16 April 2007


It was just a small tractor, perfect for a 12 year old.
Grandpa had taught him how to drive it so he could help with the chores.
The problem was the rain...

It had been raining for days.
Warm front stuff- low ceilings and visibilities had kept us from turning a rotor blade for several days.
This call came in-
"Can you fly to a scene just outside ****?"
Less than ten minutes from where the helicopter was parked...
I could hover there if necessary.

"I'll give it a shot. What's the situation?"

"Your patient is a 12 year old male, victim of a tractor rollover."

We took off and headed Southeast with 2 miles visibility in a slight drizzle... perfectly comfortable weather for me because having flown the area for 12 years I knew the terrain and obstructions like the back of my hand.

Over the scene in 6 minutes, we landed near the ambulance on sloping ground, near a small pond. The Ford 8N tractor, now on its side, was adjacent to the ambulance. While my crew prepared the young man for the flight, I chatted with one of the EMT's...

Grandpa was walking alongside as our patient drove the tractor around the sloping ground next to the pond when the tractor started to slide sideways down the slope. Something abruptly stopped the slide, and the tractor rolled over on the young man "dying cockroach" style, the steering wheel crushing his left eye, the bridge of his nose, and popping the right eye out of its orbit onto his right cheek. When the emergency personnel arrived and tried to roll the tractor off our patient, the steering wheel was embedded in his face, and the youngster's head rolled along with the rolling of the tractor.
Fearful of doing further injury, after they had called to get the helicopter on the way, the first responders had procured a hack saw and cut a section of the steering wheel away to free the young man.

They roll the stretcher toward me and he's an interesting sight...
A 12-inch section of the arc of the steering wheel protrudes from his face. His right eye hangs to his face by a thread.

We load him, bring the rotor to operating RPM, and lift.
The Scene Commander, who I later find out is a personal friend of this family, collapses to his knees and buries his face in his hands, sobbing.

I did a follow-up on this case-
Two weeks later I went to the Children's Hospital to meet this youngster.
He smiled as I entered the room in my uniform. Left eye covered with a patch, his right eye was back in its proper place. There was still a little swelling from the trauma and his head was shaved, but otherwise he looked pretty much like any other twelve year old kid.
He was released from the hospital two days later.

That was 18 years ago, so "Tommy" would now be a 30 year old man.
I still remember his last name.
Should I call him and find out how he has done since?


joker said...

If it was me, I would definitely want to know how the young man had fared after the accident . . . but should you call him? Don't know.
Would this cause undue anxiety for a trauma that he had tried to suppress over the years? How was he when you went to the hospital to see him? Was he willing to talk about it? Did he lose an eye? Keep in mind that he probably has had to go through life with scars and for some kids that's devastating and for others, well, they like to brag about their scars.
I guess the worse that could happen would be, he hangs up on you.

Scoon said...

The way that you described his reaction when you walked in to his hospital room with your uniform on suggests to me that you should call him without a doubt.

Of course he would have some very bad memories of that time, but when you walked in the room he probably thought "Wow, here's the guy that saved my life"

It might also give him an opportunity to express his gratitude to you as an adult, which I'm sure would be cathartic.

And it might also be good for you too, to hear how he's still managed to have a good life.

Call him, without a doubt.

The Old Man said...

Call the Scene Commander, if he's still about. HE will be able to set you on the proper path.
But you knew that, didn't you?