Our friend Josh Henke wrote this when he was a flight nurse with CALSTAR. He switched programs and coasts, but he is still as passionate about patients and safety as ever. We hope he is well.
“Nobody would ever go out if they thought they weren't going to come home.”
That seems like an easy sentiment, right? Just as easy as “nobody would point a gun to their
head if they thought it was going to go off.”
This seems like simple logic to a lot of us. Something that complacency and confidence has
fostered in our minds. The “it would never be me” mentality. Or the, “just 5 minutes farther and
well see what the weather looks like then.”
We all do it, have done it and unfortunately will do it in the future. (despite the warnings from
other more experienced, “luckier” crews from the past.) We have all at one time or another put
the gun to our head, without checking it, hoping it doesn't go off. And in that I mean, we’ve all
climbed into an aircraft feeling a bit unsure. Maybe feeling a bit “exploratory” IE: “lets just go up,
fly around and see if we can get in there.
The simple logic in this is, how often are we not checking the gun. How often are we NOT
making sure the gun isn't loaded. What are the little things we can do to make sure that gun is
empty before we leave the safety of the ground?
I'll use a recent example of mine in which i feel like a “checked the chamber” before we left.
“Medic engine 21, medic engine 22, battalion 514, medic 36, medic 39, medic 41 Medevac 10:
respond for a vehicle over the curb at JFK elementary. Multiple victims with reports of victims
still under the vehicle.”
“Shoot……..this is going to be interesting”
And so we checked the weather, even though the school was only 2.5 miles away from our
base. We tuned our radios to the county frequency so we could keep tabs on the tenor of the
call and be in touch with the battalion chief and have a heads up on the LZ plan, etc. While we
listen to the county frequency, we get bits and pieces of patient information too, such as “victim
appears to be a young male, trapped under the vehicle with agonal respirations”
As the pilot walks out, i ask my partner in the aircraft to turn his radio off as the piloting getting
in. He gives me a quizzical look, but complies. “thank god” i think.
My rationale? I know that my pilot has school age children and lives in the area. I'm not sure
what school they go to, but I know he lives in the area. He’s also a newer pilot to our base. But
my rational is this: i don’t want my pilot thinking that this might be his kid. Or any kid for that
matter. I don’t want him to rush his startup and miss something because he’s trying to go faster
for the sake of a child. (we all do it. when we hear its a kid, the hackles go up, concentration
gets focused, and we try to do things just a bit faster because, its a kid. An innocent.)
I wanted to take the bullet out of the gun so to speak. I wanted my pilot to startup and fly like he
was going to pick up his dry cleaning. Just like he does every time we fly. And i wanted him
thinking about nothing else.
We all go out and fly. And we all like to think that we are doing our job as safely as possible. But
are we really checking the gun? or are we just thinking about the standard list of safety items
that we always do? (weather, wind, duty time, etc.). Are we thinking outside the box when it
comes to leaving the ground?
We should because you know what, complacency and excitement are little bitches and they'll
sneak a bullet in that gun when you're not looking. so before you put the gun to your head, take
the 5 seconds, slow down, think and make sure that thing isn't loaded.
Please keep our neighbor flight program Sky Life and their families in your minds and prayers.
This is going to be a crappy Christmas for some of our family.
Fly safe, slow down, think.