28 February 2007

A moment he wishes he could have back

For once the person doing something just stupid enough to get noticed wasn't me. Unfortunately for the fellow in question, I witnessed the moment and shared my amusement with a number of folks.

Many of you know that there are helicopters staffed with people of spectacular skill and experience (paramedics, nurses, respiratory care folks, sometimes even MDs) ready to fly out and assist patients in dire need. They can be called by even the lowliest EMT-Basic if you have the information to justify the need. What you may not realize unless you're in this field, is that these helicopters not only respond directly to scenes, but also to hospitals where critical patients need to be transported to a higher-level facility. Any interaction I've ever had with flight crews has shown them to be highly professional and strong patient advocates - even to the point of deciding that the patient would be best served not to fly.

The one oft-repeated piece of training to work with them involves landing zone safety. How big it needs to be, what types of obstructions to look for, how far back to clear everything, and how dangerous loose objects can be during takeoff and landing. At one of the hospitals I transport to, the helicopter landing pad is immediately adjacent to the ambulance parking. When the hospital knows the helicopter is coming in, they close off the ambulance parking area to make sure there is enough clearance in all directions. Very inconvenient for ground-based EMTs and their patients, but very safe for the helicopter and staff so the occassional inconvenience is well-tolerated in exchange for the small hype of watching the 'copter come and go. The EMS room has a lovely set of one-way glass with a view of the parking lot and the landing pad, so we have a great view.

Protocol at this particular hospital involves having security meet the helicopter and escort the staff and their myriad of equipment inside the building. I'm not really sure why because I would think the giant "EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT - AMBULANCE ENTRANCE" sign would tell them where to go, but whatever. There is a stretcher in the entryway between the three sets of glass doors which is used to help move the stokes-type basket and all the equipment. This particular day, someone had been useful and covered this stretcher with a sheet. Neatly tucked on all sides, clean, sparkly and ready to go.

Security rolls the stretcher outside just prior to the helicopter coming around the building. He's not really watching the stretcher, which is slowly rolling away from him, but rather fixated on the helicopter. Then, the rotor wash gets serious and that neatly tucked sheet lifts up off the stretcher and heads straight for the sky. Bad, bad, bad - everything should be secured in the area so nothing gets sucked up into the rotors. Security doesn't even see it until the 'copter is all the way down. He turns around to grab the stretcher and notices there is something different here. He spends a few confused seconds looking around and quickly gives up on the mystery of the missing sheet.

After I'm done laughing at his bewildered expression, I head inside the ED to find my medic at the nurses station, which requires a re-telling of why I'm so amused. The nursing staff all lay wagers as to which security guy it was and nobody gets it right, suggesting this was one of a relative few miscues for this fellow. He comes in pulling the sheetless stretcher full of equipment to the patient's room and then disappears. A few minutes later, he comes back, with the sheet. He's laughing because it is a sheet from the hospital across town and he claims it was trying to fly home.

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