Saturday, October 21, 2006

One of my former Captains on the MU-2 reminded me of this story, I'm surprised I could have forgotten it.

It's really disturbing, so consider yourself warned.

It was a gorgeous Summer's day in 2004, and we were on medevac patrol.

When flying all day, we would bring our lunches with us, along with beverages like water or juice. On hot days, we also had to pay particular attention to keeping well hydrated, as the air at altitude is really dry, and the windows in the MU-2 are fairly large, letting a lot of sunlight through. We would sweat a LOT in the cockpit and when loading/unloading patients. As a flight crew we had all recently gotten hooked on the single-serving packages of Crystal Light, the ones that you dump into a 500ml bottle of water and shake. Our current favorite flavor was a citrus lemonade style of drink.

We got paged out to do a call, and the details were thus: We were to pick up a guy in a small city and fly him home to die. Home was a small town in Northern Ontario, about an hour away from the city we picked him up in. The ambulance that came to drop him off was flanked by a police cruiser, which was unusual for a standard medevac call. As the ambulance unloaded the stretcher, the OPP officers helped to lift it into the airplane, which was also unusual. The guy's wife came with him on the flight as his time was short and it was conceivable that he might die during the short flight. She was calm, and spoke briefly to our medic about their situation. She was an OPP officer, and he was also an OPP officer in the days when he was healthy, before the cancer had eaten him up.

The flight was uneventful, he was stable and we landed in the small town where another OPP cruiser was waiting with the ambulance to pick him up and take him to his house. My captain and I helped to unload him, and we got a good look at his condition.

"He smoked, and he got aggresive esophogeal cancer which spread to his face" said our medic.

//I want to reiterate that my heart goes out to this fellow and his family for their loss and I feel really bad for the suffering they all went through during his illness. Nobody deserves to be sick like he was, and nobody deserves to die how he was dying. When you fly medevacs, sometimes you use humor as a way of dealing with the things you experience, so you don't wind up in a rubber room somewhere. Keep that in mind before you read the conclusion of this story//

Where his eyes and nose and mouth were supposed to be, there was only a plastic cover, and running from the cover was a long tube, a drainage tube for his brain. It ran into a clear bag, and the contents of the bag looked like citrus lemonade, complete with pulp. It really looked a lot like lemonade, in fact on a hot Summer's day like this one, it looked quite refreshing. I remarked on this to my Captain, who was a smoker at the time.

"Smoking equals brain-tube. That does look delicious though. I wonder what flavor you'll be?"

My Captain quit smoking right there.


E said...

badum tish!

Black humor. Disgusting to the public, nessecary to those of us in "the biz"

jennifer said...

I just want to say that NO, you are not going to hell for this. And I am sure that wherever that guy is he would be glad to know that he might have prevented further deaths of that nature. I think of him a lot. More than I should, but hey, it keeps me healthy.
rip brain tube guy.

Aviatrix said...

I went out to a party after reading that, and as the smokers left the room 'for air' I thought to myself, "I wonder what flavour you'll be."

To the remaining non-smokers, I mentioned having just read a gruesome One shrugged. "It doesn't make any difference to them. Every single person who smokes doesn't die of it. It's not like Russian Roulette."

The odds in Russian Roulette are one in six. Statistics I'm finding online estimate the risk of lifelong smokers dying of a smoking-related disease as somewhere between 1:12 and 50-50. So it's a lot like Russian Roulette.