Hanna Thompson has arrived in Haiti on august 14, 2021 to volunteer with Haiti Air Ambulance as part of the HAA volunteer program. Earlier on the same day, a massive earthquake hit the whole south of Haiti causing a lot of damages in terms of infrastructures and human life. immediately after dropping off her luggage, she went with the crew on her first patient flight with HAA.
Since then, she has not only extended her stay for one more week but has also reached the bar of 50 flights, which earned her the HAA wings for a such accomplishment. Above all, her 50 flights coincided with the HAA 1000 flights. A great first for a volunteer since the existence of the HAA volunteering program!
We invited you to read an exclusive interview we have had with “Mrs. 50 Flights” about her life, hobbies, reason for choosing medical field and experience about flying in Haiti.
Haiti Air Ambulance: Can you introduce yourself with all the possible details?
Hanna Thompson: I’m Hanna Thompson, from Rice Lake Wisconsin. I was born in Elkhorn Wisconsin and moved around quite a bit as a child between Wisconsin and Florida. After graduating from Northwood High School in Minong Wisconsin, I went to college for vocal performance and music education. I moved back home in 2004 and became and EMT and worked as a deputy for Sawyer County until I became a Paramedic in 2010. Continued to work for ground ambulance services in my hometown area until 2014 when I started to, and continue to, fly for Life Link III. In addition to flying for Life Link, I am an EMS instructor for Northwood Technical College in Rice Lake Wisconsin. When I’m not working, I spend time with my best friend/sister Rikki, enjoying coffee, playing cards, and going on hiking trips. I also enjoy reading, watching movies, singing, playing music and snuggles with my cat Romeo.
HAA: What can explain the choice you have made for medical field, the beginning and how do you feel so far by being a flight paramedic?
H. T.: I was in school for music education and vocal performance, and I got to a point where I was re-evaluating my life and made the decision to go back home. I started working in a nursing home as a nursing assistant and a co-worker of mine said she was taking the EMT class, and I should take it with her. So, I took the class and I ended up falling in love with it. Over the next few years, I worked as an EMT on an ambulance and continued to go to school. I obtained my Paramedic Licensure in 2010 and my Critical Care in 2011. I continued to work on a ground ambulance doing 911 and Critical Care transports for a couple different EMS services in my hometown area. I was lucky to have a couple mentors which helped me and pointed me in the right direction, so when I had 3 years of Paramedic experience, I was able to apply for a flight position. I started to fly for Life Link III in July of 2014 and have been there ever since. In addition to flying, I am on the education team. I’ve been in EMS for 18 years now and I still love it to this day. There is always something new and exciting happening or changing the medical field and it challenges me to continue to grow and become a better clinician, teammate, preceptor, and educator.
HAA: Why Haiti to volunteer? How did that happen?
H. T.: I have always wanted to do some type of medical volunteering. When I heard Haiti Air Ambulance had a volunteer program, I was very interested in it. I thought it would be a great experience to fly in another country and I could take what I learned and bring it back to Life Link.
HAA: Can you explain the emotions felt in flying in Haiti, specifically after the earthquake that hit the world south of the country?
H. T.: I arrived in Port au Prince the day of the earthquake, which of course wasn’t something planned. I started going on flights immediately, taking care of patients severely injured in the earthquake. We were so busy, flying patients and working in triage, I didn’t really have time to process it until a few days into my stay. I remember, I was chatting with a couple of the EMTs, and where the conversation led, I started to think about all the people we helped and everything we encountered in that time, and I started to cry. I don’t think there are words that can describe some of the things I experienced, saw, or heard or felt. There were times I felt completely heartbroken and devastated, seeing so many sufferings and yet, during everything, there was hope. Hope for a future, hope for healing, hope for joy and hope in the beauty that remains. It was a very emotional feeling.
HAA: What was the motivation to extend your stay in Haiti?
H. T.: I felt like I became a member of the team while there with Haiti Air Ambulance and believed strongly in the mission. Also, with the earthquake and people continuing to be rescued, being brought to triage and all the people we were flying, I felt I needed to stay and help.
HAA: Your 50 flights coincide with the 1000 HAA’s patients’ flight, can you share your feelings about this accomplishment?
H. T.: It was an amazing moment. I was so honored and humbled to be on the 1,000-patient flight. It just happened to be my 50th flight, which was pretty cool. I felt like it wasn’t just my accomplishment, it was the whole team at Haiti Air and all the volunteers that came before me.
HAA: After reaching the ideal goal, the 50 PT’s flight, what can be your other motivation to come back to volunteer in Haiti?
H. T.: The team at Haiti Air. It’s a little difficult to explain; I feel like I became a part of the team while I was down there. When I arrived, I immediately started to fly with people I just met, and I put my trust in them. That quickly turned into partnership and friendship, which I cherish. We have been through things together that others can’t understand. Because of that I feel strongly bonded to the team at Haiti Air. In addition, I believe in the mission of Haiti Air Ambulance, and I want to come back and help provide care to those in Haiti who need it.