Air Ambulance Provider Experience Matters: A 10-Year Old's Story
When an air ambulance provider arrives at the departing facility (the hospital or wherever the patient is leaving from) we take over care, and continue care until we drop the patient off at the receiving facility and the doctors and nurses there take over. Sometimes, we have to do a lot of work with the care team at the departing facility to prepare the patient for the air medical transport. That was the case with 10-year old Ryan.
Last fall Ryan was playing with his brother in the woods outside their home in a small town in Indiana. He was chasing after a bird when he slipped and fell, hard. His brother helped him up and rushed him home. His mom got him to the nearest hospital, where they did a CT scan but weren’t able to determine whether Ryan had sustained a serious injury that could become life-threatening. So the doctors decided that Ryan needed to see a specialist surgeon; the nearest was in Chicago.
Air medical transport to Chicago
I was part of the critical care flight crew on the air medical transport that day. We knew going in that the case was a complicated one, and that the nurses and doctors had all been focused on the boy’s injury. When we arrived at the hospital, we conducted our standard patient assessment and found that Ryan had an infiltrated IV – the IV fluid was leaking into the skin rather than going into the vein.
We all agreed it was important that Ryan have a functional IV before we took him on the air ambulance. Yet Ryan had already had multiple procedures and was really scared about being poked and prodded any more (it’s hard for kids, of course, to understand that the doctors and nurses are trying to help). His mom, too, was fearful of more procedures that would cause more pain.
I remembered a similar situation from years back with a child we were transporting on the air ambulance who also had an infiltrated IV when we arrived to pick him up. Working from that experience, we got some very warm towels and wrapped them around Ryan’s arms; the plan was that the warmth would flush Ryan’s skin and we would be able to find a good vein for the IV.
When we unwrapped the towels, though, still no vein. Ryan was so scared and upset that his veins had constricted. So we tried everything to take his attention off the situation, reduce his anxiety, allow the warm towels to flush Ryan’s skin and identify an IV location. We were all very nervous, I can’t lie – there was a lot of pressure! – but we got the IV in.
Ryan was happy (because the IV was no longer painful), his mom was happy (knowing that Ryan would be getting the fluids he needed) and we were off to Chicago in the air ambulance. In the end, Ryan’s injury was not as severe as we had all feared, and now he’s back home and just about the same as before (if a bit more cautious).
For air ambulance providers, experience matters
So what’s the message here? It’s that experience – for an air ambulance provider or any medical professional – matters a lot. In times of stress, when the going gets rough, we fall back on our experience. And at MedFlight911, we believe that our air medical transport crew should have a lot of experience to fall back on – and we all do. So that our patients are in the best of hands, no matter what arises.
*As always, the stories I write about here are true, though I often change names and locations to protect the privacy of our air medical transport patients.