“Three Souls” – Bev Meade, MSN, RN, MHA, CEN, CCRN, CFRN, CTRN, TCRN, EMT-P. Flight Nurse, MedFlight 3.
Our pilot completed his safety checklist and risk assessment, and contacted our Columbus, Ohio, Communications Center with the first radio traffic of the morning: “MedComm, this is MedFlight 3. We have 3 souls, 1 hour 30 minutes in fuel, 8 minute ETA.”. This radio transmission is always given before we lift from our helipad to begin our mission. The response was as expected from our experienced Communication Specialists watching over all of us… they monitor us flying and driving our patients “to and fro” for this company. They acknowledged us with “Copy MedFlight 3… 3 souls, 1 hour 30 minutes in fuel, 8 minute ETA”, and we lifted into the cool, pre-dawn calm with our Night Vision Goggles (NVG’s) down and activated.
Our mission was to transport a patient with an ST -elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) from a rural area in Ohio to the closest cardiac interventional facility… rapidly, efficiently, and safely. As we landed at the remote landing zone (LZ), we did as we were taught and as we have done hundreds of times on landing… We focused our attention outside diligently, looking through and around the NVG’s for hazards that could mean disaster for the “three souls” on board.
Safety is and has always been a top priority for my company, and I am thankful that we are recognized as one of the most safety-conscious critical-care transport organizations in the state. We communicated succinctly with the local fire department at the LZ, and were acutely aware that our safe landing could mean the difference between life and death for our patient, whom we have yet to meet, and, of course, for us as well. Even though the “three souls” on board have thousands of safe arrivals, each landing and takeoff still makes me alert, tensed, & ever-vigilant for the unseen hazards that we all know are out there.
“MedComm, MedFlight 3. We’re ‘skids down’ safely” is what we all wanted to hear, and that is exactly what transpired. As usual, I thanked my pilot for a safe landing and waited until the blades came to a complete stop before exiting the aircraft to retrieve the necessary equipment, supplies, and of course… my paramedic! As we walked to the waiting EMS vehicle, I contemplated what we might find, what might need to be done quickly, and what a difference we can make in this person’s life.
After assessing and placing appropriate monitoring equipment on our patient, we departed the EMS vehicle in under 7 minutes to rapidly load & secure our patient for the lifesaving transport he desperately needed. Our pilot once more pierced the airwaves with “MedComm, MedFlight 3. Lifting from scene with 4 souls, 1 hour 20 minutes in fuel, 30 minute ETA” and we departed the rural hills of Ohio for the center of the state, where critical interventions awaited this patient.
After arriving at the receiving hospital and transporting the patient to the cardiac catherization lab, we became “3 souls” again… the team of 3 who answer the call of duty, who respond without hesitation to help the sick and injured, whose life’s work and studies have led each soul to this place, at this time. And I know that there are others just like us at MedFlight around the nation that are awake at 0200, answering the incoming radio or telephone call, responding just as quickly and safely to save the life of another soul.
The mission was completed, the cardiac vessel reopened, and the patient was recovering to resume his life in southeastern Ohio. As each of the “three souls” completed the post-flight tasks, readying the aircraft for the flight home… me completing the patient care chart and sending it to the receiving facility, the medic restocking the aircraft for another mission if needed, and our pilot refueling for the flight home or to another destination as needed… I paused for a moment to consider what we had just accomplished. All of us played a part in the outcome of this patient: Family, EMS, our Communication Center, all of our ancillary personnel, the flight crew, and receiving facility… Each entity relying on the other to do their jobs and save a life.
As we were enroute to our base, I considered the new day dawning as the sunrise peaked above the hills of southeastern Ohio where I call home. I announced “goggles up”, and I contemplated how each of us have a pivotal role in this mission. I am still in awe after 20 years serving others in critical-care transport how all of this happens almost seamlessly to improve the outcome of our patients. But, perhaps, more importantly… I looked to the right toward my medic, and in front of me to my pilot, and I am thankful that each one of the “three souls” are where they are supposed to be, doing what they are supposed to do, and that each of us bear the burden of safety and excellent patient care and quality transport so that we can hear once more “MedComm, MedFlight 3 is safe on deck with three souls” as we land at our helipad… Mission accomplished.