04 September 2007

Dear Jacoby,

Well Bub, for a 24 year old you sure know how to stir the pot!
I was at the races on standby in case there was a bad accident there.
Ken Schrader had just walked by.
Nice man. I got to shake his hand and tell him I "enjoyed his work".
The Modified class was on the track warming up for their first heat when a guy on an ATV drove up...
"Your dispatch is tryin' to contact you!"

Apparently we were in a dead spot for our beepers. I pulled out my cell phone and called our Base. Over the roar of the cars I hear-
"There's a bad MVA just South of Little Town. One known fatality there so far. All occupants were ejected from the vehicle. There are three survivors. Two other helicopters are also enroute. Your flight is a GO."

In three minutes we are airborne.
The flight to Little Town will take 9 minutes.

You picked a great night to have an accident, Jacoby.
A gorgeous evening... the sun was just setting. Mid-70 temperatures with a light breeze out of the Southeast, and there wasn't a cloud within 250 miles. The weather was beautiful, so something else had to make my job difficult:

I pulled the trigger to key my microphone-
"Base, this is ******."
No sidetone, no response.


"Base, this is ******".
No response.

This is more than annoying.
Lives are at stake here, I have a VERY short ETA, but that's meaningless if I don't know exactly where I'm going. And I need to know where the other flying Mixmasters are so we don't collide.

I switched to our alternate frequency-
"Base, this is ******, over."

"Base, this is ******"
Still nothing. ARRGHH!

We have a back-up radio in the rear that we use mostly for calling the hospitals.

I tell my Nurse what frequency to dial in, and she says, "You're up"-
"Base, this is ******"

I recite the alternate frequency to my Nurse and she dials that number in-
"Base, this is ******!"
"****** this is Base, go ahead."
"We're about five minutes from Little Town. Can you tell us where we're goin' and update us on our patient?"

"******, they now want you to meet the ambulance at the helipad at Little Town hospital.
Your patient is a 24 year old male, ejected victim of a vehicle rollover. That's all the information I have."

And that's you, Jacoby.

I take a chance on my main radio working on another frequency, this time to call the hospital-
"Little Town hospital, this is ******, over."

"******, this is Little Town, go ahead."
Thank God! It DOES work on some frequencies!

"Little Town, we have a 3 minute ETA to your helipad."

"******, Be aware there's another helicopter inbound for landing."

Head on a swivel, scanning the horizon for lights or movement...
It's getting dark. Seeing no other aircraft, I land.
I help my Nurse and Paramedic disembark, then look up to see another helicopter circling the pad.

I strap the BK117 to my back and bring both throttles back to operating RPM. Over the helicopter Unicom frequency I attempt contact with the other machine....
No response!

Oh well! I gotta get out of his way. I take off, then circle the helipad and watch as his crew gets out with a patient and rushes into the ER.

That's your brother on their stretcher, Jacoby.

He was ejected from the car so forcefully his jaw has been torn off. The crew cannot find his windpipe in the mass of torn tissue, and cannot establish an airway so he can breathe. They're hoping he lives long enough to make it to the ER where they will have better light and conditions to get his airway started.
But time runs out.
Your brother dies.

I land in a grassy lot adjacent to the helipad, shut the helicopter down and enter the ER. My crew is giving you a good look-over, preparing you for the 35 minute ride to Big Town.

It's certain you have a broken pelvis, and since you remember no details of the accident you probably have a head injury. You are scraped, lacerated, and bruised from head to toe. You are gonna be mighty sore when you wake up tomorrow.

We later find out you and your brother were in the car with your cousins, and one of your cousins was probably driving. We suspect he was driving because of tell-tale indicators- both his thumbs were broken, an indication he had his hands on the steering wheel when the car left the road, hit the tree, and began to roll.
Your cousin the driver is D.R.T... (Dead Right There, on the scene.)
Your other cousin's heart stopped at the scene, and they performed CPR on him in the helicopter until they got to where a physician could check him out and pronounce him truly and officially dead.

You'll want to know... your brother died from lack of oxygen in a room less than 20 feet from where we loaded you onto our stretcher to fly you to Big Town.
When I chatted with the Paramedic that attempted to save your brother he said,
"The car was a mess. We couldn't tell what kind of car it was, except that it was White. But the passenger compartment was relatively intact".

Jacoby, this is SO painful!
You (and yours) inflicted a lot of stress on a lot of folks.

And now we are all saddened because we know not only will you suffer physically, but there will be terrible mental scars too...
Your brother and two cousins are dead...
All of 'em young, vibrant guys.
And it's terrible to think they likely all would have survived this chaos if they had just buckled up.

Today on the local news, I hear that your home is my Little Town, so we probably have friends in common. I'll easily be able to check on your progress.

In the future, our paths may even cross while we are shopping for groceries.

It's my hope that in your case wisdom comes with age.
At 24, by the Grace of God, your physical wounds will heal quickly and fully.

The mental scars may take longer.
I'll be thinking of you.

Your EMS Helicopter Pilot,

1 comment:

the golden horse said...

Wonderfully written GB, I wish this could be printed and handed out to all high schools kids while taking Driver's Ed.
They just don't seem to get it, that death is permanent.
Remember those movies they used to show us in school, with bodies and their parts all over the highways? Made a believer out of me.