Lest you get the impression from my last post (and many others), that I am against helicopter EMS, I assure you that is not the case. What I am against is the culture of “fly ’em all, let the trauma center sort ’em out,” that has made EMS helicopter flight crew the most dangerous profession in the United States. A great many – perhaps the majority – of aeromedical transports in the U.S. are unnecessary.
Then again, the same can be said of ground EMS transport. The difference being, of course, that when number of flights and ground transports yearly, miles traveled, etc., are factored in, flying is far more dangerous, and 10 times as expensive, to boot.
Nevertheless, there is a time and place for aeromedical transport. Case in point: A 65-year-old male, 2 months post four vessel CABG, experiences a sudden onset of facial droop, slurred speech and profound left-sided weakness. He lives so far out in the sticks that they have to pipe in sunlight, and even folks from Bumfuck, Egypt say, “Wow, it’s kinda isolated out here, innit?”
Visual fields and extraocular movements were intact, and according to the family, the slurred speech had improved somewhat since the 911 call. However, there was still some left-sided facial droop, and significant weakness and limb ataxia on the left side. The local Band-Aid station was 20+ minutes away by ground, and the regional stroke center was only a 30-minute flight away.
Hello, time. Hello, place.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, he should be landing on the stroke center’s helipad with over an hour to spare in the 3-hour treatment window for his stroke.
The Borg auto-launches the helicopter to this area, and they were landing in the field adjacent to the gentleman’s house as I was starting my IV. We got the patient packaged warmly, wheeled him out to the bird, and gave the flight medic our hand-off report, and he was in the air toute de suite.
Turns out the flight medic was my first preceptor in paramedic school, a guy I wrote about here. It was like old home week while we were loading the patient into the bird. We hadn’t been on a scene together in sixteen years.
Why do I feel old all of a sudden?