Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Life as a flight paramedic






I'm at work now with a little down time so I thought I would add something to our blog.

Down time is a good thing. If I’m busy it means someone is having a bad day.

 

A little about my work.

 

I work as a flight paramedic. I am based in Bethel Alaska. Bethel is on the Kuskokwim River 400 air miles west of Anchorage. There are two paramedics on each team. We have three teams that each work 5 days on 10 days off. We are on call 24 hours a day for the 5 days that we are in Bethel. We are the only medevac team in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, (Y-K Delta), area. We cover 57 villages most of which have runways. For the villages that do not have runways or when the weather is too bad for our fixed wing aircraft the Alaska National Guard flies us in their Blackhawk helicopter that is stationed in Bethel.

 

The temperatures in the Y-K Delta can get up to 80 degrees F in the summer and as low as minus 50 degrees F in the winter.

 

Most of the people we serve are either Yupik Eskimo or Athabascan Indian. The villages have populations from about 100 to about 900.

    

Our primary response area is known as the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. 




 

Our medevac aircraft is a Cessna Grand Caravan. 


Inside our office.

  
Sometimes we deliver babies. Often they are premies (premature) so we have an isolett to keep them warm and to transport them in. 

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Most of the time we pick up our patients from a village clinic and transport them to the Bethel Hospital when their condition is too severe for the local Community Health Aid to take care of. Then if the patient is too severe for the Bethel hospital one of our Anchorage based crews in a Lear Jet or King Air will transport the patient to Anchorage or a specialty hospital somewhere in the lower 48.


Some of the runways that we land on are small.

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The Village Health Aids that we work with have the hardest job in health care in Alaska. They are usually from the village that they work in. Often they are the only local health care provider in their village. A few villages have first responders that will help the Community Health Aids, (CHAs).

Sometimes when the weather gets bad the CHAs my have to take care of the patients for days.

Some of the clinics are small and not too well equipped.

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 We have a few Sub-Regional Clinics that are newer and well equipped.

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A bittersweet community service that we provide for the residents of the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta is returning terminally ill patients back to their villages so that they may die with dignity surrounded by family. Almost all of these patients we know from when we medevaced them from their village to the Bethel Hospital. Most of them are elders although occasionally we return terminally ill children.

Our pilots will do a couple of low flyovers of the village tilting our airplane so the patient can see the village. This always brings a smile to their face, (and ours).

This is not considered a sad occasion by family and friends but a celebration of the person returning to their home.

Here is a few photos of a village elder being returned to his village and being welcomed home by family.


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I have to admit this always brings a few tears to my eyes seeing how happy it makes our patient and their family.











At a few of our villages when we land at the airport, (in winter we go direct by snowmachine, snowmobile in most of the rest of the world), we get on an ATV, go to the river, get in a boat, arrive in the village where our patient is at, get on another ATV go to the clinic, get the patient and do it all in reverse back to the airplane.

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A few photos of flying in the Y K Delta.

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I was privileged to fly a mission with the Alaska Air National Guard 210th Rescue from Anchorage.

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Not too unusual as we often fly missions in Blackhawks with our Alaska Air Guard here in Bethel…. but this time in a HH-60G Pave Hawk …..and an aerial refueling from a C-130. (I had never been in a helicopter during an aerial refueling).

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Yup.....I love my job!
 




7 comments:

  1. What an amazing thing you do Bill. I am privileged and honored to be your friend.

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  2. I agree with Jeanie--thanks for the explanation and all the photos!

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  3. I have been watching your posts on Trip Advisor since your first trip with your family. It has been a real pleasure watching your boys, and their hair, grow. It is so apparent what a wonderful job the two of you are doing raising the four of them, and having such a grand time doing so. Your boys are having more adventures than the typical family, and I am sure they will treasure each and every experience they have together, just as you and your wife have too.

    Thank you for allowing us the open window to your comings and goings. I hope we have the opportunity to meet you all on Isla Mujeres some day.

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  4. Awwww......gosh....thanks all!

    The first round of Sols and / or margaritas will be on us!

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  5. I too have been reading all your posts on TA, and now following your blog. Thank you for sharing with us the ins and outs of your job, how interesting and how fulfilling and rewarding your occupation is. The aerial pictures are just amazing. I must say an added interest for me was my brother was in the Marines during Viet Nam, and flew a 130 and flew many refueling missions, now my son is in the Marines and in flight school.
    Thank you again for taking your time to share something so special. My husband and I hope to meet up with you and your lovely family sometime on Isla Mujeres!

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  6. Janet,

    Please tell your family thanks for serving our country.

    Yes, we will get to Isla sometime again and hope to meet you too.

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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