Monday, January 7, 2013

Starflight the One You Love

This is actually me following the team wheeling James...
It was so blurry and useless I tried editing it,
and now I think it looks as dramatic as it felt.

Monday January 7 was dedicated to investigating the real "why" of James' proposed transfer to Brackenridge. James, still sedated, was thankfully oblivious to the scurrying of the rest of us.  At the end of the day it became clear that it wasn't just a lazy DR who didn't want to drive to Round Rock for follow-up or something.

The plastic surgeons who were setting the extensive facial breaks had requested the transfer. Evidently Brackenridge had done this surgery before and Seton hadn't. Also, I was very comforted when I was told that there is some head lady in charge of Seton's numbers... Like statistics for hospital rating and safety, bragging rights etc. She never wants anyone to transfer from Seton because that means that Seton can't handle the needs of that patient, which is a ding on their record.

So this woman in charge of keeping Seton's numbers impressive said that it was medically necessary for James to transfer. That reassured me that there wasn't any lazy reasoning behind the transfer.

The nurse I had become close with on Saturday when I said "no transfer this weekend" was the one who went to this head numbers lady and then told me. I was relieved and told her that I just had to do the best I could for James with no knowledge of the system or requirements or preferences. I told her Seton was where I would prefer to be, near the nursing baby, our support, close to home, but that I was on James' team, not convenience's team.

She comforted me by saying that she wasn't on my team at all but she was on James' team, that her job was the health, recovery, and safety of James. Which made me very glad.

So things started rolling again, getting the transfer started, finding a bed at Brack and clearing his room of cards etc. The DR said because he had done so poorly (losing O2 saturation) during the ambulance transfer attempts, that they weren't going to put him through that again, but were jumping straight to Starflighting him.

Yikes! Let's all pause for a moment and thank God that James is a veteran and this is all covered.


So, let's cut in the story to when the two-man Starflight team gets to James' room.

I completely forget what the man looked like. The head of the team was a woman, so I guess all my attention was on her. They loaded James on their narrow little rolly stretcher. They were smart, and instead of the "1-2-3!" method, they used the lift and moved him gracefully like a little baby orca. His numbers stayed good. They waited longer than usual, given his "history," to make sure he tolerated their equipment.
I ruthlessly sent my handler out in the cold to see if she could get a picture of the helicopter.

I'm so used to James that I don't think of him as tall, but apparently he is. The Gore-Tex insulated sleeping bag thing that they put him in wouldn't fit his feet so they put grippy hospital socks on them. They zip him up and his full red beard and his grippy-sock toes are all I can see. The head lady asks how much I weigh and if I want to ride with him. Despite the situation I get a thrill of excitement- a helicopter ride! (No, really, each thought was for James, I was just glad to be able to tell him all about it later, since he wouldn't remember... That's the only reason, really.)

But then the pilot radios that they don't have enough fuel to lug my fat butt to Austin, so I can't go. We start down the hall towards the elevator. It's hard to walk beside the bed, swiftly moving down the wide hallways. The maintenance people with their trolleys and nurses with sandwiches recognize the flight suits and duck out of our way. I realize afresh how serious James' condition is.

We stand, waiting for the elevator, and I listen to the ventilator push air into James' airway. The lady in charge of the team is wearing an impossibly large trauma medical backpack. She shifts her weight and tries with her gloved hand to get her hair out from under the backpack. "This bag is pulling my hair," she says.

Double doors open automatically and I find myself in the hall of the ER he arrived at-was it just a week ago? The pilot meets us in a Starflight airlock-lobby-thing and makes like he won't let my handler and I out, but the lady in charge says it's fine. They let me follow them out onto the landing pad area. They keep rolling, but I stop beside a column to watch.
James ready to load into the helicopter.
I wait in the cold while they load him into the back of the helicopter. I wait while (I assume) they strap him in and settle everything and do flight checks. Within minutes the engine starts.

The rotors begin to spin. At this point they sag a little at each tip. Then it gets faster, like a horse transitioning from a trot to a canter. Finally it gets really quite fast and I see the slightest shift of one of the landing gear-sled things. When they take off and James is in the air, I realize that watching him leave is harder than leaving my screaming toddler with a babysitter, harder than letting your kids get a shot or stitches, harder than anything I can imagine at that point. To entrust James to their hands and the sky is an impossible task. I can't believe I can hear myself crying over the humongous noise.




My handler and I watch him get smaller in the sky like a balloon a child has let go. We start the trek around the exterior of the hospital and back to his empty room. I look out the window. There are cows grazing across the road. I want to yell at them to stop acting like everything is the same as it was last week.

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