About the only vivid memory I have from my 28 day journey from heart attack, triple by-pass, being listed on UNOS, to heart transplant to back home was my ride in the belly of the LifeFlight helicopter from my local hospital to my transplant center.
I’ve been on helicopters before, so I was not nervous. As a young lad in the military, I sat strapped in , feet dangling out the side (no doors), carrying and firing when necessary, an M-60 machine gun.
This was different. I was strapped to the gurney and shoe-horned in the back-end, and placed along the left side, right behind the pilot. I had a small window to watch the view from. The speed and professionalism of the crew was incredible. They told me each step that would happen, how long the flight would take, what each member of the crew would be doing. At the time I knew I was having some “trouble”, but did not know how critical my condition was. They offered me a head-set so I could listen as we took the journey north. I passed on the head-set, I simply wanted to watch out the window.
Once I was strapped in place, the bird was fired up and as they waited for take-off clearance they did their cross checks, etc. It was a gray, dreary day as we lifted off the roof of my local hospital. I knew the basic route we would take and which landmarks and interstate highways we would fly over, and they were very visible to me. The nurse that was monitoring my vitals, kept me informed along the way.
It wasn’t long and I could see the hospital I was being transported to coming up quickly. The nurse told me what would happen once we touched down. As soon as the skids touched the roof of the hospital, there was a bunch of very fast and highly precision moves made and with-in seconds I was out of the chopper and being rolled quickly inside. I remember taking one last deep breath of cold air, before going through the doors. The chopper nurse and flight tech were with me, as were members of the hospital staff. I thanked them and they wished me well ……. and they were gone.
21 days later I was back home, with a new heart beating in my chest. I was home about 4 hours when I heard the familiar sound ….. womp, womp, womp, womp ….. there was an incoming LifeFlight helo, going to my local hospital (about 10 blocks from my house) ……. instantly I thought of my flight, and even though my outcome was good, and I was still alive, I cried and said a prayer for whomever was on that LifeFlight. I knew, I REALLY knew it was someone in trouble.
Almost daily, for the next 18 months or so I would go through the same emotions as LifeFlight took off and landed numerous times each day at my local hospital. The prayers were said each and every time …. tears were shed frequently. Then, the powers-to-be decided to move the LifeFlight headquarters from my local hospital to another facility and the local air traffic diminished.
These folks fly in some awful conditions, day and night, taking care of some of some of sickest, or severely injured people. I pray for them and their patients daily.
Thank God for these pilots, techs, nurses and doctors. They are incredible.