Well, that was different.
Usually, when I’m trying to get some much needed sleep on night shift, a beep from our pager to let us know that a job has come through tends to be greeted with groans, choice expletives, and a half-asleep stumble out to the truck. Last night, however, when the pager and radio chirped at me to let me know that we had been assigned a job, my interest was oddly piqued.
We were off to to the local airstrip to meet a plane that had travelled all the way from the country with a very sick toddler on board, in order to take her from the airstrip to hospital for potentially life saving treatment. With all the controversy surrounding the issues of MPs using public funds for private endeavours and government money being spent on seemingly asinine projects, it’s nice to see that, as a society, we’re still prepared to devote huge amounts of money in order to fly one little girl to a hospital for treatment. It’s also nice for us as the crew when one of our patients is less than 60 years old!
So, while the rest of the airfield was deserted aside from a few security personnel equally as tired as us, we waited in our truck in the dark outside the gate for the plane to arrive. Soon, the drone of engines and flickering lights overhead heralded the imminent landing of the ambulance aircraft with its precious cargo inside. I’m always so impressed with the skills of both the fixed wing and helicopter pilots that the ambulance employs. These guys can land anywhere with precision and skill — amazing when you consider the potentially disastrous consequences for pilot, crew, and bystanders alike should they get the landing wrong.
The small twin-engined Super King Air aircraft landed on the runway, touching down with finesse, as gently as the pilot could possibly make it in order to avoid jolting the young girl lying on the stretcher inside. It taxied around the runway and across the apron, coming to a stop near the fence where we had parked. We waited until the aircraft’s twin propellers came to a full stop before making our way slowly out to meet it — as carefully as we could due to the other light aircraft scattered around the apron.
A tiny form lay upon the bed as the paramedic and pilot unloaded the stretcher from the back of the plane, swaddled in blankets with a heart monitor softly beating in tune to the rhythm of her heart. Her mother watched anxiously as we carefully lifted her from the bed and transferred her to our waiting stretcher, her eyes wide as she took in the new faces and the stars above in the night sky. Closing the doors of the ambulance, we set out on the road for the short trip to the hospital — I don’t think my partner has ever driven so carefully and avoided so many potholes as she did this time!
It was a bit of an anti-climax when we arrived at the hospital — handing the patient over to the waiting staff in the children’s department as though it was just another job. It’s nice to know, however, that we were a small part of a larger picture, helping to ease that little girl’s suffering and deliver her to safe hands. We headed back out into the night, hoping for some respite and a few hours of sleep.
Needless to say — we didn’t get it.