Chums does a figure 8 over the scene of the reported inferno. But all I see is a parking lot full of flashing red lights. No smoke. No fire. Maybe there is no inferno. We fly back to the planned landing zone at the hospital on the hill. THere is still no ambulance waiting for us. The four of us (pilot, nurse, medic and myself) take our stretcher up to the ED to wait there. We stand out in our flight suits and everyone asks us questions about the scene of the accident. “There’s no fire there, for one thing,” the medic said.
The ED doc sees us and gives us a report about the worst off patient…severe facial trauma. “Was he at the fireworks scene?” we ask. “No, he got beat up and just walked in off the street.” “That’s not our patient,” we snicker. We wait. No one seems to know how many patients are coming from the scene or when they will arrive. Then we get word that our patient was transported to the Community Trauma Center up the river a bit.
We hop back in the bird and are advised that we can’t land on the roof, as another chopper is there. Before we arrive, the other chopper has aparently lifted off, so we land on the roof and are escorted to the ED, where awaiting us is our patient…who was holding a 3″ munition that went off into his face. “Was he at the scene where the fireworks exploded?” No, his family tells us. He was lighting his own fireworks. “Is this really our patient?” we whisper to one another. I ask about the helicopter that had just lifted off. “Who was the other chopper that took the burn victim?” Confused looks answer me back. “You guys are the only helicopter that’s flown in,” we’re told by the nurse.
Ugh. So where was this burn/trauma victim we were dispatched for? Nowhere. THere was no burn victim. Twenty-five to fifty people were hurt, but all just minor injuries. I was dispatched for an ED to ED transfer…that’s not supposed to happen, except when we bring patients directly from the small outlying ED’s that don’t have board trained ER docs working. So we pack up Mr. Globe-be-gone and fly him across the state to a specialty eye hosptial…(one after which a fantastic eye manual has been named).
The flight back was peaceful, and all under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). We couldn’t see a thing out the windows until about 4 miles from home when our familiar landing lights greeted us.
I arrive back in our ED about four hours later, to a new shift…just the attending and the intern working. Remeber, it’s only the 4th of July, so our intern has just 2 or 3 working shifts of experience in the ED after just graduating from medical school.
Everyone wants to know about the disaster scene/mass casualty event. “There wasn’t one,” I tell them. Instead, I tell about how we flew from hospital to hosptial waiting for a patient that didn’t exist…and then flew to the city of brotherly love to have an opthamologist tell the kid what everyone already knew.