MEDEVACS AND MORE MEDEVACS:
I didn't set out to be an air-ambulance pilot. In fact, it's not something that ever really appealed to me. Don't get me wrong, using a helicopter to transport the sick or injured is one of the most noble uses of the machine. And there are plenty of pilots for whom that particular task is rewarding enough to make it their career. Not me. I just love to fly. My enjoyment of flying comes from the simple act of doing it, of moving the controls and making the aircraft do exactly what I want. Not the job the ship is doing.
But lately, "medical flights" are about all I seem to be doing. I hesitate to call them "medevacs" (as in medical evacuations), because that term implies a certain sense of life-and-death urgency to the mission. And that is not always the case here.
But it was the case on Monday. I got the call shortly after lunch. An elderly man had a stroke on the cay, and the good doctor determined that he needed to be in the hospital as quickly as possible. We've got this down to a science now. I ran out to the ship, quickly converted it from passenger configuration to accomodate a stretcher, hopped in and hit the Battery Master switch...no juice! Yikes! I called the doctor, said we had a slight problem, and that I would call her back shortly.
Now, I had just written up this big, technical description of what the problem was and how I fixed it. By the fifth or sixth paragraph I was putting myself to sleep. It was taking longer to explain than it was to fix! Ah, but through the beauty and magic of computer editing you may now be spared having to read all that crap. With the mere tap of a key...all gone! Suffice to say that it was slightly more complicated than a dead battery but less complicated than a splenectomy. I was back in business in about an hour.
(For incurable insomniacs, email me and I'll send you "The Saga Of The Battery Relay." That should put you right out! If you're really desperate for sleep, I can send it as a wave file with me verbally describing the process - oh boy!)
Anyways...thusly juiced up (electricity-wise), I zoomed over to the airport and picked up my passenger and the doctor. I really, really, really need a ground-level heliport on the Cay, so people don't have to be brought over to the airport by boat.
We got the man down to the hospital in good time, so the doctor said. Time will tell if the stroke will have any lasting effects. Fingers are crossed.
TOUCHY SUBJECT TIME:
I get a lot of personal credit for these medical flights. Everywhere I go, people know my name. "Oh, Bob The Helicopter Pilot!" they say with a smile of recognition. They treat me special, as if I've done something...you know...special.
But I haven't. I am just a driver. The accolades make me uncomfortable. The real credit goes entirely to my boss for bringing the helicopter down to Guanaja and hiring a pilot to fly it when he's not here, which is about half the time. He is a pilot too, and a damn good one. He could have just left the ship in the hangar instead of making it available to the town. The credit goes to him for telling me, "Don't ask any questions. If the doctor says fly, then fly." This makes it very easy on me. I don't have to make any tough decisions; we let the doctors do that.
But my boss, God love him, shies away from the limelight. No matter what the situation, he always cleverly deflects the credit and generously lets others bask in the glow. I could strut around here like Mr. Big Shot, but I would feel like an imposter. Still, it is incredible to work for such good people as my boss and his wife. It literally doesn't get much better than this.
I heard that our local doctor has said that he keeps waiting to wake up from this dream...a dream in which he has a helicopter available to speed people off the Cay and down to the mainland. Man, you hear stuff like that and it puts a lump in your throat.
Most of us live our routine, unremarkable lives, working for a living and struggling just to get by each day. We don't often get a chance to do real good things for society. I have been given this awesome opportunity to be part of a team that can, when called upon make a real difference in the lives of some people in our community. And I appreciate it greatly. I just wish that people would direct their admiration and respect at the man who truly deserves it, not the taxi driver.