So many lives interrupted

I walked into flight communications realizing the room was quiet. The physical presence of the crew was missing, and over Terri’s shoulder, the mission’s flight path was mapped across the computer screen.

I blurted out the obvious, “So they are out then?”

She humored me. “Yup, should be landing back here any minute.”

I dropped my bags, half hearing the conversation she was having with Travis. For a good part of a 24 hour shift we have two people in our communications center, one to dispatch and manage flights, the other to handle ambulance communications for the entire county. Our communicators are the voice and brain of what we do. A good flight communicator releases the flight crew to do what we do best—care for the patient. They pick up the baton of a conductor and manage 30+ phone calls of coordination, sometimes battling other times begging and still other times demanding until they get what the patient needs. They need to know how to do what, when.

Some of the communicators may not realize it, but they can set the tone of a flight. Many have been doing it for so damn long they make it look as simple as breathing. In reality, the newbies have enormous expectations to live up to.

I walked over to the desk and leaned over to get a look as the aircraft approaches high. Without thinking, I interrupt the conversation flow between the two communicators.

“God, watching that thing land never gets old, even on a bad day it just makes me happy. How can I ever complain about my job?”

Terri turns, mid-sentence. Her strong, professional exterior breeched for a moment.

“It always reminds me that I get to go home and kiss my kids. Who ever we just transported doesn’t get to do that.”

The three of us silently watched the aircraft settle softly and gracefully. Back safe from another patient transport.

“Down safe, 1857,” Terri states over the radio, once again all business.

The crew was home, all was well. She resumed her conversation with Travis, almost at the very word she stopped on, consistent with the talents of those in EMS.

So many lives interrupted, in so many ways.

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  1. Heartening to see someone else put it into words…
    I’ve been fling-winging now for over 40 years, almost 22 years of that intermittently landing on highway intersections picking up folks that got caught up in events they didn’t foresee.
    I’m still in awe of these machines and get gooseflesh watching one take off on a scene run.
    So don’t expect to ever get over that feeling…
    Or maybe we’re just different than everyone else?

  2. Watching the aircraft fly over me when I am out somewhere, off duty, gets me all weird too. Strange to think about how many others are watching and thinking something similar. Even more strange to think that _I_ am the one in it when others are on the ground!

  3. They call me the Heli-bitch here at the Trauma center here in Memphis ’cause I’ll go to the roof no matter the weather. Love working with them. My family laughs at me ’cause I can hear a chopper go over and nine out of ten times I’m right about which service it is. Would love to fly as a nurse. But sadly I am blessed to out mass alot of other folks on this earth. Jim

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