Last night, I had a patient that the nurses warned me was a crotchety old man. Watch out, he might flash you, the attending warned me before going in. His family had brought him in for chest pain that they thought was related to his heart. He insisted that it wasn’t, and informed me that he did not want to be in the ED, he wanted to go home.

I introduced myself while wearing my blue flight suit. He noticed the flight physician’s wings on my suit…wings with caduceus in the middle, and asked if I was a pilot. “Well, I don’t get to FLY the helicopter, but I do get to RIDE on the helicopter… I have taken a few flight lessons, though.” “I used to fly P-51s in Korea,” he said. “Did you fly any P-40s?” I asked. “The P-40s were a lot faster than the P-51s,” he informed me. “That’s because of my grandfather,” I said, “He used to build P-40 engines in World War II.”

From that point on, he loved me…he answered anything I asked him without the original hint of sourness that was present when I entered the room. We moved on to other topics, his health, his heart, his family…”They are my heart,” he said as he held is grand-daughters’ hands.

“Listen Doc,” he whispered, “from one pilot to another, get me out of here fast, OK?”

“I’ll do my best.”