missions last year alone.

“The highest risk time for someone is that period of time from hospital to hospital,” STARS paramedic Greg Barton explained. “We’re able to compress that with the helicopter, with the speed that we can offer. We’re bringing a critical care team out to the patient and getting them back to the facility in a timely fashion.”

READ MORE: Man airlifted to hospital after single-vehicle crash near Airdrie

Wendy Beauchesne from the STARS Foundation said the non-profit’s annual lottery directly supports the organization.

“Everything from the aircraft, fuel in the aircraft, the pilots, our air medical crew, all the medical equipment and everything we need to provide critical care in the air,” Beauchesne said, “in many ways, we like to refer to the STARS aircraft as a flying [intensive care unit], and the STARS Lottery directly supports that.”
STARS looking to replace Alberta fleet over 5 years
STARS looking to replace Alberta fleet over 5 years