When time counts

Paul Wong
A Survival Flight crew member watches his coworkers restock one of their three Bell 430 helicopters with medical equipment after returning from a hospital transfer earlier in the day. On average, Survival Flight makes three to four trips a day.

7 a.m. The first shift of the day starts, as four crew members arrive and two others finally go home. The first duty of the day is to check all the equipment on the helicopters and jet to make sure it is in working order.

11a.m. The University Hospital’s Survival Flight crew has already taken two trips, both to Marquette. The first trip had been pre-arranged – a prenatal baby staying at the hospital finally returned home. The second trip, a gunshot victim who could no longer be cared for at a local hospital – was more serious.

12p.m. Members of the crew who aren’t in flight get together for their daily briefing, where they discuss everything from the condition of the equipment and the weather forecast to the past week’s flights and patients and upcoming trips. The briefings are important because they keep all flight nurses up to speed.

12:30p.m. Lunch, if and when they are lucky. The crew makes sure all their food is in to-go trays, just in case. Since they spend so much time together, the conversation flows quickly, and talk ranges from the occasional wise crack to hunting and children.

1:15p.m. A call from a nearby hospital comes in to the dispatch center. The patient is an infant in respiratory distress, and the decision to go is made within 10 minutes. At approximately 1:50, the flight crew lands at the hospital grounds, where they work to stabilize the patient before taking off again. The final destination is the landing pad at C.S. Mott Children’s hospital.

4:20p.m. Back at Dispatch. Two crew members, having just returned from a flight, are filing reports. Another call comes in, from Cadillac, involving an elderly patient. Because there are no open beds in the University’s adult ICU and because it’s not an emergency, the decision is made to hold off for awhile, but the patient is picked up later in the evening.

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