An experienced flight nurse provides an insider’s look at the daily workload, idiosyncrasies, and camaraderie of the crew of a helicopter air ambulance in this debut memoir.
Bell recounts that he was “married with two boys and a dog” near Phoenix, Arizona, where he was part of a three-person team working on a medical helicopter. Having started his career as an Army medic, he had hoped to become a doctor, but his plans were derailed in the 1980s by his wife-to-be’s unexpected pregnancy. Instead, he completed a program to become a registered nurse, breaking new ground in an occupation generally confined to women. His skill at emergency and intensive care eventually led him to the exciting career of flight nurse in an air ambulance. There, Bell worked with a crew of highly individualistic, matter-of-fact heroes. He trusted his life to pilots like Matt, so devoted to his wife that he never noticed other women, and Coffey, whose repertory included a constant barrage of sexist jokes. He was backed up by his paramedics, including Brian, who had custody of his 4-year-old daughter, and James, a veteran of the Army Special Forces. Together, they took on a variety of medical emergencies, from dealing with the devastating effects of an automobile collision with a semi on the interstate to finding lost hikers on a dark mountainside, bringing “Auxilium Desuper” or “aid from above” to all. Bell presents his stories in a down-to-earth voice that reflects humor and professionalism. The recitation of the crew’s medical treatments and adventures are interspersed with moments of perceptive examination of such issues as the inevitable ego clashes when elite professionals work together. The author’s plainspoken writing leads to the occasional cringeworthy simile, as when he describes his success with a difficult intubation by saying: “To my delight, there were the vocal cords staring at me like a wanting vagina.” But overall, the book is successful in its depiction of the nuts and bolts of a job unfamiliar to most and requiring both courage and skill.
A medical chronicle that effectively combines dramatic tension with the detachment of a veteran emergency flight nurse.