TagFlight Nursing

Threes

I’m becoming more aware of a larger role I play in the grand scheme of simply living and breathing. SFC Rodriguez would tell me that no matter how few days you have left of something, never allow yourself to become an oxygen thief. Sometimes I don’t realize why things happen. To me, it just is. Later is when the understanding dawns. My former belief in coincidences diminishes further.

Threes: An airport in Atlanta. A chance meeting at my unit. A tech at my house to fix my DSL.

A physician in uniform returning from Iraq was my chance meeting in a bar/restaurant in the Atlanta airport. We spent an hour or so discussing his time in Afghanistan. His frustrations at being unable to save a pilot injured by enemy fire. The fact that he gave up his private practice to serve and the lack of regret which permeated his countenance.

The flight medic who happened to have a class on a day which I happened into my Army unit on my day off. We few, we flight medic few. Unless you have spent part of your soul on others—so they may live—understanding is virtually futile.

My lack of Internet almost drove me crazy. By relenting and scheduling a repair appointment, I met a communications NCO from the National Guard. Not long home, while on deployment he lost as many have. A roommate and a friend who would never again set foot on the soil they gave their lives for.

All three I was destined to meet. All three shared their stories, parts of themselves they will relive until the day they too fade into an unknown.

Maybe not the unknown. Most hopefully not the forgotten.

Definitely not the forgotten.

I recounted the acts of fate and what these encounters meant to me while visiting an old Infantry Soldier, who served in a time before me. It was comforting to realize that a soldier is always a soldier, no matter the time, or the war. Explaining the details and what these experiences did to my soul could be expressed in a few simple sentences.

He just knew.

Knew that I was meant to simply be.

So now, I sit in an unexpected bar at an unexpected moment, leaving myself to the encounters of fate. I sit reflecting on the past year as only a girl, drinking alone in a bar on New Year’s Eve can do. Okay with being alone, in a crowd, knowing without a second of doubt, that the next 365 days are about to be mine. But, also comfortable knowing that my life has never truly been mine alone, but one of service and sacrifice in both small snippets and intense circumstance.

So Others May Live.


Original Java: Buy good Coffee and Support the Troops through Project DUSTOFF

“I don’t believe in coincidences . . . I believe in the curly ‘q’ whimsy of fate. After all, everything’s connected”
Sam Tyler (character) Life on Mars

A few weeks ago while at the unit, I held the door for SFC Rick Simmons. My eyes were immediately drawn to his combination Army Aviation Badge, and Combat Medical Badge. Of course, I had to ask, and in the process made the acquaintance of a fellow former Army Flight Medic who flew in support of OIF not once, but twice.

Although his story of quiet heroism isn’t necessarily rare, what he did in his downtime on deployment is. When he wasn’t flying in to provide medical care, SFC Simmons and CPT Pete Huggins created Original Java, a coffee shop in the middle of Iraq.

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Rick and Pete flew lifesaving MEDEVAC missions throughout the Iraqi desert. They also shared a common goal; to boost morale and provide respite from the daily grinds of war. Their vision, “Original Java”, became an oasis in the desert, an espresso cigar bar serving coffee, frozen smoothies, and a much-needed dose of sanity. Now back stateside, “OJ” has evolved into an e-commerce coffee shop adorned with “Project Dustoff”. “OJ” is a small family-owned & operated e-commerce business offering superior gourmet, organic, fair trade coffees and teas.

Their story is an incredible example of soldier ingenuity and creativity. The impressive part is that they have brought the spirit of Original Java home with that same ingenuity creating Project DUSTOFF, which is dedicated to helping wounded service members and their families. Part of the proceeds from every bag of Project DUSTOFF coffee goes to the cause.

It isn’t a stretch to see why the spirit of their company is close to my heart. Anyone who has sacrifice for my freedom, supports soldiers, the DUSTOFF community, and sells coffee from my home state deserves a post, a link on my sidebar, and my gratitude.

I consider myself fortunate to have run into SFC Simmons, and excited to be witness to the broad reach that his time in Iraq will have on the Army community, lasting much beyond his tours overseas.

Oh, and I no longer believe in coincidences.

DUSTOFF!

A brief history of DUSTOFF.

The Essence of Flight Medicine

The end of October marked a turning point in my flight career.

In the midst of many complicated and intense life milestones, I was scheduled to speak at the Air Medical Transport Conference in Minneapolis. With all that was whirling in my life, another trip was not a welcome addition to my schedule.

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Schedule for the
auditorium I lectured in

For those of you unfamiliar with AMTC, it is the conference for the air medical transport community. Exhibit hall was littered with state of the art helicopters and ambulances. There was a constant swirl of new faces, lectures, flight suits, and business cards. My apprehension at attending diminished slightly as I met some of the finest minds in HEMS research and military transport circles. Those in attendance represented the best of nurses, pilots, paramedics, communicators and physicians in the medical field. I realized, almost immediately, how lucky I was to be included among their numbers.

During the first few days of the conference, an intense group of flight suit clad individuals stood out, traveling in pairs through the crowd, sporting game faces. I noticed one particularly serious paramedic headed to various stations of the METI competition. I was drawn to his bald headed, goatee sporting, confident swagger from across the room. While his aura brushing mine was perceptible, I was completely unaware of the difference he was to make on who I am as a flight nurse.

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(l-r) Mark, Flight Paramedic
Jason, Flight Nurse
Mercy Air METI Team

Unfortunately, other than this particular paramedic, not much else registered with me the first few days of the conference as my apprehension remained quite high. I was wrapped up about giving my pelvic fracture lecture which seemed like a great idea a few months prior when I submitted it for consideration.

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Me speaking

The day after I successfully survived my unwarranted stress and actually giving the lecture, I spent hours enjoying showing off our aircraft, in exhibit hall. Toward the end of the day, I decided to take a break and stroll through the booths walking tall in my flight suit.

As I passed the METI competition stage, he had his back to me, engaged in a relaxed conversation with some of his co-workers. As with everyone else whom I had passed, I walked by and said hi before realizing, for the first time consciously, that he was the same intense paramedic I was drawn to from afar. As my greeting jumped from my mouth, he stopped, turned mid-sentence, and stuck his hand out. “Hi,” grinning in his easy way, “I’m Mark.”

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Mark in competition mode

I don’t put much stock in destiny, or fate, but now, almost two months later, I think I could be convinced otherwise.

Since that first, simple, conversation, we have spent countless hours discussing, debating, and brainstorming about our chosen profession. Pathophysiology, kinetics, homeostasis, equipment, management, flight safety . . . the topics are a continuous stream of consciousness that bounce and carry over for sometimes days. Mainly, it seems, I sit with my eyes and ears open as I have learned more in five minutes absorbing his knowledge, than I have in weeks worth of lecture or clinical.

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Mark in his element

Talking to someone and seeing them in their element, however, are sometimes two entirely different experiences. With Mark one simply flows into the other. Just a few short weeks after our chance meeting, I found myself hot off loading an aircraft with Mark and his partner at a hospital in Southern California. Two shifts working with him in his world cemented my opinion of Mark and my admiration for his professionalism.

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Me (white helmet in aircraft)
taking a photo of Mark taking a photo of me

My last day in San Diego intensified these opinions as we spent the morning walking along the beach, engrossed in yet another profession based discussion. In this conversation, he allowed me to see just how deeply the passion in which he approaches flight medicine is intertwined with who he is at his very core. His words rendered me speechless. He described that which I had been searching for but unable to completely capture.

Mark’s passion for flying, for medicine, is not just lip service because it is an exciting job. He loves it for what it is. A profession in which he aggressively grasps every chance to make a difference.

Not the chance to save a life.

No.

The chance to give someone an extra two minutes of living for the family. The chance for a tragically lost life to carry over as a gift of organ donation. The opportunity to challenge the next generation of EMTs to excel by using his status as a flight paramedic to snag their attention and imagination for a few short minutes.

He knows saving a life will happen, when fate deems it so.

Flying isn’t about credentials, or classes, or certifications, or degrees. It is about possessing the passion necessary to continuously choose the path less traveled. In flight medicine, that particular path isn’t less traveled because it is unknown. It is less traveled because it is the difficult one. The one that requires you to make ten times the effort of your peers. The one in which you must sacrifice a part of yourself to each patient. The one in which you instinctively reach for medications and tubes without hesitation or indecision because you trained that much harder. The path down which you able to confidently act when faced with a mother screaming for you to save her child while they hover near death.

He didn’t simply choose path less traveled expecting a final destination. Mark thrives on the journey itself, knowing that to experience the journey is to capture the essence of flight medicine.

Many of you have asked what it takes to be part of this profession.

He showed me what it means to be part of this profession.

Each of us have defining moments in our careers.

It seems that I have found one of mine.

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Mercy Air Flickr set here.

Five Short Years of crzegrl.net

Many people use their birthdays, or the new year to ponder their accomplishments, their goals, and their failures.

Today is my day for self-reflection.

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My first post here at crzegrl.net was five years ago today. It seems a lifetime ago, yet just yesterday that I decided to write about Danny.

As some of you know, this blog has undergone an evaluation, so to speak, by my main employer. The employer who shall-not-be-named from here until eternity.

With the attention I received, and the days I spent sweating the outcome, my blogging passion has been stifled. When writing here my approach, in the past, was simple. “What you see is what you get.” Blogging anonymously killed my creativity when I first started writing. The new guidelines from my employer include no mention of where I work, or photos/multimedia naming the corporation at all. Ack.

My first knee jerk reaction was to delete the entire blog. Why write if I can’t present what I do the way I do it? Then the professional part of me took the creative, passionate me by the shoulders and began shaking real hard.

It takes one small incident to smear years of work and millions of dollars worth of marketing in creating an appropriate corporate image. That small incident can be a viral, just like a bad strain of VRE or MRSA in an ICU where the staff doesn’t wash their hands. Trust me when I tell you that I understand the concern behind the “man” that is the corporation. If I were the one sitting in the hot seat, I would want control of my employees as well.

After the initial panic and the last few weeks of readjusting my thinking, I have come to the conclusion that not writing would be like cutting off my arm. Not hanging out with the medical/nursing blog community would be like losing part of my family. Not giving my friends a way to keep up with me without calling a damn SHAME!

*pointed looks*

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So as I continue to contemplate my past, my present, and my future, the blog will evolve. My creativity will need to be, well….more creative. Capturing the essence of what I do will need to have more substance, and less bright shiny objects. If nothing else, I still have the view from my office window.

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Happy five years dearest blog. I’m glad I still have you.

Off to AMTC

Well, I am off to the great city of Minneapolis for the Air Medical Transport Conference. Should be an interesting week.

Anyone in the area interested in a Sweetest Day beer? Better yet, anyone else going to the conference?

Oh, and Mark? I almost cried when I saw that you won’t be there!

Just for the record, that is TweetDeck on my laptop. Scanman and Strong—thanks for keeping me company!

Now, I must prepare myself for flying commercial. Yeesh.

When will this End? Another HEMS Crash

I have taken an unplanned hiatus from here for a number of reasons. All personal, but some work related. Some because I have good things happening in my airway, breathing and circulation life, but mostly because I just couldn’t find the energy or inspiration to write. Other events were taking that energy which I normally save for my electron life.

Sad news is causing me to post today. Prior to this, I have avoided writing about crashes, especially since we experienced one ourselves this year. Politics/confidentiality and good taste has left me avoiding the discussion about ours.

However, I woke up this morning to this:

Medical helicopter crash kills 4

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Makes a flight nurse really think hard about the worthiness of what she does.

I leave for AMTC in two days. For those of you unfamiliar, it is the big Air Medical conference. I don’t want to hear about the crashes, the lives lost, the tragedy. Unfortunately, if we don’t start talking about the “C” word we can’t stop this cycle of loss. We MUST face our own mortality.

*sigh*

Not the blog post I wanted to return with.

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Something more upbeat is on the way. I really have had a lot of good happen the past few weeks!

*one of my best skydiving days ever
*M-1 for Vets
*9-11 “Salute”
*CPT McGee, Commanding
*Barcelona, Barcelona, Barcelona
*E.M., author

Just to name a few.

Off to finish my CEN and CFRN packets. Ugggg

LifeLine HEMS at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

After the race finished on Sunday, Emily and I took the time to head over to the EMS area of the infield. For those of you who aren’t familiar with race EMS coverage at Indy it is pretty impressive. This includes an aircraft parked for medical evacuation, a small hospital (I believe 17 beds) and multiple ambulances (I counted 6-8) plus fire had a few vehicles there as well.

I just want to send Lisa, an FRN for LifeLine, a huge thank you for the impromptu tour and swag. It doesn’t matter how long I have been a flight nurse, I still love to talk to nurses from other programs. One of their pilots (I’m sorry I don’t remember your name!) also took the time to come out in the rain and answer our questions. So, thank you both so very much!

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Lisa, FRN for LifeLine,
and me, the HEMS groupie!

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Inside of the LifeLine aircraft

It wasn’t easy to find good information about EMS coverage at the Speedway, but I did find this article from NurseZone.com which highlights nursing at the track. Another cool avenue in the nursing profession. Those who get bored with nursing just aren’t looking in the right places.

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Me with the firefighters at the track

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. I was, however, fortunate enough to have blue skies most of the way home from Grand Rapids this morning. I am grateful that my initial plan for driving the bike all the way to Indy fell through. I was much happier being cozy in the truck with the bike trailered.

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Flickr set here.

“From the Flight Nurse’s Seat” Remembering September 11th

This installment of “From the Flight Nurse’s Seat” is, quite simply, my raw emotional thoughts regarding the anniversary of September 11, 2001. This was done in one shot, taped with the camera balanced on a clipboard. I have on no make-up, am wearing a simple t-shirt and did not worry about lighting. This is about my thoughts, not some “finished product.” This is an uncensored look at another side of me.

Social Networking and the Work Place

Employees where I work have found Facebook.

Before you manager types in the world get up in arms about your worker bees wasting time, please hear me out.

While on the Doctor Anonymous show last week, I mentioned that Nursing needed its own tipping point. The profession needs that special something like what the television show ER did for emergency medicine, and the show CSI did for forensics.

Mark my words:

Our path is not going to come from television or the movies. The nursing profession will be profoundly changed from the Internet.

All professions intertwined in healthcare, for that matter, will be changed profoundly by the Internet.

How is that?

Quite simply, those in the field who have taken the time to blog, participate in chat rooms, answer emails, post videos, create podcasts, and host Internet radio shows are the tip of the spear. The spear of change.

I made mention that we are creating a world in which doctors, nurses, students, x-ray techs, medics, and patients come to the table as equals. There has been none of the “nurses eat their young,” type of attitude. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact.

Last week, Dr. A was as excited as I was for my being a guest. The chat room for his show is continuously filled with students, nurses, medics, and physicians. Sometimes there are even those who are none of the above. A physician who promotes all equally. A chat room filled with professionals glad to see each other. An avenue for open dialog, idea sharing, bad jokes and equality in camaraderie.

It is about communication. Through social networking online, we are breaking down a number of barriers to practice. Instead of seeing each other as a medic or doctor or patient, we are able to see the person first, the job second. We are breaking down international barriers as well. I have corresponded with a nurse from South Africa, one from the South Pacific, a physician in India, a medic in Europe, just to name a few. We ask about differences in practice, education and work atmosphere.

Age and experience matters not. Dr. Schwab, and Dr. Bates are two whom I have been more than taken with. Neither are old, but both bring such experience to the table that I sit in awe at their words, their stories and their willingness to encourage and mentor.

The new nursing students and medics I am in absolute love with. Their passion for learning and hunger to gain experience makes me excited about doing my job. Lucid and EE I follow with great hope and interest as their careers unfold.

Viral memes and internet awards are passed from one to another with amazing thought. I was given the Arte Y Pico award, which I will write about soon, by Someonetc who is an orthopaedic surgeon. A physician recognizing an nurse who was recognized by a surgical first assistant. I ask you, in what other realm is this reality?

I am also beginning to see social networking roll into my real world as well. Those I work with have found Facebook. As a manager I would have to ask myself, “How is this a good thing?” As an employee I, in turn ask, “How is it not?” Social networking sites, when used appropriately open communication, build friendships, and promote a team atmosphere.

For example, I walk into work and am asked, “Hey, did you get that flair I sent you?” or, “Hey, about that text message I sent . . .” My favorite, however, is when, in mid conversation, someone pipes up, “Hey Emily! You need to blog that!” Active participation in networking and information sharing over and above the workplace. Why would a manager not encourage that type of interaction?

Facebook has been taken to the next level in my work interactions outside of the hangar. In my friends list, I not only have those I see everyday at the flight company I work for, but also nurses, techs and physicians in our emergency room, OR and ICU as well as pharmacists in our satellite pharmacy and medics that work in our area. With very little effort, I am able to keep up with and interact with all of them in a way I would be unable to otherwise. When I walk in to the ER with a nasty trauma, or land on a gnarly scene, it takes very few words and a glance to reconnect with these friends in the physical world, and in an unspoken manner we feel part of a group, part of the team. A team that will attempt to do anything and everything for the person we are trying to save.

I am also fortunate that this rolls over into my Army world as well. I get messages and “pokes” from fellow soldiers, just letting me know that I am part of who they are just as much as they are part of me.
Wendy, one of our flight dispatchers, sent me this photo of herself and Maria, another of our dispatchers over Facebook. They are medics for a local EMS agency and Wendy is also a nursing student. After telling Maria what an awesome photo it was, I asked if I could put it up on my blog.

Her response? “Of course Emily, that is why we took it!”

Little did she, or I realize that it would spark such a blog post.

Wendy And Maria
(l-r) Wendy and Maria

I cannot wait to see how our professions meld and evolve in the future. We must, as the grunt workers, continue to fertilize this avenue of making our jobs easier, our interactions more positive, and healthcare stronger.

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Follow me:
Facebook— emily@crzegrl.net
Yahoo IM— crzegrl15
Twitter— crzegrl15
AIM— crzegrl@mac.com

just to name a few. The rest are here: