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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
An Intermountain Life Flight helicopter arrives at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, to celebrate the program's 40th anniversary.

SALT LAKE CITY Makiah Macey remembers being in the worst pain of her life after she fell off of a trail during cross-country practice just over a month ago.

But she also remembers one of the most comfortable moments ever: being placed in a hoist that felt "like a cloud" by Intermountain Life Flight medics.

Macey, still in recovery and on crutches, shared her experience being transported to Primary Children's Hospital July 27 in front of the state Capitol Wednesday as Intermountain Healthcare celebrated "40 years of saving lives" with its Life Flight service.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Makiah Macey, an Intermountain Life Flight rescue survivor, speaks at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. Intermountain Life Flight is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

The medics on the helicopter helped to comfort her during the flight, Macey said, in addition to the necessary medical attention they gave her. They even stayed with her in the emergency room until she was settled into her own room.

"That was really comforting to know that there were these people here that cared for me and were there to help me," Macey said. "Especially when my parents and family members could not be there with me, I knew there was someone watching over me."

In the 40 years that the service has been operating in Utah — the official anniversary was July 5 — Life Flight has transported 106,875 patients and performed 362 hoist rescue missions, according to Intermountain Healthcare. Between its six helicopters and three airplanes, Intermountain Life Flight now transports an average of 14 patients each day.

Pamela Moore has worked for the program for 39 of its 40 years — as a nurse, a manager and now the executive director of Life Flight. She, along with Intermountain Healthcare Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Allen, thanked Herbert for recognizing the program and its more than 400 employees, adding their own praise to the Life Flight team as well.

"They are the finest people that I know," Moore said.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Intermountain Life Flight employees gather at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, to celebrate the program's 40th anniversary. During the past 40 years, Intermountain Life Flight, which is the only civilian air ambulance program in the United States licensed to perform hoist rescues, has transported nearly 107,000 patients, flown 15 million miles and completed 400 hoist rescues.

As Moore spoke, an Intermountain Life Flight helicopter passed by near the Capitol, on its way to northern Utah for a patient transport.

Moore said Herbert's declaring Wednesday as a statewide appreciation day for the service stemmed from a desire within the Life Flight team to celebrate 40 years, and that Herbert was happy to be a part of the celebration.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Helicopter-shaped cookies are served during an event at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, as Intermountain Life Flight celebrates its 40th anniversary

Lt. Alan Siddaway of the Summit County Sheriff's Office talked about a "lesser known" use of Life Flight: assisting with search and rescue missions. Their helicopters have been used to airlift injured people out of the backcountry, to insert and extract search and rescue teams in remote areas, to conduct aerial searches, and sometimes to recover a body — times at which Siddaway said he has seen Life Flight team members show true compassion toward the victims' loved ones.

"We always feel better when you guys are there," he said, addressing the several members of Life Flight crews in attendance.

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Siddaway shared the story of a recent rescue mission on Kings Peak. It was nearing nighttime, and the search and rescue team had to employ the help of the Department of Public Safety, Intermountain Life Flight and even the National Guard.

"Without the coordination between these three agencies," he said, "this young man would not be alive today."

Herbert pointed out that although most people will never experience it firsthand, they can take comfort in knowing the Life Flight team is available in case they do need it.

"They are, in fact, what we would call everyday heroes," he said.