• A portrait of longtime Spruce Pine resident Corey Pittman is shown in front of the new N135CP MAMA Air Ambulance helicopter named in his honor.
    A portrait of longtime Spruce Pine resident Corey Pittman is shown in front of the new N135CP MAMA Air Ambulance helicopter named in his honor.

MAMA team christens new helicopter named for late Spruce Pine resident Corey Pittman

It is said that a group doesn’t necessarily constitute a team. At Mission Health in Asheville, there are more than 12,000 who are far more than just a group of employees – they are a team and a family. They work together in various capacities in the common purpose of caring for the residents of the 18-county region they serve – and caring for each other in the process.

The meaning of team was further exemplified recently at the Mission Hospital heliport as the members of the Mission Mountain Area Medical Airlift, or MAMA, team christened a new helicopter to honor one of their comrades. Members of MAMA past and present came to the helicopter dedication ceremony, while pausing in solemn remembrance of the passing of their fellow team member and longtime Spruce Pine resident and Avery County native Corey Shawn Pittman, for whom the new helicopter is named.

Pittman was a flight paramedic with the MAMA team for 10 years, treating critically injured and ill patients in lifesaving flights to Mission Hospital.

Pittman – a teacher, educator, leader, family man, respected team member and member of his community – died May 30, 2016, from a heart attack at 41 years old.

Pittman also was acclaimed for his work in other emergency services in Avery and Buncombe counties: 28 years as a junior or senior firefighter with the Green Valley Fire Department in Southern Avery County; a 22-year paramedic with the Linville Central Rescue Squad, also in Avery County; and 10 years as director of critical care education at Asheville-Buncombe Tech, where he received international acclaim for tutoring paramedics from Canada, England, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

As the MAMA team gathered for the dedication, along with Pittman’s wife, Fern Eva-Marie Pittman, of Spruce Pine, and Corey’s parents, Sherrill and Lana Stafford Pittman, of the Three Mile Community of Avery County, those who spoke left not a dry eye in the crowd.

“Corey used to say every day, ‘Is there anything I can do for you today?’” remembered flight nurse Cecil Gregg remembered, recalling you better be prepared to answer his question sincerely because when he asked it, he meant it. That seems to be the theme for the entire MAMA crew – what can they, and this new helicopter, do for you?

Lana Pittman commented that Corey’s family is appreciative of his being remembered and honored in such a special and meaningful way: “Our family is more than deeply touched that the new MAMA helicopter is Corey’s namesake. We’re ecstatic about it. He would be so proud as we all are and we sincerely appreciate the efforts of everyone involved to make the helicopter dedication a reality. It’s one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened to our family.”

Fern Eva-Marie Pittman, a former nurse in Spruce Pine and Marion and a former flight nurse at Wellmont One Air Transport in Bristol, also expressed gratitude with her remarks.

“I can hardly put into words the depth of the complete influence Corey had on so many people, which is his greatest legacy,” she said. “The naming of the helicopter in his honor exemplifies what he means to people. It reaches the core of my heart and I couldn’t be prouder as a clinician, air flight nurse, his spouse and a child of God. Thanks to everyone who played a part in it.”

Mission Air Medical Supervisor Johnny Grindstaff spoke about the efforts it took to get the helicopter and to have it done the way they wanted it to ensure the best possible care for the people of Western North Carolina.

“This has been a team effort for the past year in putting this helicopter together,” Grindstaff said. “The pilots, the mechanics, the flight nurses, the flight paramedics, the respiratory therapists, our leadership – this is the result of all of that teamwork and dedication.”

As the tail numbers #N135CP were unveiled, Grindstaff explained their meaning.

“The ‘N’ indicates she is registered in the USA, the 135 is the type of aircraft and the CP (Corey Pittman) stands for devotion, character and a servant attitude that we try to display every day,” he said.

-Some information used in this article was provided by Mission Health.

The MItchell News

Mailing Address: PO Box 339 
Spruce Pine, NC 28777 
Phone: 828-765-7169
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