Flight for Life nurse shows unwavering determination. Delivering a baby in Ecuador at a moment’s notice is but one of many surprisingly bold volunteer tasks Hollie Seeley has performed. A Flight for Life Colorado registered nurse, Seeley works in a profession that demands precise skills and an ability to react calmly under pressure. She exemplifies all-out, over-the-top energy in both her professional and personal life. Seeley throws herself into whatever comes before her with the gusto of someone who is both physically and psychologically fit. Her eight years aboard Flight for Life have exceeded the typical tenure of a flight nurse. When she was bound for medical school several years ago, a friend recommended she apply for an opening on the Flight for Life team. She recalls, “It was April and I was planning to start medical school in August and planning to take one of two offers that had been presented to me. Then Flight for Life called, and I had to admit that it was something to think about.” Seeley had worked as both a nursing assistant and a registered nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, and later in the emergency department at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver before taking the Flight for Life position. She received an Award of Excellence from St. Joseph Hospital and was named Employee of the Month at the Children’s Hospital Emergency Department in Denver.
According to its Web site, Flight for Life began in 1972 with a single Alouette III helicopter based at St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver. It is reportedly the first hospital-based medical helicopter program in the United States. From its humble beginnings, it has grown to be a regional program responding to nine states. Working 12-hour shifts, Seeley is typically on the job by 6:30 a.m. Based out of St. Anthony Central, Flight for Life works in emergency care, trauma care and other areas. It is the only not-for-profit air medical program in the state. Flight for Life operates four helicopters as well as an airplane and an ambulance. When Seeley is on the airplane, she is located at Centennial Airport; when she does a 24-hour shift on the helicopter out of Summit Medical Center, she is based in Frisco. Seeley has accrued many achievements with Flight for Life, including being named the founder of Family Appreciation Day and co-founding the Heart & Soul Committee. As flight nurses, Seeley and her colleagues are trained in a wide range of skills, and they apply this expertise to their patients. She plans to do flight nursing for 10 years, considering it the pinnacle of nursing. Ryan McLeanThe flight nurses at Flight for Life Colorado are registered nurses specializing in emergency and critical care and pre-hospital management. In addition to meeting requirements for standard certifications, Flight for Life nurses undergo intensive training to enhance their assessment skills and develop a wide range of invasive skills. They have the skill and technology available to provide and maintain a hospital level of care throughout the transport.
A marathon runner, Seeley also participated in high school and college athletics. In college, she coached freshman softball and played basketball and softball. Now she teaches some friends how to golf and others how to run marathons. “I had a friend who had just given birth to twins, and she didn’t think she’d ever be able to run a marathon. We trained, and she ran the New York City Marathon. To see her face at the end of the race was so neat,” she says. Seeley enjoys watching marathons. “I like to see all the shapes and sizes and personalities. It’s fun to run, and all you need is [a pair of] shoes. My parents ran, and so did my brother and I. My mom organized the Columbine Classic that was held in Washington Park. My mom and I ran a 5K together in Ohio. She came in second, and I came in third. Running backward, every once in a while she would turn around and yell, ‘Come on!’ She has been a real role model for me,” says Seeley. Seeley has turned the example of role modeling she received from her mother into role modeling for students. She was nominated a Member Athlete of the Year by the Denver Athletic Club and includes among her marathon finishes an impressive list, including the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon and Chicago Marathon. “I didn’t realize how much my parents encouraged me until I met other people who hadn’t had that. My parents were always saying ‘you can do it,’” she recalls.
Years before becoming a flight nurse, Seeley received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. She says she “grew up a lot at the academy,” an educational experience that was both intense and prestigious. She attended the Air Force Academy prep school for one year and the academy for half a year. She studied math and science all day, then traveled to the academy to play basketball. “It teaches you there is more to life than yourself. You grow up quickly,” she comments. While Seeley was recruited to play basketball at the Air Force Academy, she also started to play golf there, one of eight team members. When Seeley left the Air Force Academy, she started looking into schools in the Boston area. The basketball coach for Salem State College outside of Boston called her. She attended Salem State and played basketball and volleyball for well over a year before she married and moved to Dayton, Ohio. While in Dayton, she finished her nursing degree at Wright State.
Her interest in nursing began in high school when a neighboring family’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Seeley baby-sat the child and felt a deep compassion when the youngster was leaving surgery: “I could see how she was relating to the nurse, and I really began to think about nursing.” Today, Seeley realizes the nurse/patient relationship is unique and can be a learning experience for both people. “Sometimes we learn from our patients,” she comments. In her mid-20’s, Seeley traveled with her cousin to Ecuador, where they volunteered in a hospital. They assisted in surgery and actually delivered a baby. Ryan McLeanRecalling the mission she undertook, Seeley sa ys, “We spent four weeks in Archidona, Ecuador. At the time I worked as an Emergency Department nurse at St. Joseph Hospital. One of the employees was from Ecuador and was very involved with the clinic in Archidona. The clinic was run by the Sisters of Charity. I wanted to learn more about Third World medicine and also volunteer at the same time, which was the purpose of the trip. My cousin decided to join me at the last minute instead of starting college.
“I was already a nurse, but after this trip I realized I was hungry to learn more. We had been in the clinic only a few days and were not really familiar with the staff or the supplies. We had been involved all morning with a woman who was in labor. Her previous child was 8, and she was older, which was unusual for the area. It was after lunch, and all of the staff went to take a siesta, so my cousin and I decided to check on her progress. When we walked into the room, we could hear her breathing heavily, and when we came closer, I recognized quickly that she was going to deliver very soon. I knew we didn’t have time to get help, so we did our best to find the supplies we would need as quickly as possible. I was.
Written by SHARON ALMIRALL
Photography by KIT WILLIAMS