We could see the Flight for Life helicopter circling above, looking for a landing spot. There’s always something more exciting about a rescue when the chopper shows up; it makes the mission feel more urgent, more important.
Aw, I can’t believe all this,” the patient moaned. “This is all for me?” He was lying, feet down, on the very steep slope where his ATV had rolled. We were near tree line, not far from the top of the mountain. The paramedic had given the man an IV, and now we were putting him in a vacuum splint in preparation for bringing him down to a flat spot where Flights could land.
“We just want to take precautions,” someone told him. “Denver’s got better facilities for diagnostics.” We didn’t know what injuries the man had, but only that he had a lot of pain in the abdomen, a sign of possible internal injuries.
The chopper finally landed, and a flight nurse got out and began to hike up the steep pitch toward us. The helo took off again.
“Where’s it going?” I asked Mike.
“To pick up a couple more people,” he answered. “We’ll need at least three more people to evac the litter down this pitch.” Some of our people were going to fly in, one of our favorite ways to get to a rescue site. We all went through training every year with the Flights staff in order to be able to use them for rescue transport, but it didn’t actually happen very often.
An hour later, we disassembled our anchor system after carrying the patient down to the chopper and loaded everything back in the Rescue Four truck. Glen and I had been able to drive all the way up here with one paramedic on a rough four-wheel-drive road.
We’re going to take you back down with us,” I told the patient’s son, a college-aged boy with a dazed look on his face. “Did someone take a look at your head?”
The boy nodded. “About six people already,” he laughed weakly. “They said I need a few stitches, but it can wait until we get down.” He had blood on the side of his face.
“I take it the machine didn’t roll over you,” I said.
He shook his head. “I jumped off the back when it started to go, and I landed uphill. My dad didn’t make it off in time.”
“Your Dad’s fiancé was on another machine?”
“Yeah, and she waited for us down at the flat spot. She thought it was too steep up here.”
“She was right, huh?” I asked, trying not to let it sound like a rebuke. He nodded.
“My dad knew it was too steep almost as soon as he got up there. He was trying to turn around and come back down, but that’s when he got in trouble.”
“Go ahead and climb in the back seat of the truck,” I told him, “and fasten your seatbelt.” He obeyed, quietly. I wondered if he was thinking about how lucky his dad was.
Glen drove well on the way down, but looking at the sheer drop to the side of us while the truck lurched violently was enough to make anyone nauseous. We joked about it until we heard a loud hissing.
“Is that the damn tire?” Glen exclaimed. Scott, the paramedic, rolled down his window and looked out.
“Yep,” he said. “Must have hit a rock or sharp stick. Went right through the sidewall.”
We stopped and got out. The front right tire was completely flat. The patient’s son went to sit on a rock, still looking dazed, while Glen and Scott dug out an ancient-looking jack from the back of the truck.
“This is going to take forever,” Glen said dismally. It was early evening and starting to get cold. I got an energy bar out of my pack and handed it to the boy.
“You need to eat something,” I told him.
“Can I have some water too?” he asked. I nodded, handing him a bottle. Glen and Scott took turns trying to crank the uncooperative jack, and I stood and watched, feeling useless. I figured if they had trouble with it, I wouldn’t be of any help at all. Upper body strength was not a forte.
After about half an hour of cursing, Glen got on his radio.
“Command, team two.”
“Get a jack out of Rescue Two and send someone up here with it. We have a flat.”
I motioned silently to the patient’s son, and Glen nodded. The boy was beginning to shiver, and I knew his father’s fiancé expected him to be back down at their car by now.
“Command, if you could also send a shuttle, that would be great.”
“Copy that, Mark Svenson is on his way.”
It was at least an hour later when we finally arrived back at the staging area, the tire changed and the boy delivered back to his car. As we packed up gear, Glen teased me mercilessly.
“That’s the last time I stop on the side of the road for a helpless woman with a flat tire,” he told everyone. Everyone laughed. I protested.
“You guys were doing just fine on your own!” I said.
“Yeah, right,” Glen responded. “We’re not allowing these women who don’t do anything on the mission anymore.”