Static registers in my subconscious mind first. I instinctively look for my radio. For some reason, keeping track of the damn thing is always a challenge which is very much to the annoyance of the person working in flight com.
The tones split through my stream of thought.
“Aero Med flight crew, you have been placed on standby and standby only. Kent County Scene.”
I glance around the room making mental note of where my gear landed after the last flight just an hour ago. Tactical vest under the white board by the door. Boots on my feet. Keys to the drug cabinet in my left arm, flight suit pocket.
While I am processing where my stuff is, I pull the sweatshirt over my head and toss it onto the futon. I am not known for the proper wear of my flight suit. An old habit from my time in the Army. My flight suit was perpetually stripped to my waist with the arms tied in a makeshift belt around my hips. The sweatshirt is usually of the old, broken in variety. Some things just don’t change.
My flight suit properly in place, I check my hair in the mirror and grab my sunglasses. It doesn’t hurt to look halfway decent, but it never lasts long on a scene. I spend way too much time washing the blood, vomit, dirt and glass off my uniform.
I sling my vest on and slide the radio into the left shoulder pocket. The right shoulder still bulky with my digital camera. One more quick slug off my Diet Pepsi before I head to Flight Com to get the scoop.
The phone rings yet again as we walk in. The quick call back usually means we are confirmed for the scene. As the flight communicator reaches for the red button to tone us out as confirmed, I head to the door leading to the hanger. The pilot waits for the scene coordinates, the physician for patient information, if we were so lucky, and I head out to pack up the blood. We do not leave without 6 units of packed red blood cells chilling on ice.
The physician and pilot get to the aircraft just ahead of me. The pilot starts the power as I set the blood cooler in its place with my left hand, stepping into the patient compartment and closing the door all in one motion.
“Adult trauma was all I could get,” says my doc.
“I love a good surprise,” I say with a grin, plopping into my seat.
I buckle the lap belt portion of the 4 point restraint system first. My mind begins to go over the basics for trauma: check my pulse first, then airway, breathing and circulation on my patient. My hands simultaneously reach above my shoulders for the other two straps. I maneuver them into position on the buckle and secure them at the same time.
My headset is hanging on the wall at my left elbow. “Microphone on the left,” I think to myself. When I was new, I could never remember. Now it is a habit.
With the blades turning, the pilot makes the call to the tower, alerting them to our ‘lifeguard helicopter’ status. This is an alert to everyone flying in the area that we are on a medical mission.
“Flight com, lifting with three souls and 1700 pounds of fuel.”
I almost tune out the rest, listening only for something out of the ordinary. The physician and I begin the task of rearranging the stretcher for accepting our trauma patient. I unbuckle the blue medical bag and pull it off stretcher and place it on the aft seat. The blue adult emergency bag ends up on the floor secured with the same clip as the blood. At the head of the stretcher, the physician tosses the pillow onto the forward auxiliary crew seat. The clipboard gets moved to its other compartment inside the stretcher. The doc then grabs the blue blanket, holds onto one end and aims the other towards the foot end. We unfold it and sloppily refold it into some semblance of thirds length wise, making it easier to open up and slide the backboard onto.
I clip the portable pulse ox unit to the RSI (rapid sequence intubation) kit and set it in the seat beside me. I look out the window as I hear the radio traffic that there is another aircraft in our area.
After the pilot says he has eyes on, my concentration shifts back to what I was doing. Tape. My three inch tape is next. I unroll a six inch section and tear it off. On the right pant leg it goes for note taking. Best place to not lose it.
I take a deep breath and look around the cabin running through my mental check list.
All we are missing is the patient.