Wednesday, September 27, 2006
That's C-GAMC, an MU-2 I used to fly. My friend RenO took this pic a while back; he's a good photographer and he made the most of a quick stop at a winter strip up north to get a patient. RenO was cool to fly with, he was precisely as jaded and cynical as I was, and we got along great.
I feel an MU-2 story coming on, so let's engage the starters and get spooled up.
This is one of the most painful medevac stories I experienced, so if you are squeamish STOP NOW and go to cute overload for some pics of fluffy bunnies instead.
We did a quick hop to Wawa one afternoon, to pick up an elderly woman and bring her back to Thunder Bay. Wawa is a decent little airport; 4,400' long, and it has a huge Canada goose sculpture mounted on a pole, a nice little terminal at the end of the runway, and it's right next to the shore of Lake Superior so you get a good view as you come and go.
Anyway, we landed and the ambulance was waiting for us with our patient. We opened the ambulance doors, and we could hear the poor lady crying and screaming in her stretcher. She had broken a hip, and for whatever reason, the medical personnel in Wawa had decided that she was not to have painkillers before she got to Thunder Bay.
Now I don't know about you, but listening to people scream in agony makes my stomach hurt, and it seemed to unnerve our on-board medic also. Our medic and I attempted to load the lady as fast as we could, which brings me to a good rule of medevacing:
Never load your patient as fast as you can, because you might drop them.
The MU-2's we were using had a little slide that attached from the stretcher holder inside the airplane and stuck out the door of the MU-2. We would place the stretcher on the slide, then move it along along the slide until it clicked into place on top of the stretcher holder. Once it clicked into place, the stretcher was held securely and in theory we could take off without worrying about dumping the patient.
When loading a patient in the MU-2, there is not enough room to stand up, and you also have to twist about 90 degrees, so you end up half-crouching while contorting your spine to the right, at the same time bearing half the weight of the patient, assuming the other person is bearing the other half of the weight. It's not fun, and lots of people who fly the MU-2's on medevacs have seriously screwed up their backs.
Now this was not a tiny, motionless woman. I don't blame her for thrashing around, I'm sure if my hip was broken and I had no painkillers I would be in a foul mood too. But as we were halfway through putting her stretcher onto the slide, she moved and I lost my balance, and ended up tipping her on her side. The one with the broken hip. Time went in slow-motion. She screamed like I have never heard anyone scream before, and I just about wet my pants.
I quickly recovered as time sped up again, and with a burst of strength that only mortal fear can provide, I righted her stretcher and completed loading it onto the slide. I apologized quickly to the weeping woman as I closed the door of the plane so the captain could start the engines.
Again, I'm mentioning that this lady was not small. The medic was having a hard time adjusting the straps on our patient so as to secure her to the stretcher, because every time the medic touched the straps, the lady would scream. After a few minutes, the medic said our patient was secure, and we were allowed to taxi the aircraft. It's only a half-hour flight from Wawa to Thunder Bay, and all of us wanted to get it done as rapidly as we possibly could, so this unfortunate woman could get some good drugs from the medics when we arrived.
At Wawa, the terminal is at the end of the runway. So in order to get to the runway, we had to turn 180 degrees to taxi out. The winds were calm, so we were planning on just turning around, then launching down the opposide direction to get airborne.
The medic told us that our patient was deteriorating, so we quickly went through our checks, and started to turn the MU-2 around.
We heard fresh screams from the back.
I turned around to see what was going on, and saw that the woman had slipped through her shoulder harness and the centrifugal force of the quick 180 degree taxi turn had caused her to half-slide out of her stretcher and onto the floor. She was twisted at the waist, with her legs on the stretcher and her upper body hanging off it. Oh, and it was grinding her broken hip into her flesh.
The medic undid her own seatbelt and ran up to the stretcher, while I came out of the cockpit and went to the back also. Together we picked up the lady and tried to straighten her back onto the stretcher, while she continued to scream. The MU-2 cabin is fairly small, and it does have an echo, so trust me when I say it was loud.
Finally we got the poor woman aligned back on the stretcher. The medic normally sat at the rear of the airplane in the seat by the door, but this time she sat on the seat at the head of the stretcher and held the lady on the stretcher by her shoulders.
I ran back up front, thoroughly sick to my stomach. We launched, and flew to Thunder Bay. Of course the air was bumpy.
When we landed, the ambulance was there and I was gratful to see them. I explained the situation to the paramedics and they asked why the lady hadn't been sedated. I said I didn't know, and one of the paramedics quickly read the woman's chart, then immediately walked into the plane with a vial of morphine and gave her a shot.
"Morons. She could have been sedated and asleep this whole time." said the paramedic.
The lady stopped crying, which was an incredible relief to all involved, her included I'm sure.
The unloading process was quick and efficient, and the lady went off to have her hip fixed. I sat down and drank some water, then waited for the captain to tell me where we were going next.
"We are going to Marathon to pick up a guy who had a chainsaw accident"
I wept inwardly, then trudged to the airplane.