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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Drama Stories / Human Interest Stories
- Subject: Novels
- Published: 07/16/2019
Flight of the Angles In GreyBorn 1949, M, from Colorado Springs, CO, United States
Flight of the Angles in Gray
Anne Gray is a registered nurse but her career ambition was to be a flight nurse on the flight for life air lift helicopters in a cosmopolitan city somewhere. She finds a position with Flight One an air ambulance firm in Denver, Colorado.
Anne Gray watched for the exit from the highway to the Stapleton General Aviation and Fight for Life, Flight One’s helipad. The exit was on her before she knew it. Then the entrance to Flight One’s area came up. Gritting her teeth, she didn’t cut anyone off, a bad way to begin her first day on the job, she turned into the parking lot.
Feeling the thrill of her first day, Anne let the sound of the air planes and helicopters into her soul. She prayed for this job, five years’ experience and the training as a flight for life nurse in the Boston area won her the position over ten other candidates. Now she knew as her father an Air Force veteran told her and her brother, a Marine: ‘This is where the rubber meets the road, kid.’ She would be expected to be part of the team and produce.
Watching as a Flight One helicopter, one of five helicopters return from an early morning emergency flight, the rotors stopped spinning the doors opened, the crew literally tumbling out of the helicopter. They were part of the night rotation returning from a mid-night emergency run. Anne watched as the “band aid” or resupply truck, a big yellow box van truck with yellow rotary lights and safety stripping pull up by the helicopter. The “band aid” truck had everything for resupply from band aids to oxygen tanks. They could resupply a hospital emergency room ward if they had to.
Reminding herself she had to get inside or she would be late for her first day on the job. Not a good beginning. Stopping at the door she read the sign, “Flight One, Flight for Life, The Angles in Gray.” The caricatures of helicopters with white boxes and red crosses with angle wings adorned the corners of the sign. Entering the door, she stopped at the counter, Anne got the receptionist/dispatcher’s attention. Bonnie Coulter was an older lady with salt and pepper graying hair, glasses set on her forehead, a flight suit a size too big, the sleeves pushed up to her elbows held in place with rubber bands. Her desk festooned with telephones, hand held radios and stacks of forms. Anne wondered briefly how she was able to find anything. But God help anyone who moved anything.
“Yes? May I help you?”
Feeling nervous her first day at First Flight, she said, “Hi, I’m Anne Gray your new RN.”
“Oh yes. We’ve been expecting you.” Bonnie got up from the desk. Leaning over the counter, she yelled up a short hallway, more of a screech then yell, “Rod, your new RN is here!”
Anne swore she heard a set of feet hit the floor. There was shuffling to the door a head of rumpled gray hair and gray Nomex flight suit that looked as if he had slept in it appeared at the door.
“Ma’am.” he gestured for her to step into the office. “You’re Anne Gray?”
“Please come in.” Rod a big man, not an ounce of fat, stepped aside so Anne could step into the office.
Anne stepped into an office that looked like a wind storm had blown through earlier. But pictures of men standing around helicopters; pictures from Vietnam, Korea, Germany and around America and a map of Colorado with colored pins stuck in it adorned the walls. And a book case packed with manuals on helicopters, notebooks crammed with loose papers. She wondered how anything got done.
“Rod Atkins.” He held his hand out to Anne his big hand enveloping hers. “First let me welcome you to Flight One, flight for life air rescue service.” They sat down. Gesturing back to the map, he said, “A bit about Flight One, we cover a lot of the Front Range. As you can see from the tacks, we’re the red ones, the blue are other flight for life outfits, which are mostly located at the ski resorts, that do a hand off to us to run the accident victims down here to one of the area hospitals, mostly Denver General Hospital, locals go to Swedish Medical Center or next door to Southwest General. The tricky one to get into is Haver Hospital damn near in the down town area of Denver. And of course, Denver General the oldest hospital in the city. We overlap with Douglas County to the south and they in turn overlap with the two flight for life companies out of Colorado Springs, El Paso County.”
Atkins laid out the rest of her duties as flight nurse. “You’ll be assigned to Flight Two. Pilot is George Emery an old hardline Army bush pilot from Vietnam and Germany and here in the States very experienced. Paramedic and co-pilot is Michael Willis and Doctor John Fillmore, your immediate boss. After each call inventory and restock your supplies – anything, from oxygen tanks to band-aids from the supply truck better known as the “band-aid” truck shows up immediately after you land. Needless to say, this is a twenty-four seven day a week job. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the crowd.”
They walked in to the ready room everyone fell silent as Rod began introducing the dayshift crews then the crew she was being assigned to.
Seated across from her was Doctor Fillmore slurping down a Styrofoam cup of coffee. “Newly minted RN?”
“No, sir. Five years hospital work and six-month flight for life training and on the job experience in the Boston area.”
“So, you’ve been there and done that,” said Mike Willis impressed by Anne. The two exchanged shy smiles checking out each-others left hand, neither one wearing any rings or other jewelry. Brief shy introductions they were quiet for a moment.
The door from Bonnie’s office burst open. “Flight Two, you’re on deck! Five car pile-up I-25 at 470 turn-off Northbound lanes. Land on the golf course. Two for immediate evac… Flight three…” She handed the sheet to George, the information on the victims to Fillmore. “The fire department cut a hole in the fence to carry the patients through.”
Bonnie called out to Jack Bolton’s crew.
George stood grabbing his flight bag from the table. “Okay, gang let’s mount up and move out!”
“When they have a pile up, they do it right,” Doctor Fillmore said, following George out the door, the others following.
“Coming from the Boston area you should be used to this sort of thing,” said Mike as they pushed out the door to the heat of the early morning.
“Nothing I haven’t seen before,” said Anne as they ran across the tarmac to the helicopter. Something she’d get used to again.
Flight Three crew was behind them.
Her first flight in this western city. She would find this job just as demanding as the one she left behind back east. Doors closed, everybody buckled into their seat, George started the engine, the rotors began spinning until they were at full RPM’s. Anne always felt a special thrill when the helicopter lifted off the landing area. George was in touch with the DIA (Denver International Area) tower. Getting emergency clearance. She watched the landing area fall away beneath them, the helicopter banking toward I25. Within minutes they were over the interstate and the golf course with Flight Three behind them.
Mike pointed to the white X near the fence. Several old duffers stopped to watch the helicopters land. The fire department cut a hole in the fence to carry the first victim through to the helicopter. Doors opened, the litter passed in, Fillmore secured it, Anne fastened the cuffs for the vital signs reading, temperature, she checked his breathing, the injuries.
Once everyone was back in, George grabbed for altitude, he was not on the ground more than two minutes before he was airborne again flying toward Denver General hospital.
They were airborne a couple minutes before Anne felt George banking toward the hospital and the helipad on the roof. She watched the doctor as the helicopter was making its final approach. That morning Mike said to her: “Hospital landing pad? You mean the postage stamp!”
She heard Fillmore’s voice over her aviator’s helmet’s. “Your side Anne.”
That was Anne’s signal to get ready to open her door. Pulling the patient’s leads from the connections, she was ready. She learned early on, once the skids touched the ground, they had only minutes to get the patient off the helicopter passing them to the hospital aides and replacement stretcher passed in. All this accomplished within two minutes because there might be another helicopter from the west side of the Metro area waiting to land behind them with a critical case patient. She learned this in Boston having worked with a couple former combat air evac pilots.
They returned to their air field, Anne had just been on her first of many emergency evacuation flights in Colorado.
It was a busy week for Flight Two. They knew talking to the night crews, the Second Rotation, there’s no let up some times until mid-night. Anne reasoned, if there was a let up, where was it?
Flight Four finally got in a new paramedic Monday morning, Tom, Thomas Wilton a former US Air Force flight medic, qualified on helicopters and surgery in flight.
“Um, we don’t get that involved,” Rod Atkins told him during their ‘Get to know you’ discussion. “Ours is more of a band-aid approach until they get to the hospital. The doctor and nurse are there in case of a really bad situation. And we’ve had our share of them.”
Rod took him out to the Ready Room to meet his Flight team mates. Flights Three and One had just returned from their assignments, pilots filled out flight and log books. Helicopters were serviced and refueled. The band-aid truck restocked the helicopters, then the team could call it a day and the helicopters passed to the day rotation.
Tom and Mike swapped stories about their time in the service and the “hairy” situations of combat flights. Anne would listen to them astounded that they survived such duty.
The door to the Ready Room swung open, Bonnie called, “Flight Two! You have a long way to go and short time to get there – and no pun intended either, to a small town called Gaithersburg, Kansas.” The flight plan was given to George Emery along with a credit card for refueling in Kansas at a small airport outside the town of Gaithersburg; the air field, the field was a strip of grass used mainly for crop dusters – all of four and a private plane.
Dr. Fillmore was given the patient analyst sheet. As George stood, looking over his paper, Fillmore looked at Bonnie as she turned back to the dispatch office, “A girl – nine years old – rheumatic fever?”
Nodding Bonnie said to George, “And they’ll meet you on the school’s sports field. Apparently, it’s the only place you can land that isn’t all tore up from plowing.”
Mike and Anne stood pushing their half-drunk coffee and tea aside, grabbing their helmet bags when George called, “Okay, team let’s mount up!”
The other three followed George out, trotting behind him out to the flight line and their helicopter. Once on the helicopter, the Doctor, Anne and Mike made a quick commo check as George made a last-minute check of the helicopter. As George was preparing to take off, Flight Four’s crew was running out to their aircraft answering an emergency call in the Denver area, flight one returning from its first call of the day.
Closing his door, latching it, George called, “Fire in the hole!” pressing the starter switch. The engines started in a cloud of black smoke. The rotators quickly reaching maximum RPM’s, George lifted the helicopter off the parking apron, coasting it out to the area for take-off. Checking in with the DIA flight control, getting immediate clearance, he pulled back on the yoke and they were airborne.
Anne watched the air field quickly recede under them. She knew this would be a long boring flight out to Kansas and back. Anne settled back for the flight, Dr. Fillmore reached into a leg pocket for a book. Taking out the book, a Western, he settled into reading. Mike and George talked about the “good-ole`” days of the military. Apparently, the only good assignments they had were the one they left and the one they were going to. Anne listened in on the headphones of her helmet. She could not help but smile imagining those two in uniform and they knew some of the same people. ‘Now there’s a scary thought.’
Soon they arrived at Gaithersburg cutting in George announced, “We’re stopping here for fuel. And I hope these good people at least know what a credit card is.”
“Otherwise it’ll be a long walk back to Denver,” said Mike turning to see Anne’s reaction.
As they were landing, Anne thought she saw some sheet metal near some old planes move and something peering out at them. Needing to go to the Ladies Room over ruled staying near the helicopter.
“Okay, folks,” George said shutting down the helicopter, “this will take a few minutes…”
The doors opened, Anne was the first out dashing toward a sign for the Ladies Room. The men watched Anne make a broken-field run for the rest room.
“You want to see a mad woman?” Dr. Fillmore said with a laugh, “Let `em have pay toilets in there.”
“Oh, please, don’t even go there,” said George laughing. “We don’t need a mad woman on the flight back to Denver.”
George walked to the flight center still laughing. Stopping before he reached the door he saw the building looked like it would collapse in the next Kansas wind storm; never mind tornado. He looked up seeing the array of antennas, none of which he even recognized.
“Whoa! No wonder I couldn’t talk to these people, they’re so far behind the times, they’re not even in the same century with us! I hope they know what credit cards are used for?”
Noticing the rusted-out hulk of an air conditioner in a window he could only hope he could use the card for refueling.
As Mike said, “It’s a long walk back to Denver.”
Stepping in to the front room which reminded him of the old 1930’s Ma and Pa Kettle movies from when he was a kid. The flight operations looked like something lifted from a Howard Hughes World War One movie. An old man stood, his booted feet dropped to the floor with a thud. Walking to the counter, George gave the room a quick glance that seemed to be as old as the rest of the air field. Modern? Try Post-1919.
The old man stood from the desk that appeared as old as the buildings. The old man eyed George’s flight suit with mild interest. Looking out the door he saw the Flight for Life helicopter and the crew, the woman rejoining her team members.
The man said, “Help ya, sur?”
“Yes, George Emery flight for life out of Denver. Need to refuel before picking up a little girl to fly her back to Denver…”
“Oh, yeah. Saw ya was comin’ ta pick up the Miller girl. Frank. Here,” He held a gnarled hand out for the credit card. “We don’t usually get these cards, if we’re lucky once a month. So -- to have a credit card reader hooked up wouldn’t even pay for the service.”
He reached under the counter to pick up a telephone. Feeling his eye brows raise a couple notches George could barely read a visable1-800 number written on the counter. He waited for the phone to be answered. When it was answered he talked briefly to a call center representative, read the credit card numbers to her. They waited a few minutes before she came back on telling him the card was approved.
“Okay, good to go, sur,” Frank said, handing the card with receipt back to George. “Fill `er up.”
George, with the credit card receipt in hand, wanted to cheer. “Thank you.”
The old tanker, a 1960 GMC diesel stored in a shed, started up in a cloud of dark exhaust. George could only pray they had the right JP4 fuel. Mike’s words It’s a long walk back to Denver echoed in his mind. The truck pulled up to the helicopter. George was beginning to hope this was worth all the hassle.
Walking up to his crew, Dr. Fillmore said, “I take it the card went through.”
“Yeah. They don’t have a card reader system. Don’t get enough business – if their lucky, once a month. You know that fuel starts to break down after a couple months.”
Mike and Anne standing together, he said, “Well, if that’s the case, that better be good fuel.”
“Yeah, like ya said, it’s a long walk back to Denver,” said George watching two men, old enough to be his grand-father start to fill up the helicopter with fuel.
Mike said, watching the refueling operation, “Wonder how long ago they got that fuel?”
Anne gave an involuntary shiver. “So, what happens after that?”
“Oh, it’s okay, but not as good if its used within the first couple months of being refined.”
After a few more minutes the helicopter was fueled. But before the others got back on, George started the engine, letting it run for a minute before signaling for them to get on board.
“Wanted to assure their fuel was mixed in with what was loaded back in Denver,” George said as he lifted off turning toward the town and the school’s athletic field.
They were close to Gaithersburg and the baseball field where they would land to pick up the little girl. George hovered for a few seconds before setting down. Anne looked out at the multitude of people, most of them had come out to watch the flight for life operation.
“Isn’t that the school over there?” Anne said, pointing to the flag pole and the children playing close by stopped playing, the children were curious, watching the helicopter and paramedics with their little friend.
Touching down, doors opened, Anne, Dr. Fillmore and Mike jumped out with the stretcher as paramedics wheeled the girl over to them. The doctor and nurse with the parents followed, the doctors conferred while the girl was carefully transferred to the helicopter’s stretcher.
Tears streamed down the young mother’s face as she watched her child being carefully placed on the stretcher, strapped down with the safety straps then put on the helicopter.
Suddenly, the mother cried, “I need to go with Sissy! Please, she’ll need me!”
“No, Angie,” the husband said trying to hold her back. “We can drive to Denver.”
Anne and Mike looked toward Dr. Fillmore. In turn he looked toward the husband. The ambulance and paramedics briefly watched to see what the outcome of this would be. Fillmore nodded his assent.
“She can go. It’ll be crowded but we can take her.
Kissing and hugging his wife, “Go. I’ll follow.” The husband helped her to get on the helicopter. The doors were closed
The little girl, Sissy looked from her mother settling onto the bench next to the nurse. Anne helped the woman with the safety harness.
George said into the microphone, “On the way!”
Talking above the whine of the turbines as George was grabbing for altitude, Anne said, “Here’s ear plugs, ma`am. We only have the four helmets. The plugs’ll dampen the sound of the engines.”
Sissy said, with bravery in her voice, “Mommy, you going to the hospital with me?”
“Yes, dear,” the Mother said, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Mommy will be with you.”
Anne, fighting back her own tears, talked briefly with the doctor, then gave the little girl an aspirin and some water from a bottle with a sippy cap.
George said, over the on-board PA, “We’ll be taking her to Swedish Medical. And talk about postage stamp landing pads…! That landing pad redefines postage stamp …”
Taking the girl’s vital signs, Anne saw the mother holding the girl’s hand talking in soothing words to her, calming the little girl’s nerves. She was glad Dr. Fillmore let Angie accompany the girl to Denver.
Three and a half hours later, toward one o’clock in the afternoon they landed at Swedish Medical Center’s helipad.
Dr. Fillmore jumped out followed by Anne, gesturing to Angie to get out while the stretcher was taken out, the nursing assistants and doctor immediately attaching vital signs leads to her. The mother watched for a minute as Sissy’s stretcher was taken off. Fillmore quickly conferred with the emergency room doctor, handing him the forms from the doctor in Gaithersburg, Kansas. Anne told her she could go with her daughter until her husband caught up with them.
Grasping Anne and Dr. Fillmore’s hands she thanked them profusely for taking her daughter to the hospital. She quickly followed the nurses to the elevator and to the emergency room.
Dr. Fillmore put a hand on Anne’s arm. “This job doesn’t get any better.”
Unlocking her door following an exhausting day, Anne pulled her key from the door, moaning as the phone started ringing. The entire company felt like they were flying around the clock, meeting themselves coming and going the several days.
Looking at the caller ID, she moaned. “Oh no. Mother.”
Anne answered the phone on the third ring. “Anne …”
“Anne! Mother! Where have you been? I’ve been trying to get ahold of you!” The woman was sounding frantic like something was wrong.
Sighing, Anne knew she was in for another one of her mother’s lectures. “Work mother. This is not a 9 to 5 job you know. We’ve had a couple …”
Her mother cut her off. “You know Phil?”
“I should, he’s my boyfriend.” I hope. She looked at the stack of unopened mail laying on the coffee table.
“Well, he’s been by the house a couple times this week wondering if Dad and I have heard from you…”
As her mother rambled on about news from home, Anne rifled through the mail, a lot of junk mail to be shredded later. She reasoned, you could move to Mars and if anything will catch up with you, ahead of anything else, its junk mail.
Sorting through the mail, Anne found the one letter she hoped to find but feared to open. Making occasional “Yeah, Ma – no kidding …” She opened the letter with shaking hands. Phil.
In short, he was breaking up with Anne and they should see other people. A polite way of saying: He was telling her he was breaking up with her.
The next day it was all she could do to keep herself going and not reflect on Phil breaking up with her. They had just completed their post-flight checks and log-books. The taco and burrito truck with its attendant merry sounding Mariachi music was serving the Flight for Life crews.
Anne knew Mike was behind her. She ordered a breakfast burrito and fruit drink and moved off to the side near the perimeter fence away from the crowd. Mike followed her.
“Decent flight,” said Mike opening his soda.
“Huh?” She looked back at Mike with a frown, intruding on her space. “Oh, sorry. I’m just thinking.”
Taking a bite of his burrito, he said, “Something bothering you? You just haven’t been your bright cheerful self this morning.”
Nodding, she said, leaning against the fence, “I know. I guess everybody noticed.”
Taking another bite of his burrito, he said, “Yes. You’re wearing your frown like a talisman.”
On the one hand she wanted to tell him it was none of his business, but then she had to work with him and the others as a team. What effected one, effected the others.
Anne had to think about it for a minute taking a bite of her burrito, then said, “It’s that obvious, huh?”
Nodding, Mike said, “Want to talk about it? Think of me as your big brother and you need someone to confide in.”
Anne drew in a deep breath, letting it out, she said, “My boyfriend, Phil now ex-, he’s in the Boston area, broke up with me. I got a letter from him yesterday. I suppose my mother will find out soon enough.”
“Yeah, that can be rough. I know. I went through the same thing. I was engaged to this girl for a couple years. At the time I was on a search and rescue team in the Air Force. It was our job to go in to pull downed pilots out of a hot zone. Anyway, I was in both wars with Iraq. Anyway, she didn’t like it what I was doing that for a job.” He shrugged. “I come back from the last war and she basically tells me, ‘Nice knowing ya, good-bye.’”
“And you’ve been unattached ever since?” she said finishing her burrito.
They were two lonely souls adrift in the sea of despair.
Twice that week Flight 2 flew patients in to Swedish Medical, each time they were able to see a patient in a room near the helipad waving to them, his right hand to his mouth, or one flight a pair of binoculars to his face.
Curious, Dr. Fillmore said, “Hey, George we got time after this patient drop?”
“That’s surgical recovery there, isn’t it?”
The landing skids still on the landing grid, George turned in his seat, he was able to look back at Fillmore, he asked, “Yeah, you want to meet him?”
“Yeah, I wonder what he’s doing there?”
Anne and Mike were curious too about his waving and hand to his mouth.
“Can’t be a kid,” said Mike as George assured no other flights were due in. “They have a separate wing just for children.”
George received clearance to shut down. The helicopter secured, the group carrying their helmets, made their way to the section stopping at the nurse’s station first.
“Oh, yeah that’s Harry. He’s has been in for back surgery. Due for discharge next Tuesday,” the nurse told them. “The first night he was in after the surgery, a helicopter landed up there, he scared the hell out of the night nurses, his motion alarm went off.”
“Oh? Why? What happened?” Mike asked.
“His motion alarm …” she pointed to a board with room numbers and red lights, “went off. Like I said, it scared the hell out the night CNA’s and nurses. Talk to him, it’s funny. Well that night it wasn’t, now it is.”
“Got ya,” said Mike with a smile.
“Want me to take them down to the room, ma`am?” An assistant offered, standing.
The nurse agreed. The assistant led them to the room to find him in a wheel chair by the window with binoculars his wife brought in for him to watch the helicopters land and take off.
The assistant knocked on the door and called, “Mr. Dinsen? You have some visitors.”
Turning the chair, he looked back smiling and the four smiling in return. “Come on in!” he said, seeing them in the flight suits and the Flight for Life badges, carrying their helmets. He extended his hand to them. The girl, the CNA backed out of the room. “Flight for Life.”
“Yes,” said Fillmore. “We’re stationed here in Denver at the old Stapleton Airport.”
“The doctor, John Fillmore and Anne Gray an RN, and Mike Willis a Paramedic and co-pilot,” George made the introductions. “But I’m too busy with the helicopter landing it on those postage stamp size landing aprons to see what they’re looking at.”
Mike said, “But you have a hand to your mouth as if you have a microphone …”
“Former Army,” he said with a smile, hooking a thumb back to the tail of the helicopter that could be seen hanging over the edge of the landing pad grate. “Retired twenty years. Spent four years at Fort Hood, 1st Brigade, 1st Cav (Mech). Anyway, I was assigned to the Brigade Headquarters Company. The Brigade Commander, a Colonel had me attend the Three Corps air load and rail load schools that was three weeks long. Anyway, the Colonel had a platoon of scouts assigned to us and we had a two-month long field problem and he had me working with the scouts run a couple air load resupply tests for him. That’s where the microphone and binoculars come in.” He held up the binoculars he was holding.
“Thank you for serving, sir. And being next to the helipad has given you memories of that time?” George said.
“Thank you. Pretty much so. You have time there’s more to that time; like green eggs and ham…”
Anne could see where that story was headed. “Um, no thank you, sir. We’ll take your word for it.”
Laughing, Harry nodded to them. “Good to meet you.”
George looking at the time, said, “You in the Denver area?”
“No. The Springs. Actually, Security. Perfect location. For me that is. Between Peterson Air Force Base and Fort Carson’s Butts Army Air Field. I live right in the flight path for the Air Force and Army.”
“We have to go before we get a parking ticket,” said George, they shook hands with him then left. “Have to visit us at the old Stapleton Airport. Good-bye.”
Walking down the hall passing other nurses and doctors, Fillmore said, “I bet you could spend hours with him listening to stories of his time in uniform.”
“Any retiree,” said Mike when they reached the elevator that would take them to the helipad and their helicopter.
The loss of their lovers only served for Mike and Anne to slowly become more attached to each other. They exchanged telephone and cell phone numbers and to call each other in the evening. Weekends, or when they were on down time, they would meet for breakfast and then spend time together. They’d talk about anything but work.
Saturday Anne was settled in watching Saturday morning cartoons with a bowl of cereal and cup of tea when the phone rang.
Answering the phone, the voice of Mike came over the phone. “Hey, hone, whatca ya doing besides vegetating in front of the boob-tube in your fuzzy robe and bunny slippers?”
Grasping the robe at her neck pulling it tight she looked around the room to see if Mike was hiding somewhere. “Um, good guess, hone.” They’d taken to using endearments with each other outside of work. They were starting to feel something toward each other.
“How does a brunch sound?”
Looking at her bowl of Heart Healthy Cereal, she said, “Better than what I planned for myself.”
“Great! Be there in twenty …”
Anne put her bowl of the healthy cereal in the refrigerator then running to the bed room, stripping as she opened the closet picking out a pull-over blouse, jeans and running shoes. She had to admit, her running regime had fallen to the way-side since coming to Denver.
She’d just finished tying her shoes when the door bell rang. “Mike.”
Opening the door, the length of the security chain. They peered at each other through the space of the door.
They said together, “`Morning, sweet heart…”
Ann could not help but smile in return as she slipped the chain off the door opening it. They kissed then left for breakfast then a day of doing nothing, just enjoying each other’s companionship.
Flight for Life 2 had just finished restocking, refueling, and completing their trip logs when Bonnie rushed in with the call sheet fresh off the fax machine.
“Don’t get too comfortable yet, you have an emergency call, the tower complex at Benedict Avenue and I-25 … east side of the cut off.”
George and Fillmore took their copies, Fillmore read his then handed the copy to Anne.
“Window washer fell ten floors?” she said looking up at the doctor then George astounded. “And he’s still alive?”
“I’ll call flight operations for immediate clearance for you,” Bonnie called, almost running over her night relief person, Judy Hines.
“Stranger things … Anne,” said George standing. “Okay, guys let’s ride!”
Grabbing their helmet bags looking at over time. It was early, but a couple members of the second rotation were drifting in. George and his crew were rushing out the door to the flight line.
Doors closed as George started the engine bringing it to full RPM’s. The other helicopters were returning as Flight 2 was preparing to leave.
The one good thing about Day Light Savings Time, they were afforded the extra hour of day light. Anne was beginning to get used to the Denver area, Mike was assuring her of that. They found the Four Towers with no problem, the small sea of red and blue rotary lights flashing their eerie warning: This is serious business guided them in.
Picking out the white X where to land, Mike spotted the X and the clear area between the Towers to land. Gesturing to George, he motioned him to land.
As they were landing, Anne saw all the people standing at their office windows watching the helicopter land. Close by the paramedics had the man free of the harness. However, they attempted to move him to a board to assist with placing him onto a stretcher. The board under him, they placed him on the helicopter strapping him down for the flight to Southwest Medical.
The worker was transferred to the stretcher as Dr. Fillmore conferred with a paramedic on the man’s condition. Hospital forms had been filled out while waiting for the helicopter to arrive. Placed on the helicopter, Anne hooked up the leads for the vital signs.
Flight 2 was on the ground only a couple minutes, Dr. Fillmore, Anne, and Mike were back aboard, doors closed, Dr. Fillmore gave George the sign, ‘Lift off.’
An exhausted Flight 2 crew staggered out of the Ready Room to the parking lot and their cars. Anne’s little Nissan was parked next to Mike’s hulking Ford F250 4x4 pickup. Mike watched as Anne put the key in the door.
Turning she looked at him as the parking lot lights were coming on. “Yes?” She lifted her mouth to Mike for a kiss.
“According to the calendar it’s supposed to be Tuesday, our Friday, you free?”
Since moving to Colorado from Massachusetts she had several dates with Mike. She began to wonder what it would be like to have a few more.
“Sure. Where do you want to go?”
Shrugging, he said, “Benedicks for a slow dinner then see what we want to do from there. Six-thirty?”
“Sure. I’ll be ready.”
Their weekend seemed to be over before it started. A three-day break then Saturday they were back on the job.
Anne and the others were finishing their coffees or teas and donuts when Bonnie rushed out of the operations room. Three flights were immediately dispatched to different parts of the Metro area, Flight Two was handed the dispatch to fly to Aspen to pickup a patient on a hand-off.
George stood picking up his helmet bag and the flight papers. “Let’s fly, folks!”
“Whoa,” Fillmore passed the medical information to Anne, “two rock climbers need air lifting from the Aspen Community Airport to Southwest Medical Center.”
“What did they do? Fall?” Mike asked, running beside Anne out the door to the flight line. Trying to read her copy of the medical status.
“Yes,” she handed him the fact-sheet they reached the helicopter just as Flight One was lifting off. “From the two hundred plus feet! And they lived?”
Everyone climbed on to their positions. Anne buckled her safety harness looking up at the two stretchers. It was crowded enough with one patient, but two? They’d find out.
Mike told her sometimes the Army and Marines practiced high altitude multi-patient medical extraction near Aspen and Vail. This was her first time in the mountains. They were over the mountains before she knew it. Within a few minutes they were passing Eisenhower Tunnel on I70 arriving at Aspen Community Airport where the ambulance with the patients waited for them. Mountain View Flight for Life set nearby just having brought the two rock climbers down from the mountain they were climbing on.
As they were flying up to Aspen Dr. Fillmore was giving Ann a guided tour of the area up through the pass past Glen Wood Springs to Aspen.
Finally getting to the airport, George set the helicopter down close to the ambulances. He was reminded of the window washer whose safety harness and winch for the platform he was on the ropes broke and he fell dropping ten floors. OSHA and State was having fun investigating that accident. Then he saw the row of private planes and jets, small twin engine planes waiting for their well-heeled owners to finish a day of bumming around the hills of the resort town. “Must be nice,” he thought as he watched the side doors slid open, Mike, Anne and Dr. Fillmore get out to meet the first stretcher.
The rock climbers were carried from the ambulance where they waited to the helicopter from Denver. While Fillmore conversed with the PA (Physicians Assistant), Mike and Anne checked the pair over, conversing with the Mountain View Flight for Life paramedic and nurse then placing them on the helicopter in the stretcher brackets.
George was only on the ground a few minutes before Fillmore climbed back aboard the helicopter, giving him the thumbs up. “Okay, George let’s rock!”
“On the way, folks!”
Lifting off, banking toward the south and back to Denver. Anne and the Doctor were busy tending to the patients, checking vital signs, checking the IV’s, praying they made it to Southwest Hospital in time.
The rotation break did not seem to come soon enough for Mike and Ann sitting across the table from each other. It had been another intense week for Flight for Life. They made it to Southwest Hospital to save the two rock climbers lives as badly beat up as they were, having fallen several hundred feet down the rock cliff, when their rope that was tied to a tree came loose. Later that week was another traffic accident on I470 by-pass – a five car pileup with a semi-trailer in the mix. Two of the drivers and a passenger had to be flown to area hospitals for emergency surgery and treatment.
The two were quiet for a moment, neither talking when the door to the kitchen burst open. A frantic waitress ran out, screaming, “Is there a doctor in the house? Please … the cook spilled hot water on his hands!”
Standing, Mike immediately said, “She’s a nurse, I’m a paramedic!” He said to Anne, “Go back and check him out, I’ll get my ready bag from the truck.”
Anne ran back to the kitchen; the cook was sitting on a chair holding his burned arm. Anne stopped another cook from applying cold water to the burn.
She said with authority, “No! No, cold water. I’m a nurse, let me do it.”
The girl backed off giving Anne space. Taking the towel, she soaked it with warm water. She was applying the towel to his arm when Mike returned with his ready bag. He took out the blood pressure cuff and gage and stethoscope, Anne worked on easing his pain.
The manager stepped out of his office saying, “I called for an ambulance.”
“Good,” said Anne “I was going to ask if anyone had called for the ambulance.”
The manager seeing the paramedic bag and Mike and Anne taking his vital signs, asked, “So, does he have to go to the hospital?”
“At least the doctor has to decide, once he gets there,” Anne said.
A short time later the door from the dining room opened, paramedics came in with the gurney and stretcher.
The paramedics stopped, smiling, one said, “Hey, folks we’re in good hands, Flight One is here!”
Anne and Mike looked up from the cook.
Smiling, straightening up, Mike said, “Good. Hey Pete. He’s all yours.”
Together the four got the cook on the stretcher. A paramedic quickly took down the information down on the call sheet adding in Mike and Anne’s names as “first responders”.
As the cook was being wheeled out through the dining room people cheered and stood to shake their hands. Anne and Mike shook hands as they went back to their table to finish their coffee. The manager walked up to table.
“Thank you for being here to help Jose. The meal and all is on the house.”
Leaving the restaurant, Mike drove a short distance to the baseball field. They stopped at a local baseball game where they watched silently for a few minutes holding hands.
Mike said with a far away voice, “It’s moments like this that makes our job worth-while.”
Nodding she said, still staring at the baseball game, “I still think my time in Boston and some the flights I was on there or about the girl and mother we picked up in Kansas and the window washer…”
Shivering Anne said, “I’m glad George was doing the flying that day.”
“That’s the reason we got the assignment that day. George.” Looking at the kids and the baseball game, Mike asked, “Take a walk?”
They got out of the truck, Mike took Anne’s hand as they walked along the edge of the area where cheering parents, grand-parents and friends sat, more stood jumping up and down with each play.
Looking at him Ann could see a wistful look in Mike’s eye. She asked, “Ever wonder if someday you’d have a little one playing in Little League?”
Nodding, Mike said, his voice seeming far away, “Yes. But when?”
Ann thought about a good answer. After she put some thought to the simple question, she said, “Whenever you want to have a child with someone you love.”
Smiling to himself, Mike said, “I like your answer.”
Squeezing her hand, he leaned over to kiss her. Ann looked at him with surprise, but it was not unexpected. The kiss, as quick as it was, was something he had been wanting to do for the last couple weeks.
She said, in a soft breath, “Mike…”
Looking down on her, he was surprised when she wrapped her arms around his neck, drawing him down to her, giving him a kiss that spoke volumes to him. Putting his arms around her, they kissed long and hard, their kisses telling the other their search for a soulmate was at an end.
Rotation to the night shift for the first timers, such as Ann was a sort of culture shock. The rest of the crew were veterans of the transition from days to the night side. The day rotation was on their way out the door turning the helicopters over to the pilots for the night rotation. George looked through the helicopter’s log book to see if it was due for service. Even though the helicopter came out of quarterly service George learned a long time ago, “Don’t take it for granted that all the problems on a helicopter or any air craft for that matter is recorded in the log book.”
Mike could attest to that having flown in the Air Force. He often found problems on an aircraft during the pre-ops inspections. Anne and Dr. Fillmore went over the supplies that were replaced during the days rotation. What George was able to understand and the out-going pilot, Larry Driskell despite the helicopter coming out of quarterly maintenance was a so-so situation.
Flight Two’s first rotation break Mike and Anne were on their way to the Cherry Creek Mall there was a back up of cars and trucks in front of them.
“Accident,” said Anne trying to see.
“Bad,” Mike said looking behind him to pull over.
Mike turned his four-way blinkers on as he drove down the side of the road. Stopping near the accident, the driver following yelled, “Hey! Move over!”
Yelling back, as he and Anne got out of the truck, grabbing their ready bags, “Paramedics!”
“What the hell? I need to get through!” he yelled back.
Locking the doors, they ran up to the accident. Policemen who just arrived saw them and the bags started to ask what they wanted when one saw the red cross and the words paramedic and flight nurse on the bags.
“Right time, right place…” He pointed to a car, the front and rear end smashed in the driver pushed over the steering wheel.
The driver, mad because Mike stopped in front of him ran up hollering, “Hey! Hey – ya want `ta move that …?”
Mike and Anne went to the first car that was a crumbled wreak, the driver stopped behind Mike, yelling and swearing ran into a big highway patrolman. He looked down at the other driver with deep unnerving frown.
The other driver stopped in mid-protest, his anger wilting as he looked up at the patrolman.
“You got a problem, sir?” he asked in a slow drawn out question that let the other know he might be messing with the wrong person.
Glancing back Mike watched as the driver slinked back to his car. He couldn’t help but laugh.
Anne looked up to see the look of merriment in Mike’s eyes. “What’s so funny?”
“The patrolman just told junior to sit down and wait like a good boy.”
“Paramedics!” a paramedic called running up, two pushing a gurney.
“Good,” Mike said as Anne wrote up her log sheet. “Paramedic and nurse with Flight One.”
“Good – they’re coming in,” another medic said.
Firemen ran up with a jaws-life devise to help extract the driver from his car.
Within a few minutes the sound of the approaching helicopter could be heard.
“Their here…!” said Mike looking up at the helicopter as it was landing. The first of the flight cases was being wheeled over to the waiting helicopter.
The next car the patrolmen took the two to, a man and woman, who had their cell phones jammed in their mouths. Mike had seen this one other time in Kuwait, the driver had a serious accident, the phone jammed in his mouth.
“Well this puts a new twist on putting words in your mouth,” said a paramedic.
Anne and Mike checked the pair with their stethoscopes. Anne glanced up at Mike, she said, “She’s dead.”
“So is he.”
The pair worked for an hour helping paramedics and firemen with the wreak.
Flight 2 was an hour into their shift on the evening rotation, having finished their pre-flight checks sitting back to watch a dumb sitcom that had little or no plot to it when Judy stepped out of the flight emergency center.
“Fight Two – Flight Four! Five car and truck accident at I470 off-ramp – again -- multiple casualties need immediate flight for life evacuation…”
George and Tom grabbed their call sheets, the doctors grabbed theirs quickly reading them then passing the sheets to their nurses.
Glancing at the flight sheet, interested in the direction they would be flying in as the two crews ran to the door.
Looking at the sheet as they ran out the door, Mike said to his counter-part, “Man, that area is a tight fit, and there is two of us going in.”
Looking at his sheet, Cliff said, “Hell, they gave us more space than that in Iraq!”
Tom ran to his helicopter, said, “Sorry, guys but this isn’t the Middle East.”
Ann and the others had heard it all. Sometimes Mike made her feel like she had been there too. She knew he was talking to her as a way of relieving the stress of his time over there.
They would just sit and hold hands while he talked, or she added her own problems to the talk. They would kiss, their kisses and hugging helping each other to get over the stress of their past.
“You have to deal with urban sprawl,” said George getting in his side of the helicopter.
Everyone aboard, doors closed, harnesses buckled, he called, “Fire in the hole!”
The turbine roared to life in a cloud of black exhaust. Seconds later Flight Four came to life in a cloud of black exhaust.
Then George called, “Let’s ride, Cav!”
Coasting out to the edge of the helipad, he and Flight Four received immediate clearance from the DIA tower for the two flights to “proceed as instructed”.
Flying across the city in the evening twilight, lights just winking on, business and residential, people just getting home or on their way home, ignoring the sound of the helicopters flying over-head, it was a sound people living near the airport were used to.
Watching for the interstate interchange, Mike spotted the white X in the grass median. Pointing out the white X to George, George angled the helicopter in to the interchange and medium. The interchange was surrounded by a small sea of flashing red and blue lights.
As Flight Four landed, the doors slid open. Tom and Diane jumped out with the doctor to quickly talk with the paramedics about the injuries. Out of the confusion a man called: “Take my wife first – please -- she’s pregnant!”
Ann and Mike realized one of the female victims they were loading was pregnant they placed her on the bottom rack and another woman on the top. Giving George the “thumbs” up, they climbed on board.
“Let’s rock and roll, George!” said Fillmore checking the woman as Ann started to attach the vital sign leads.
Suddenly George yelled, “SHIT! No power…!”
Ann and Fillmore immediately lay over the women to protect them as the helicopter dropped like a rock. Trailing black smoke, the helicopter hit the ground with a jarring crash, spreading the runners, the aircraft skidded along the ground spraying rock, grass and weeds gouging two-furrows in the ground, straight toward the crowded interstate interchange.
Traffic creeping past the accident site were shocked to see the rescue helicopter spewing flames and black smoke hit the ground with a bone jarring crash, skidding along the ground, plowing a furrow toward the interstate. Drivers shocked to see the helicopter trailing smoke and flame sliding along the ground directly toward them, spewing stones and weeds. The drivers, seeing the helicopter sliding along the ground toward them, spewing rocks and weeds, several panicked slamming on their brakes and getting rear-ended causing another series of accidents.
Even before the helicopter stopped skidding along the ground, Ann and Fillmore loosened the clamps holding the stretchers to the brackets.
The helicopter came to a jarring stop short of skidding onto the interstate. George yelled, “Grab the patients and get out – it’ll blow!”
Sliding the door open, Mike and Fillmore pulled the pregnant woman out setting her as far from the wreckage as possible. Ann and George grabbed the other woman setting her stretcher near the first.
Ann moved over to her side, the woman moaning and sobbing, cried, “I broke my water! I think the baby is coming!”
Paramedics and several fire trucks rushed over to the area. A fire captain seeing what was happening called to the paramedics and drivers, “Use the trucks as a blind, give the lady some privacy.”
Fillmore rushed over to help Ann. Muttering to Ann under his breath, “Have you ever helped with maternity before?”
Looking up sharply at Fillmore, she said, “Yes, a couple times. Why? You haven’t?”
Shaking his head, he said, “Trauma and general surgery.”
“Well if we need a surgeon we know who to ask for help.” Ann looked around as the trucks formed a privacy wall around them.
Flight Four set down long enough for Dr. Craig to jump off to run over to them to assist.
“I heard she’s expecting any minute, how is she?”
“Okay. Any maternity experience?”
“No. Trauma and ER.”
Ann thought to herself, ‘Terrific. A thousand doctors with birthing experience and I get two with no experience.’
Trying to help the woman, Ann talked as soothingly as she could while the other was giving birth. The woman was crying and screaming with pain, the blood from the birth canal flowed from her as the baby started to come out. Two ambulance medics with limited maternity experience stepped in to help. They wanted to give her a sedative for the pain but unable to now without a maternity doctor’s directive. Even though both were trauma doctor’s, yet neither had experience with pregnant women.
A paramedic came over with blankets and water for washing the baby. Soon the baby, a girl was born, the umbical cord cut. Fillmore knew enough as soon as the baby was born and the cord cut, he held the baby up to give her bottom a good smack she began crying.
“Well one thing is for sure she’s got a healthy set of lungs,” a paramedic said, the baby washed then wrapped in an ambulance blanket.
The mother reached up to take her baby as the medic gave her the child.
One the paramedics who was assisting, filling out the forms said, “Do you have a name for the child, ma`am?”
The woman looked at the child in her arms, she said, “Anna-Marie Desmond.
A photographer and television camera man finally had a chance to photograph the new mother and baby and the medical team that assisted in the birth. It was something the mother would always remember. The morning viewers would be treated be treated to the heart-warming event amid the crisis on the interstate exchange.
In the meantime, an FAA crash team from DIA arrived to survey and photograph the wreckage and get statements from crew and witnesses. Last, authorize the removal of the helicopter from the area.
The next night a weary Flight 2 crew reported for work to see the phrase, The Heroes! News paper articles from the Denver Post were tacked to the bulletin board.
Rotation change Ann was sound asleep, her feet propped up on another chair, her flight jacket laid over her as she slept following a flight to Westminster to transfer a patient to Southwest Medical hospital.
There was a soft taping on her foot. Opening her eyes, Ann looked up to see Mike gazing at her.
“Come on, hone time to call it a night.”
Smiling, she roused herself out of the bed she made for herself with two chairs.
Having ridden in Mike’s truck. She fell asleep on the ride back to her apartment. Not waking up until Mike pulled up to the front door.
Leaning over to her, he took hold of her hand gently squeezing it.
“Hey, honey … your home.”
Opening her eyes Anne smiled to her lover. “This is our Friday. Want to come up and stay awhile?”
Mike returned her smile. Nodding, they leaned toward each other kissing, he said, “Let me park the little beast and I’ll be right up.”
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