Saturday, April 23, 2011

EASTER WEEKEND AT WORK / VANISHED VIGNETTES (1) - SALLY LAUGHLIN

Hi again from Cottonwood!  I'll be your Angel 3 paramedic for the Easter weekend.

Some holidays / annual events tend to keep us EMS types busier than others.  No two are ever alike, of course, and one crew may get slammed while a nearby crew twiddles their thumbs all shift.  But I have noticed some patterns over the years.

Memorial and Labor Day weekends are usually crazy-busy, especially on the front end:  lots of bad wrecks while everyone's trying to get wherever they're going for the weekend.  Hardly anyone calls for an ambulance or a helicopter during the Super Bowl.

The rest of 'em generally fall somewhere in between those two extremes:  Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually pretty mellow, Halloween and New Year's Eve, not so much.

It's been awhile since I worked an Easter weekend, so I couldn't remember how they tended to go.  The answer for us so far this year:  Busy start, then nothing much.

We actually started off this morning with a public relations event (PR) -- a mock mass-casualty-incident (MCI) at the local fire academy.  We do this particular PR a couple times a year, landing, loading a volunteer moulaged (medical make-up) to look badly injured, and flying him or her to back to our hospital.  It's part of the student firefighters' final exam.  It gives them a chance to work around the helicopter, and it exposes them to the chaos and confusion that are inevitable parts of any MCI, real or simulated.  It's also good practice for us, and for the hospital, which is simultaneously deluged with "less seriously injured patients" brought in by ground ambulances.

The fun began for us even before takeoff, as we tracked all the weekend pilots taking off and landing at our nearby local airport -- joined this morning by several skydivers -- and discussed how we'd need to orbit for a bit with the "patient" so we'd have time to radio the hospital and let them know we were on our way (our actual flight time would be about one minute).

We lifted, successfully dodging small planes and parachutes, zipped over to the fire academy, and started orbiting while we made radio contact with our landing zone (LZ) officer.  He briefed us on nearby obstructions, wind direction and speed, and told us to land next to the backhoe.  All well and good ... except that we couldn't spot the backhoe.  Or any fire trucks, or ambulances, or anyone else.

Like I said, chaos and confusion, every time.  A good MCI is one where you keep miscommunications to a minimum; you can never eliminate them entirely.

This morning was a good MCI.  Almost immediately we spotted backhoe, big red trucks, and so forth at the community college campus adjacent to the fire academy.  Landed, got our "patient", lifted, orbited, called the hospital, landed, wheeled him inside, turned him over to the ER doc -- and promptly got called out on a real emergency flight.

Since then ... paperwork, a nap, more paperwork.  A visit from some of the local firefighters, and from some of our pilot's motorcycle buddies.

Pilot and nurse both turned in about an hour ago.  I'll probably do the same soon.  First, though, I thought I'd share one of the many, many stories I've come across while researching VANISHED.

VANISHED VIGNETTE (1) - SALLY LAUGHLIN

On Monday, July 2, 1956, a "$100,000 fire" destroyed the Menzie Dairy Co. in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.



The dairy's owner, John L. Laughlin, did not go to the fire.  "That loss is replaceable," he said, "but nothing can bring back Sally."


Sally Laughlin, 20, was John's youngest daughter.  She was a student at Pennsylvania State University.  Two days before the dairy fire, Sally boarded United Flight 718 in Los Angeles to return home from the Pi Phi Sorority's 40th annual convention, a six-day event held at the Huntington-Sheraton Hotel in Pasadena, California.

Several Pi Phi student and alumni delegates were killed in the mid-air.  There were at least two of them aboard each of the doomed airliners.

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