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Friesens Employee Promotes Essential Services of STARS Air Ambulance

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C-FIFP visits Boundary Trails Health Centre in Manitoba during a publicity tour to several communities to thank Allies for helping to purchase new H145 helicopters for STARS. Photographed on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Lyle Aspinall

 Friesens has supported STARS Air Ambulance for several years and has had a long-standing relationship with them because of the vital service they provide, not only to local communities but to rural, remote areas, arriving in a fraction of time it would take any other emergency vehicle.

STARS is a charitable, non-profit organization funded by individuals, organizations, businesses, event partners and governments.

For more than 30 years, their success has been grounded in community partnerships and donations and they are committed to continuing those alliances and provide life-saving services well into the future.

In 2012, STARS signed a 10-year agreement with the Government of Manitoba to provide helicopter air ambulance service from a permanent base in Winnipeg and since their first mission in Manitoba, STARS has flown well over 5,000 missions here.

With STARS, those being transported to major medical centres receive the very best care via helicopters staffed and outfitted as mobile ICUs.

Friesens employee-owner Rudy Dueck knew that the company supported this life-saving service, but he never thought he would be the one receiving it until one fateful day last July, when he experienced cardiac arrest.

Dueck was the passenger in a truck when he lost consciousness. “My friend was driving and rushed me to the emergency room where they immediately started CPR. They were able to start my heart again, but I was still in critical condition.”

STARS Air Ambulance airlifted Dueck not once, but twice to St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, where they were able to provide the specialized care that he needed.

Today, having survived and recovered, Dueck is considered a STARS VIP – Very Important Patient. Each VIP has a different story, but one detail ties them all together: the harrowing moment when STARS saved their life.

Recovered and doing well, Dueck says he knows he is alive today because of the quick transport he received through the air ambulance service and the prayers of his family and friends. “I may not have survived. Having access to STARS is essential for rural communities as it allows them to access larger city services and doctors who have the skills needed to help those who require specialized emergency care.”

But like any other vital, non-profit service, STARS needs support to continue to operate. Community partners like Friesens help them to keep providing life-saving transport and care. A donation of $5,400 – equal to one dollar per second of an average 90-minute mission – will take STARS closer to those who need emergency medical transport.

It’s an organization many don’t give much thought, until they’re the one on the gurney.

To those who may think this service is too costly, Dueck says it’s worth every penny and more.

“STARS gave me a second chance at life. Their care allowed me to have more time with my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. I have had the opportunity to continue to build my family and my community, and this is something I will not take for granted. I believe STARS can give people like me a second chance, and I don’t think you can put a price on that.”

As an employee-owner of Friesens, Dueck says it’s important to him that the Altona-based company chose to support and donate towards STARS Air Ambulance.

“Having a heart attack changed my life in many ways. I am so thankful that I had access to STARS as it helped give me a second chance at life. I have seen first-hand how important STARS can be. For me, it helped lead to a very different outcome than many of the doctors anticipated and I think it is essential that Friesens continues to support the lifesaving work that STARS provides.”

Byron Loeppky, Friesens employee-owner and Senior VP of Books says, “Friesens has been a proud supporter of STARS Air Ambulance for several years.  It provides a vital service to rural Manitoba that has benefited both current and former Friesens employee-owners. Rudy’s story is one example of how we have benefitted from its service and are so grateful that they were there for Rudy when he needed them. We consider STARS to be an essential service to Southern Manitoba.”