I love it, most of the time.
I'm talking about my job.
As you know, I'm nearing retirement. Another of our Viet Nam Vets retired last month, and it was heartening to see how others reacted... our Med Crews bemoaning that one of their safe, experienced pilots was headed out to pasture, leaving a position open for... the unknown.
So I'm frequently asked, "What about you, GB? When will you hang up your spurs?"
Read the first line of this post again. The answer to that question lies there.
Even when I have to drag myself outta bed while it's still dark outside, it's the gettin' up that I hate. I still enjoy the idea of going to work, strapping the aircraft to my back, setting out to see if someone has found an ALL NEW way to hurt themselves. (And of course, once in a while they do.)
But the last day of my last shift was a trial. May I bore you?
The call from dispatch came at 11:30 A.M.
"Can you take the Children's transport team to Funkytown for a Neonate?"
It's hot... 95 F., but there isn't a cloud within 250 miles, so I accept the flight. I'm airborne with my Paramedic/Neonate team wrangler at 11:42. Twenty-five minutes later we load the team and set out on the next 30 minute flight to pick up the baby. After briefing the team I say, "So let me guess... Premature, respiratory distress, rule out sepsis?"
Over the intercom I hear laughter. That's the situation with about 90% of these flights.
We arrive at the referring hospital, and after shutdown I make my way to the nursery. When I arrive they make a face at me.
"The baby isn't born yet."
That's out-of-the-ordinary, but not unheard of. What's odd is that normally the transport team has been notified if that will be the case. This time they were unaware.
And we wait.
And what's odd... the mother-to-be is in the room next to us and we can hear her grunting, at times nearly screaming. At one point we stifle a laugh as she shouts expletives at her significant other.
We wait some more.
At 4:30 P.M., five hours later, the transport team leader comes to me and says, "Another baby has been born that needs to be transported. Can you take this baby back, then come back and get the other one?"
Now my duty time begins to be an issue. I cannot accept a flight that will have me in the air 14 hours after I started my duty day.
I do a quick calculation...
"Yes, I can come back. But I want assurances that that baby will be 'on the ground' before I start back here."
She assures me they are moving Mom to take the baby via C section as we speak.
So we load our new charge aboard the helicopter and fly 35 minutes, back to where we picked up the team. They have one box, (Isolette), so they have to take this baby out and disinfect it before they can go back to get baby #2. That's fine... the BK needs fuel anyway.
Paramedic and I fly 4 minutes to the local airport and get a load of Jet A. We potty, then grab a couple bottled waters and wait for the call from the hospital that the team is once again ready.
The call comes, we fly back and get the team and the box, then fly 32 minutes back over ground we covered earlier.
Back at the nursery I'm relieved to see they are actually hovering over a real baby. I'm looking at my watch. It's gonna be close. Should I call my lead pilot and let him know what's going on here? Yes. If it's necessary I can get an emergency extension for the flight, provided he and I both think the flight can be safely conducted. I call him and let him know what's goin' on.
They take longer than I would like getting the baby ready. By the time we load and take off it's dark, and I'm within an hour of "turning into a pumpkin". We land and safely get the preemie on it's way to get expert help, then takeoff on our final leg.
I land and look at my watch. I have 8 minutes left in my "normal" 14-hour shift, (the normal 12 plus the 2 hour accepted extension.)
I've flown 3.6 hours during my 14 hour duty day. I've landed 8 times during that time, including two night landings. I'm irritated and tired. I'm questioning whether I love my job.
And you should know...
Both Moms were unmarried. Both Moms were "uninsured".
Both Moms were less than 20 years of age.
This was your tax dollars at work, folks!