Ocracoke youngster recovering
Guard airlift to Norfolk hospital …WITH
By CONNIE LEINBACH
A 17-month-old Ocracoke boy and his parents are breathing easier after
the child was airlifted by a Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to a
Norfolk hospital on Friday, Feb. 28.
Uriah Johnson, son of Mike and Amy Johnson, is home and is much
improved after receiving treatment at Children’s Hospital of the King’s
Daughters Friday afternoon, said his father in an interview Monday.
Uriah had a high fever and chest congestion on Friday when his parents
took him to Ocracoke Health Center, Mike said.
An assessment by Dr. Erin Baker suggested the diagnosis might be
pneumonia, and hospital treatment was recommended, Mike continued.
But Friday’s high winds along with a line of thunderstorms all along
the eastern edge of the Pamlico Sound complicated matters.
Baker kicked into gear and got the Ocracoke Emergency Medical Services
calling for a helicopter to transport Uriah to the hospital the
Johnsons had chosen.
Eric Godby, the paramedic on duty, tried the first line of helicopter
defense—EastCare, based at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville.
But both EastCare and the air ambulance at King’s Daughters were
grounded because of the weather, said Brian Carter, chief paramedic on
The winds on Friday were sustained winds of 25 to 30 mph with gusts up
to 50 mph, said Jared Holtz, director of Hyde County EMS services.
“Any time you see flight under those conditions, you’ll see the
military,” Holtz said.
The rules of civilian helicopter flight dictate that helicopters must
always have three points of visual contact while flying over open
water, Holtz said. If weather conditions don’t allow those, and if the
pilot deems it unsafe, they don’t fly.
The Marine helicopter, Pedro, a Chinook, out of Cherry Point, also
wasn’t available to fly into the storm system. Since the Coast Guard is
out of Elizabeth City – on the way to Norfolk -- Godby contacted the
The Jayhawk touched down on the Ocracoke helipad at 12:25 p.m., loaded
Uriah, Amy, and Godby and lifted off at 12:40 p.m., Mike
explained. They arrived at King’s Daughter at 1 p.m.
Mike caught the 1 p.m. ferry to Hatteras and got to Norfolk about five
“The winds were even higher in Norfolk,” he said about that day. “The
whole street was filled with dust and debris.”
Both parents spent the night at the hospital with Uriah and returned to
Ocracoke on Saturday.
Mike praised the work of the health care and emergency service
personnel on Ocracoke.
“Dr. Baker took immediate control and gave out directions,” he said.
“Eric Godby was fantastic and I was impressed with the readiness of the
Ocracoke Fire Department out at the airport.”
Amy noted that the Jayhawk flight was amazingly smooth, and she was
“very grateful for the Coast Guard’s service in times of duress.”
Holtz explained that anytime a patient is airlifted off Ocracoke, one
of the EMS workers accompanies the flight.
EastCare, which has five helicopters, is Ocracoke’s main airlift
resource, Holtz said, but there are several others options
available, which was apparent in Friday’s situation.
He noted that EastCare just got night vision capability, which will add
to the service’s resources.
“We have a lot of resources at our disposal for Ocracoke,” he said.