Six years ago, Garfield Beaudry suffered a heart attack at his home in Raymore — more than an hour away from the closest hospital.
He was airlifted by STARS to Regina General Hospital, where he woke up with a pacemaker.
Beaudry has shared the story many times over the years at galas and at launches of the STARS lottery.
He did it again on Tuesday morning at the Regina Airport, where the province announced it would renew its contract with the air ambulance service past 2020.
Again, Beaudry expressed his gratitude for the crew that saved his life.
“I’ve said before, those people in the blue coveralls … they’re angels in disguise and that big red bird there, that’s their wings,” he said.
As part of the province’s renewed commitment, the government is paying for a new helicopter to help STARS renew its fleet. That aircraft will arrive in 2019 and will be based in Saskatoon.
STARS will need two others, each one costing about $13 million in Canadian dollars, to be phased in by 2023.
Andrea Robertson, STARS president and CEO, said the new choppers include a covered tail rotor, which makes it safer at landing sites. As well, more room, more power to fly in hot weather and the ability to swap out medical equipment for upgrades.
“I could stand here and talk to you for an hour-and-a-half about the new helicopter, but the fundamentals are, we’re going to be able to reach the people we need to reach,” Robertson said.
For people like Beaudry, who live in rural or remote areas, STARS is critical when they need urgent medical care.
“Because of our crazy geography, it’s hard to get to you, if you’re really badly injured, by any other means. It can make a fundamental difference,” said Robertson.