Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Do This...

I understand Orson Welles ( of  "War of the Worlds" radio-drama fame) once said that people write for three reasons.

1. Ego. A need to feel important.
2. Revenge - they have an axe to grind.
3. For posterity. To live on after death.

So why me? Ego is in there; sure. I am over the revenge urge. Anyone who has ever slighted me may have had a reason to do so,  and did me a favor in the long run.

(Failure is only failure if we stop trying. As long as you are trying failure is learning what doesn't work.)

Mostly though, I write about HEMS to try and leave it a little bit better than I found it - like a good pilot who tries to leave the base and the aircraft a little bit better than he or she found it.

To be honest, there is another reason I write, and stand in front of rooms full of people to talk about what we do.


A Block of Wood...

Today, there is a beautiful young woman working at Memorial Hospital in Savannah, Georgia. She is on the peds/neonate team and flies in the LifeStar helicopter to care for sick babies during transport. She also happens to be the niece of a friend - who  flies on that same helicopter.

A decade or so back, I was invited to Jeff Clifton's wedding on Tybee Island. Jeff was at the time my partner every other weekend - sitting next to me in the front seat of a BK-117. We are 10 years apart in age (to the day) and worked well together. Jeanne and I offered to have the reception at our home on Talahi Island and after getting everything set up, we got in our car and headed out highway 80 to the beach for a ceremony on the pier.

There is a narrow bridge just past our island, crossing the Bull River. It is old, only two lanes wide, with concrete rails hard up against the edges. It is a long curving affair, and has been the scene of some spectacular crashes. As we crossed the river doing 60 or so, and began the sweeping right turn, I saw the block of wood in the road in front of me. It was a piece of dunnage or shoring, and probably fell off of a flat-bed truck. It looked to be 10 by 10 and about 18 inches long, and lay right where my left front wheel had to go. As luck would have it, there was no one coming from the other direction, so I was able to swerve across the double yellow line and avoid running over it.

I remember thinking,  "that's gonna  hurt somebody, I should stop and pick it up." Then complacency, or laziness, or bystander mentality kicked in and I thought to myself, screw it. It isn't my problem. And we went to the wedding.

It was a nice ceremony, and Jeff's cousin Tony Moye showed up. Tony is fun to talk to, and we caught up and had some laughs. His daughter was in school to be a nurse - she wanted to take care of babies - and was headed out to join us. But she was running late... and then his phone rang.

She had hit the wood.

When she got to it, there were cars on the other side. She couldn't swerve left as I had done. And couldn't stop in time. The wood destroyed her car's front end, and could have killed her.

I saw it, and knew what it meant,  and did nothing.

Five years later, I knew about another hazardous situation, involving an EMS helicopter pilot. It wasn't at my base, it wasn't going to hurt me, or my wife, and again I did nothing. And then this pilot flew his nurse and his paramedic into a storm and killed them all. I knew about the pilot's willful behavior. I knew that he was comfortable flying near bad weather, indeed I knew that he sometimes told other pilots to do it too.

I should have done something. I should have called him (out). I should have told him an Astar is not a Marine helo, has little power, and is not meant for instrument conditions. I should have told him no job is worth dying for, and flight volume can't be improved by taking chances - not in the long run. I should have pointed out all the others who had made similar mistakes and ended up sorry, or dead.

I should have done something.

But I did nothing. I didn't even send a warning-shot like Dennis did; an email along the lines of "hey guys we have problem here..."

Dennis was told to mind his own business.  But at least he tried. He doesn't have to carry guilt.

I won't be driving past any more blocks of wood in the road. And I hope I can leave HEMS a little better than I found it.

safe flights...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell us what you think. If you are involved in helicopter emergency medical services / air ambulances, this is your community. Please refrain from posting profanity, or comments that might be considered libelous or slanderous.