MARCO ISLAND — Elvis was in the house, in the air, on the soundsystem, and all over the parking lot. While the purpose of the “Rockin’ Grand Opening” event was to introduce Physicians Regional new Marco Island medical clinic to local residents, the focus was on the King.
The highpoint literally of the festivities on Saturday afternoon was the arrival by parachute of “The Flying Elvi,” a troupe of Elvis-impersonating parachute jumpers. They came in waves, with 10 total Elvi dropping in, in addition to the two already on the ground at the Shops of Marco. Thousands of spectators lined up all around the flimsy barrier of police tape that kept one section of the parking lot at the shopping center at San Marco and Barfield Drive South open for a landing spot.
“It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Elvis?” As the Presley-pompadoured emcee on the ground kept the crowd informed of the plane’s progress approaching the drop zone, another Elvis on stilts strutted around, striking poses. All heads craned skyward as the word came that the jumpers were in the air. The colorful parafoil-type parachutes allowed the Elvi to swoop and pirouette through the air, trailing smoke trails as they came down from over two miles above, and eventually to drop accurately into the five rows of parking lot reserved for a landing zone.
All 10 Elvi managed to touch down accurately in what is more or less a postage stamp-sized area, when parachuting from a great distance, missing the spectators and in many cases, landing standing. Ken Lewis from Los Angeles, a veteran of over 3,000 parachute jumps, said the tight LZ was his only concern for the jump, his first as a member of the Flying Elvi.
“Normally, I jump into an area that’s 200 acres,” he said. “This is a parking lot.”
As the group’s website says, “even though they are very good at what they do, they haven’t quit their day jobs.” Members of the team work as teachers, a health inspector, a builder, a realtor, and a newspaper writer, along with one full-time sky diving instructor.
On the ground, the crowd enjoyed food cooked up by SMH Catering, an outreach program of St. Matthews House, with the Philly cheesesteak taking top honors as the most popular item on the day’s menu, said St. Matthews House chef Eric Delano. They listened to the tunes of Bluestone Circle, an accomplished rock and roll band from Orlando, who, after performing an obligatory Elvis medley, moved the musical playlist forward a decade or two, jumping into Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Born to Be Wild,” certainly fitting tunes for the day’s activities.
If anyone had gotten hurt, at least medical care would have been close at hand, as not coincidentally, the new Marco Island medical clinic of the Physicians Regional hospital group was open for business right at the Shops of Marco. Before and after the aerial show, residents took tours through the 9,000 square foot clinic, which will include a walk-in clinic, physical therapy and rehab services, regular physician appointments, and lab work.
The new clinic, custom designed to accommodate Marco’s older and often transient population, will function as a department of the Physicians Regional full-service hospitals. Physicians, nurses and technicians rotate in from the Physicians Regional hospitals on Collier Blvd. and Pine Ridge Road in Naples. Specialists including cardiologists will keep regular hours in the portion of the clinic set up for their services, and many patients who have had to travel to the company’s other, more distant locations will now be able to be seen and treated right on Marco Island.
Julie McClure inspected the physical therapy quarters, where furnishings and equipment were arriving until the day before the opening. She had come by while the center was under construction, and had one of the first appointments for Tuesday, the first day for the rehab and therapy unit.
Maryann Hodge, who works in marketing for parent company HMA, took the tour with her children, “plus a couple I borrowed.” Kalianne Hodge, age 11, was impressed enough she wanted to spend more time in the facility.
“I’m going to pretend to be sick,” she declared.
Todd Gibson, R.N., director of emergency services for Physicians Regional, made the point that the new clinic is not an emergency room. While the walk-in clinic will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week “think 7-7-7,” said Locastro in an emergency, calling 911 is still the proper action.
“No ambulance will ever deliver a patient here,” he said. There is an entrance in the rear customized to facilitate the transfer of patients to an ambulance, quickly and discreetly, and all Collier EMS and Marco Island Fire-Rescue personnel have been given the tour and made aware of the capabilities of the new clinic, said Gibson.
Locastro said the point of the grand opening hoopla was to make sure islanders know where the new clinic is located. After Saturday, with a little help from the Flying Elvi, it’s safe to say Marco knows where to find Physicians Regional on Marco Island.