Sometimes we just go fast

Ottawa 20

There are times in the field of flight medicine when the best thing you can do for your patient is simply fly faster.

My patient was still fairly young, not quite in his 70’s. His initial presentation confused his eventual diagnosis of dissecting aortic aneurysm. In short, the enormous main blood vessel which carries blood away from the heart to the rest of the body was tearing. That was when we were called. His diagnosis was too critical for the surgical and ICU capabilities available at the hospital closest to his home.

The patient smiled through his oxygen mask when I introduced myself. Although the mask was keeping his oxygen saturations just high enough, he still tried to talk with me.

Leaning close, I quietly asked if had been in a helicopter before.

“Sure, lots a long time ago.”

“In the military?” I asked.

“Yes,” was his answer, simplified by his apparent air hunger.

“Well, Doctor W and I are both in the Army,” I smile broadly, “So you are in really good hands.”

This was one of the times I was again glad we cannot read minds. He didn’t need to know that our capable hands were not the ones he needed most.

I asked if he is in pain, which he denied, so I continued on, explaining the process of his transfer and what would happen during our flight.

My outward calm was covering my hidden inward anxiety. Time was not only critical because of his extremely guarded condition but bad weather was also moving in.

We moved with a definite purpose racing not only his tearing blood vessels, but also the storm. The unpredictable local weather was threatening freezing rain. The winds carried very ugly clouds toward us and were blowing with a purpose.

For this gentleman, on this day, the tail wind was fortuitous.

Sometimes we just go fast. Other days, we have help in going faster.

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