True Tales from an Air Medical Escort: A Whirlwind Trip to Hawaii
Timothy Lookabaugh, NREMT-P, CCTP, is one of the MedFlight911's most experienced air medical escorts. Today, he shares the story of one of his recent trips as an air medical escort with MedFlight911 – a trip to Hawaii with a wheelchair-bound patient.
When I first heard we had a transport to Hawaii, I was excited. I'd never been there before, though I'd been planning to visit for the past 10 years. Not only was I looking forward to the challenge and excitement of escorting another patient, but I also hoped I'd be able to see a bit of the islands, though I'd only be there for 16 hours.
On the day of the transport, I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport to meet the family and my patient, a 78-year-old retired neurologist who was taking a vacation to Hawaii with his wife. He had been wheelchair-bound for the past three years and was under 24-hour nursing care. In addition to his wife, he was accompanied by his private duty nurse. At 6'5" and 180 kg, I could imagine that the patient was probably very intimidating in his younger days, though now he was soft spoken and very polite, always saying thank you no matter what was done for him. I liked both his wife and him immediately, and I could tell during my first 30 minutes of assessment that she was totally devoted to him and his care and comfort. We hit if off immediately.
Our journey began with checking eight bags of luggage and taking care of check in. Then, I assisted the group through security. The screening ended up taking over an hour. While we waited, I chatted with the patient, asking him what suitcase he packed his hula skirt in and if we were going to take lessons.
Eventually, we passed through security and arrived at the gate. I was a little concerned at this point, since we had to transfer the patient to what is called an "aisle chair" – a device that enables non-ambulatory travelers to be moved onto the aircraft and then into their seat. Moving people this way can be challenging, especially when they are well over six feet tall! Fortunately, with the help of several airline escorts, the four of us were able to help him board the plane with little difficulty. Once he was secured on the aisle chair and moved into the first-class cabin, we gently placed him in his seat, and I breathed a big sigh of relief. We'd cleared the first obstacle.
During takeoff and throughout the flight I stayed with the patient and did everything I could to make him comfortable. The nearly six-hour flight was uneventful. The patient was repositioned several times, and overall did very well. Upon landing in Honolulu, the attendants were again there to assist and we helped him disembark him from the aircraft with little difficulty. Until we got to his electric wheelchair, that is. The chair picked that moment not to work. Thankfully, the airline escorts were extremely helpful and accommodating, and we quickly solved the problem and were off to baggage claim, where we collected our luggage. Then, we went outside to wait for our ground transportation, which arrived just 10 minutes later. We loaded the patient on the wheelchair van and transported him to the hotel so the couple could start their much-anticipated – and much-deserved – vacation.
Like any transport, this trip had its challenges. Moving patients who have such limited mobility can be difficult, but with the right staff and excellent coordination, it can be done. During each of my medical escort trips, I learn a little more about how I can do things differently and how I can make each patient's journey as comfortable and safe as possible – which is always my main concern. My job is to ensure that the family has confidence in MedFlight911 air ambulance to do what needs to get done, while at the same time showing compassion and respect to both the patient and the family.
I love my job, caring for patients, assisting with their needs, and seeing them happy. And traveling to Hawaii wasn't bad either!
Want to learn more about MedFlight911's air medical escort services? Give us a call at 888-359-1911 or get a no-obligation air medical transport quote here.