May 05 2011
My final day on an aircraft and I’m flying out with Fish, John and Hurls.
First flight out we’re tasked to a car “Hard landing, car rolled, sweep team on scene.”
Last year the sweep teams had a bit of a epiphany when they pointed out to one of my colleagues…”See what we’ve worked out? If there’s an accident and we’re close, its our job to get you there as fast as we possibly can.”
To their credit, until now the role of the sweep medic has largely been to check that drivers the sweep guys are digging out are adequately hydrated and fed. With the realisation that they could have a response role its now not uncommon to fly out to an incident and find a sweep team on scene.
And here we find one.
Landing on the dunes we jog over to the crash site to find Ed, a paramedic from England on his first Desert Challenge, holding the head of one driver at the bottom of the bowl. He bren-guns off a handover to me and I point at the other patient at the top of the dune.
“What’s he doing up there?”
Please don’t say thrown….
“Climbed up to warn off other vehicles, I think. This guy’s worse.”
“Cool. We’ll take him first, then?”
You’ve got to admire the courage of the codriver, to climb from a flipped vehicle (and a flipped vehicle thats come a good thirty feet down a slope), run back up that slope and flag down other riders, warning them around the crash site, ensuring that nobody else is hurt.
We load up Ed’s patient onto a spinal board and he dashes off to the second chap on the dune. I nod to Hurls.
“I’ll check on him, you load this guy, I’ll be two minutes.”
He nods, directing a team of sweep drivers and stopped racers to lift and carry the patient on the board back to her aircraft.
At the top of the dune I have a quick conflab with Ed.
“You need anything else?”
He gives me a short shopping list and I’m able to resupply his sweep kit from my, larger, heli bag.
“You’ll be alright here on your own?”
He nods once, turning his attention back to his patient. Desert sand aside, its no different from arriving at a scene with an RRU already in attendance and its clear that we both recognise the picture and know how the game gets played.
I scramble back down the dune and join the rest of my team back in the heli.
We’re dropping the patient in the ED (and stocking up again! Kerching!) and airborne within the hour.
We’re barely refuelled before the phones bleep again and again we fly out to another roll over.
This one a little more severe, the patient complaining of thoracic spinal pain. Once again we load him up onto the stretcher and pack him into the helo.
En route to hospital, I grab Fish’s “Sick/Not Sick?” textbook (he’s studying for EMT exams and we’ve been chatting about his studies) and point to the front page, then to the patient.
He thinks for a moment, then points to “Not sick.” and I can’t help but laugh at the image of him studying frantically as he crouches over the patient on the floor. We share the joke with the patient and he finds it just as funny as us, posing for photos (annoyingly, on Fish’ camera!)
And there I have my own realisation. It’s essential we take care of these people, of course. It’s essential we’re vigilant with our patients and recognise the massive responsibility that we carry for their lives and well being out here.
But, unlike back home, these patients dont give the impression of just waiting to write to their MP, or complain to the NHS, or run to the tabloids that the blanket they were given was the wrong shade of beige and triggered a life threatening hissy fit.
Out here the patients are reasonable and grateful for our work. There’s no reason to put up the professional vs patient walls that we have to operate behind at times in the UK. Here you can laugh and joke.
And crucially, I’m sufficiently comfy,
both professionally and clinically in this environment to sit back and relax a little.
So I do. When we land at the hospital I recognise that there are eight other people who can unload the patient (and I know they can, because for every patient I’ve ever offloaded here I’ve marched along next to them, wired as a speed freak Jack Russel, barking orders at orderlies), so I shoot pictures.
And instead of trying to help load the patients into the waiting ambulance (in which I don’t undertand the clamps, or the back door, or any of the kit, it being, you know, not my ambulance) I stroll along beside them, shooting pictures. And then, instead of glaring as I climb into the back of the vehicle, daring the hospital staff to try and stop me, I stand back. I’ve worked with this hospital now on three different flights over the past few days – they KNOW we want to ride in the back and step back to let us clamber onto the bench seat that lies alongside.
(As an aside, the ambulances in the hospital are amazing. Dozens of perfectly empty cupboards, diligently and scrupulously labelled: “Trauma” “Obstetrics” “Cardiology”. Not a plaster in the bugger!)
We load up and fly home, it’s been a long day, but a great one, marking my third trauma of the week – I certainly can’t complain this week’s been quiet…