27 February 2006

Lovely Rita, Meter Maid

The Army had decided it no longer needed my services. I had just gotten married and I had NO idea what I was going to do to make a living.
I had never collected a cent of unemployment insurance, so my new "Georgia Peach" wife and I went to file my claim for unemployment insurance.

The experience was pretty devastating.
I was overqualified for most available jobs. Also, the numbers of unemployed men at this time was pretty high, so competition for what jobs there were was great.

On top of it all, I found that the Army had paid me for two months unused leave, and I wouldn't be eligible for unemployment compensation until those two months had passed.

Our mood was lower than the belly of a snake as we walked back to my wife's Volkswagon Beetle, to find our Parking Meter registering EXPIRED, and a corpulent Meter Maid resting her foot on our bumper writing out a parking ticket. Without looking up from her ticket pad she said, "You're too late."
It was more than I could handle in one day. Something in my head snapped.
I looked at her, then at the out of state license plates on my wife's car, and made a quick decision!

I unlocked the passenger door like a gentleman and let me wife get in the car. Then to "Rita" I said:

"I'll make you a deal.......If you can complete that ticket before I drive off, I'll take it."

She was so stunned she quit writing as I opened my door, seated myself, started the engine, and drove away.
We drove half a block before realizing it was a dead-end street.
I had to turn around and drive back past Rita holding her ticket book.........wife #1 and I laughing almost uncontrollably, giving her a huge, friendly wave as we passed!

After all the irritation and negative news, being a rebel that day sure was good medicine!

21 February 2006

A Tale of Two Scenes

Do you like making a "Grand Entrance"?

I have to admit, I sorta do.
And they don't get much "grander" than landing a helicopter on an Interstate Highway that has been shut down waiting for your arrival!

Last night we were dispatched to the scene of a single vehicle accident. On a clear night, on level terrain and barring obstructions, you can see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles from more than 20 miles out. We called 5 minutes from landing and the State Patrol shut down the highway in preparation for our landing. By the time we arrived, traffic was backed up for about a mile.

A young lady had departed the roadway at a high rate of speed and struck a tree with her driver's side door. The crew walked our stretcher to the ground ambulance where the first responders were working on her.

In ten minutes, my Paramedic returned to the helicopter with an empty stretcher......
that's not good!

To me he shouted, "She's arrested. We're taking her to the hospital by ground."
There was a local hospital within 8 minute's drive of the accident scene. CPR can be done more efficiently in the back of a ground ambulance than in the back of the helicopter.
Good decision.

I flew solo to the local hospital and shut down.
Five minutes later my crew arrived with the first responders.
After 15 minutes of CPR and heart stimulating drugs, the patient showed no improvement.
They pronounced her dead just before 1 A.M..

Tonight, just after my preflight, the phone rang again.
Another scene flight, this time 12 minutes away, on a two-lane country road. A 24 year old male left the roadway and crashed into a creek, partially submerging his car. ( It's 35 degrees F. outside......that water is near freezing! )

I earned my pay on the landing.......
the terrain rose steeply on both sides of the highway, and then was covered with 60' trees.
The only "safe" way to land was to come to a very high hover situated exactly over the highway centerline and hover down to land, sweeping the searchlight to it's extremes watching for wires.

With my crew on the way to the ambulance, the scene commander came over and shook my hand.........
"Beautiful job!" he shouted over the din of the machine.
Nice to hear. (Another Grand Entrance! )

The crew approached with the stretcher 12 minutes later, this time WITH the patient.
I helped load him, did a quick walk around to make sure all doors were secure, and did a vertical takeoff to 100 feet before transitioning to forward flight.

The patient was in the water to just above his waist, unconcious, and of course was hypothermic. He had an open head injury exposing his brain. He also had a priapism......(an erection).....an indication of high spine trauma. In the 14 minute flight to the hospital his heartrate slowed to 40 beats per minute and my crew gave him adrenaline to stimulate his heart.

I landed and went to the rear of the aircraft to help unload the patient and found the crew busy administering more drugs and pumping on an "ambu" bag to give him oxygen. I released the lock on the stretcher in preparation to unload it. The crew had cut off the patient's black, wet, cold sweat clothes and they were in the way of the stretcher's wheels. I moved them out of the way, and found that was a mistake.......my hands immediately felt sticky........the clothing was covered with his blood.

His prognosis is not good either. His injuries will probably overcome him before the sun shines once again.

I've had a bad string of scene flights lately. This is the fourth in a row where the patient either died before I could transport, or will likely die in a short time.

Sure, it comes with the territory.
But I'd much rather have the feeling I helped to make a good/better outcome more likely!

20 February 2006

Live Like You Were Dying

Surely you've heard the song, even if you're not a country music fan.
Sung by Tim McGraw, it's a great one, and should be played at the start of the day for all of us.
I get misty-eyed every time I hear it.
We should all pay close attention to the words.

Regular "Pitchpullers" have heard it before, and I'll say it again and again:
My job reminds me continually that none of us are promised a sunrise in the morning.......

She was the first person Sara Jean met when Sara Jean's parents retired and moved to this town.
When I met Sara Jean several years later, she was still one of her best friends.
She looked like Loretta Young's twin, complete with those huge eyes.
A beauty that needed no makeup.

Shy.....so shy she was uncomfortable with my gregariousness in public.
I embarrassed her more times that I could count.
She tolerated me because of her friendship with Sara Jean.

We heard the news when it was already too late:
Breast cancer.....Bad.
She felt the lump and thought it was nothing. When her nipple inverted and there was a discharge, she finally sought help.
By then the disease had spread to her lymph system and her brain.

But then she fought like a trooper.
With the increasing success in cancer research, I told Sara Jean to encourage her to fight......fight, and maybe a miracle would happen before the disease got the best of her.

She continued to work until she needed so much pain medicine she could no longer think straight and do her job.
Still, she kept her chin up, not wanting to depress those around her.
At that point Sara Jean visited her almost daily, and saw her the day before she died. Although it was obvious she was failing fast, she still tried to keep my wife from being sad.

She was 44.
At the funeral, she was sleeping beauty....
just a thinner Loretta Young,
still one of the prettiest women in the room.

There are all sorts of ways to say it:
"Don't worry, be happy",
"Don't sweat the small stuff.....and it's ALL small stuff"

We do need the reminders.

How odd that for most of us, the problem is not "where is my next meal coming from",
but "how can I develop the discipline to keep from putting that in my mouth?"

And yet, we fret.
Sometimes we make those around us miserable.
Partly, because we forget how short life can be.

I hope you'll take stock of your life and enjoy the wonderful things we all have, to include easy access to good medical care.

I also hope we all begin to do the things we dream about,
then dream more dreams and act on those too.

Wouldn't it be nice to know that at our funeral our family and friends could laugh out loud, telling stories of our adventures?

So do it!
Live like you were dying.

16 February 2006

Christianity.... Unnecessarily Boring?

Another post on religion?
Yeah, and if you read it, you may be surprised.

Sara Jean and I are proud to say we are Christians.
I think Christianity has been a tremendous force for good in the world.
I know, individual Christians can be pompous, self absorbed, and holier-than-thou......
Thank God, most are not.

We used to attend Church regularly. Lately, we've fallen off the wagon.
We're kinda rudderless right now... not because we have doubts, but because we're looking for a certain kind of Church.

We realize we are never going to find a Church full of perfect people.
We'd just like to find a Church that teaches the Bible...
All of it.
From the first page to the last.

A couple years ago, we were attending a Church with a vibrant,
story telling Pastor.
We loved the Pastor, but Sunday School was drop-dead boring.

The problem is programmed learning, brainwashing, selective teaching, whatever you want to call it.
Sunday School lessons were distributed in the form of "Quarterlies"...
booklets sent out every three months that prompted you on what to study each Sunday, including questions so you would get the theme of each suggested reading.

Why is this a problem?
Following these "Quarterlies", you never read the whole Bible.
Areas of the Bible that are considered controversial are avoided like the plague.
We never strayed from the quarterlies.

In all my years as a Christian,
no Church has ever guided me to read "Songs of Solomon".
Do you know why?
In a previous post I said "Peyton Place" has nothing on the Bible...
Turn with me now to "Songs of Solomon" and get your brains blown out!
Songs of Solomon is a wild love story.
Dana Carvey's "The Church Lady" would get the vapors!

Then there's the story about Moses I previously mentioned.
Remember I said Moses' wife did something interesting to keep God from killing her husband?
What she did was... use a sharp stone to cut the foreskin from her son, and spread the blood on Moses' feet.
Moses' FEET!
Keep that in mind, please.

The Book of Ruth...
Ruth was a comely lass. She was attractive enough to draw the attention of Boaz,
a rich property owner who owned the fields that Ruth
and her Mom-in-law, Naomi, were gleaning.
Ruth was recently widowed, and wanted to get closer to Boaz.
Naomi gave Ruth this advice...
"Bathe. Put on something that smells nice. Then go observe Boaz, and when he goes to sleep, go over and uncover his FEET.
He will tell you what to do.

Moses' wife spreads the blood from her son's foreskin on his "feet",
and it convinces the Lord to not kill him?
Comely Ruth uncovers Boaz' "feet", and he tells her what to do?
What's goin' on here?
I don't care who or how attractive you are, if you come just after I've gone to sleep and uncover my feet, I'm not gonna be a happy camper!

You be the judge.
I know what I believe...
In the Bible, "feet"are mighty interesting!

I think if more adults were exposed to stories like this and the questions they motivate,
more of them would be likely to attend Sunday School...
maybe they'd even stay awake during Church services.

How about an an eye opener?
In the book of Matthew, in all those "begats", the ancestors that lead to the birth of Jesus Christ, there are only four or so women mentioned... by name or indirectly.
Do yourself a favor, and research the history of all those gals.
Believe me, their stories are extraordinary!

Mary was a Virgin... an innocent, and worthy of respect.
Many of Christ's other female forebears could be the subject of an "R" rated movie!

14 February 2006

Another Favor, Please:

Some of you did this for me once before.....
Now I'll ask you to do it once more, and this'll be the last time, I promise!

Friend Lee is a budding Novelist and has entered a short-story contest being given by the Ft. Worth Star Telegram.
(He's in the finals!)

I'd appreciate it if you would lend Lee a hand and go to this link:


Under Lee's Bio, (# 038), find the highlighted words, "Vote here", and click on 'em, then enter the required information...........(takes about 3 minutes).

Look at it this way......the poor guy is lookin' for a major change in his life, and if things work out right, you'll have the warm feeling of knowing you committed a "random act of kindness"!

I'll let ya know how it turns out.


11 February 2006

Up Yours!

Now, that's not nice, is it?

Yeah, if you are close to my age, it may be.

Have you had your colonoscopy yet?
Dying from colon cancer is an ugly, painful way to die..... and stupid too, because it's controllable these days.

I had my colonoscopy a little over two years ago. I'll tell ya about my experience, and what I'm hearing about how the procedure has changed since.

They gave me a gallon of a clear fluid called "Golightly".
(Sure, it made me think of Audrey Hepburn, but believe me, my body's reaction to it sure as heck wasn't the same!) Golightly flushes your intestines and makes them squeaky clean. You drink this gallon of clear, slightly salty tasting liquid in ONE hour, 8 ounces at a time.

After drinking the first glass, you have a mild case of diarrhea.....a little uncomfortable.
Second glass down........WoW!, can I get to the bathroom quickly enough?
Third glass.........just bring the container here to the bathroom, 'cause I'm stayin'! Honey, could you bring me a magazine?
Fourth glass.......surely there can't be anything more in there, right? But there's still a half-gallon or so of this nasty stuff left to drink!

By the time you finish the gallon, there is nothing but clear fluid coming out, and that's the idea: It gives the Doc a clear view of the walls of your intestinal tract. You can't eat or drink anything until the procedure is over.

Next morning I report to the Doc's office. They start an IV line on me to administer fluids, and give me Demerol and Versed.
Demerol is a pain killer.
Versed makes you drowsy, and helps you to forget that someone is about to feed 30-or-so feet of hose into your behind.

You're laying on your side as the Doc starts the flexible hose on it's journey. It literally is a hollow tube, and he can slide different instruments within this tube, like a camera or cutting devices, or both.

The drugs he gives ya should keep you comfortable during this process. I had a little discomfort when he was forcing the hose the last few feet to it's goal, and after the procedure my Doc was upset that he hadn't given me enough "juice".
(I'll make sure to remind these folks next time!)

On his "Journey Through The Center of Greybeard", he found one polyp that he thought might be a future troublemaker and "nipped it, in the bud!"

The recommended routine now is to get your first one done at about age 50, then another at age 60, and then every 5 years after that, unless they see trouble brewing. So, if you are over 50, get yourself scheduled. Most insurance companies cover it.

It's true when I say that the worst part of the whole procedure for me was drinking the gallon of that foul "Golightly".
Apparently, others thought the same thing.
I'm told that now you drink an 8 ounce glass of an orange flavored potion, and it does what the full gallon of nasty stuff used to do.
That makes it easier to think about going back in a year for a re-check.

The feeling of well-being, knowing that "Mr. C" isn't prowling around in there with nasty plans for my future is well worth the minor discomfort.

Get-R-Done, pilgrim!

10 February 2006

Might Be Interesting......

Dennis the Peasant is someone I frequently find interesting.

He's a little rough around the edges sometimes, but his site is worth visiting because you find a nugget there now and then.

Next week, he intends to blog about his Muslim clients......folks he has gotten to know and respect.
Knowing nothing about real Muslims, I'll be reading.

I thought some of you might be interested in getting educated too.

The Great White Hunter

This is a test.

I'm tryin' to make sure I can download pics from my own computer
so I can broaden my inventory of photos to show you.

I terrify geese!

That picture was taken during last year's Goose Roundup.
That's yours truly in the cockpit, gettin' ready to put my headset on.
Purty, huh? (I mean the helicopter!)

The pic was taken at our local fairgrounds, about 3 miles south of where Sara Jean and Greybeard live.
Purty too, huh?

Good friend and great manager of liquids, Terry N. took the picture.
Terry....can ya believe we are just 4 months from doing it again?!


09 February 2006

Outta The Nest!

I just got off the phone with a former student, (former, as of this morning).
He was excited.......
He took his checkride this morning and is now officially a helicopter pilot!

Taking a checkride is stressful for the student, but it's not without stress for the instructor too.
To get to this point I've had to teach the student to hover, then learn all the aspects of flying in the aviation system as it exists today.

That means teaching him not only how to fly the helicopter, but the regulations, weather, communications, navigation/map reading, emergency procedures, airspace restrictions, and a ton of other things.
It's a daunting task.

This particular student knew how to fly airplanes when he came to me, so he already knew how to talk on the radio and get from point A to point B. That made my job a little easier, although there are some airplane things I had to help him "unlearn".
It still took me 50+ hours of flying to get him comfortable in the helicopter, and hours and hours of ground instruction to insure he knew what retreating blade stall and other emergencies are.

So I was also taking a test today.........to check my skills to impart my knowledge in a way he could understand well enough to regurgitate to the examiner.

He did fine. In fact, the examiner told him it may have been the best oral he had ever administered.
Quite a compliment.

I'll take part of the credit.
But the student has to have the right attitude and has to work hard to absorb all the information.

This was a good student.
Today he just started the learning process, believe me.

05 February 2006

Night Flying

I've said before, most of my EMS flying is done without benefit of sunshine.
Statistically it is much more dangerous. Recognizing dangerous weather and navigating are more difficult.
In spite of this, I have learned to love night flying.

It all started in Viet Nam. Our enemy found they could fire 122mm. Katusa rockets....(Big, Loud, and Scary).... at our compound and disappear into the background before we could respond and try to help them assume ambient temperature.
Our answer to this threat was to do a "Rocket Recon" just after sunset each night and just before sunrise each morning. We would take off with a team consisting of an OH-6, a UH1-C gunship, and a UH1-H "slick". The little OH-6 would fly at treetop level with Pilot, Crew Chief and Gunner looking for suspicious activity along a swath that marked the rocket's range. My job in the Huey gunship was, as always, to provide cover and protection for the little bird.
The slick flew at altitude and carried 30 parachute flares, which they would manually push out of the aircraft timed so that the area was continuously illuminated for me and the little bird. This system worked pretty well.......except when slick would announce, "that one didn't fire", meaning the flare didn't ignite, leaving two possibilities:
The parachute and the flare both failed and the 15 pound chunk of magnesium was plummeting to the ground, or......
the parachute deployed, and that same 15 pound chunk of magnesium was slowly floating to the ground, nearly invisible, for the two low birds to find with rotors or windshields. When that happened, the little bird popped up to get a better look at surroundings until we were sure the flare was no longer a threat.

The pilots that were involved with this recon mission were excused from duty during the day. The mission required you to fly 90 or so minutes at sunset and sunrise, so you had to roll outta bed pretty early to beat the sun.......most guys didn't like that.
I volunteered for them as often as possible, because it kept me from having to fly in the heat of the day.

There were other benefits too.
Flying machines work better in cooler air.
Fewer flying machines airborne meant less chance of a mid-air collision.
There was less radio traffic at night, so the radios seemed to work better too.
And the biggee for me:
When shot at, you could see the muzzle flashes and knew right where to put your rocket and mini-gun fire to convince those folks they needed to stop that behavior right away!

Now let's explore why I continue to enjoy flying at night:
I have been a manager in one field or another for over 40 years.
I have citations from various supervisors saying I am good at it.
I am not good at keeping my mouth shut when I am exposed to counterproductive management techniques.

While working days, I was almost continually within earshot of managers, (some of them my managers).
Some of these supervisors managed in ways not conducive to forming a "cohesive unit" of those being managed. When I tried to point out the error in their technique, I found some managers, (particularly my own), took offense at my constructive criticisms.
I missed a promotion that was rightfully mine because of my big mouth, and realized that my "constructive criticisms" could eventually cost me my job.

The solution was to pair up with another pilot that wanted to fly days. The Lead Pilot of our base can accomplish more while those he needs to coordinate with are at work, so he agreed to work days while I work nights......and I almost never encounter a manager.
So in the Winter, it's already dark when I come to work.
I do get to fly in daylight during the long hours of summer sometimes.

It's difficult to try to convey how beautiful it is to come into a major city from the relatively unlit countryside at night. The closest I can come is to use an example that requires some knowledge of rocks.........Geodes to be specific. When you crack open a Geode, the interior of the rock is hollow and quartz crystals blaze at you. (The picture isn't a good example of that.)
The first time you do it is a shock!
Flying into the city at night is like that......all the lights laid out before you are breathtaking.
Introducing someone to night flying for the first time, particularly from the helicopter with it's extraordinary visibility, is truly safisfying.

It's one of the things I will miss most when I can no longer turn a rotor blade.

02 February 2006

Jews and Arabs

Tonight on Brit Hume's Fox News show, Mort Kondracke said something to the effect that Arabs continually make "Anti-Semitic" remarks.
Is that possible?

1. A member of a group of Semitic-speaking peoples of the Near East and northern Africa, including the Arabs, Arameans, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Hebrews, and Phoenicians.

That's a definition I found at Dictionary.com.
You can see why I'm confused.......
Can Semites be anti-semitic?


From Instapundit,
a detailed article covering a subject we have discussed here in the past..........alcohol as a motor fuel. The article also discusses why hydrogen is NOT the resolution to our energy problem.

Go here and review........
I'm extremely interested in this subject, so you'll see more discussion later.

The big question:
How do we get enough "OOMPF" out of alcohol to power aircraft engines?