28 September 2006

It's French. Get Over It.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

I have to admit, I don't understand the French. I've tried.
To me they seem insecure and neurotic-
Continually trying to protect the "Frenchness" of their language....
no English terms, please!
In parts of Canada, signs must be bilingual, and some there fought against including English in signage and documents at all.
A large portion of the population there continually strives for independence.
Can you guess which part?
I've heard and read horror stories about the way English speakers were treated in Quebec.

The French have been duplicitous about Western efforts to prosecute the war in Iraq.
Opposing U.S. efforts in the U.N. to control Saddam Hussein, they participated in looting millions and millions of dollars from the corrupt "Oil For Food" program. Got caught at it too, but nothing much has come of it. They then sold weapons and other equipment to the Hussein government which were used against Allied troops.
Now they are an impediment to the establishment of U.N. sanctions against Iran and Iran's attempts to enrich uranium. From my viewpoint, it seems that much of their behavior is based not on common sense, but on the basis of "if the U.S. supports the issue, we must oppose it."
Yeah, that makes a lotta sense!

Okay.......... Deep breath.
Having said all that, there are some things the French do better than anyone in the world. I try to avoid purchasing things French when I can, but there are instances where that is counter-productive.
I bought my first set of Michelin radial tires in 1968, when most had never heard of them. I've bought Michelins since. My opinion is that for the money, they are still the best all-around tires in the world.

And the French build damn fine aircraft.

If you've studied aviation history, you know the French have been involved since the days of our friends, Wilbur and Orville.
The Bleriot, at the time it was built, was incomparable. While Wilbur and Orville built Biplanes, Louis Bleriot built a relatively slick Monoplane, and was the first to fly his airplane across the English Channel.

If we in the U.S. wanted to imitate the French and eliminate French words from our language, we'd lose much of our aviation terminology:
Hangar. (Not Hanger...... please!)......
All of French derivation. I'm sure there are a hundred more I could list.

Back in 1984, '85, and '86, I flew an Aerospatiale AStar 350D for a large construction company.
Typical of the French, the rotor turned the opposite direction from American helicopters, so I had to relearn how to use my feet for anti-torque reaction.
(It also made it difficult switching from the AStar to the Hueys and R22s I was also flying at the time!)

The AStar was similar in size and price to the Bell 206 series, which I had flown a lot. But, in my opinion, there was no comparison in passenger comfort between the two aircraft. The Bell was noisier and slower. A housing for the Cyclic and Collective controls, called "the broom closet", separates the Pilot from the passengers in the 206 JetRanger/LongRanger. The cabin in the AStar is open, like riding in a touring car.
I grudgingly had to admit, the French machine is just a better people mover.

So now comes the big question:
I try to avoid things French whenever I can. Most generally there are simple alternatives so that choosing another path is not too painful.
But how far do you carry that initiative? If the French product is superior to everything else in the market, you are actually doing damage to the overall market if you buy the inferior product, aren't you?

I don't buy French Wines,
I don't do business with Target stores.
I don't buy "Car and Driver" magazine.....
all owned by French companies, but easily sidestepped by buying equivalent products.

But not long ago I bought 4 new tires for Big Bubba's car, and they were Michelins. I wanted nothing but the best beneath him.
And given the choice between buying an AStar and a comparable Bell product right now, I'd probably buy French.

I'd have to grit my teeth, but eventually, I'll get over it.

26 September 2006


Anniversaries- what do you make of them?
I just had one, and I forgot about it until a couple days ago, when a friend had her one year "Blogaversary". She set me to thinking about the calendar, and what I might have missed in the way of anniversaries in my own life.

September 6th marks my 20th year flying a helicopter ambulance.
It's all been with the same company, although the organization has been acquired twice during the 20 years. And what a job! I can look back on the 20 years and remember some of the flights like they happened yesterday.
I've related many of the memorable flights here in this journal. Lots more are forthcoming, when inclination and inspiration come calling together.

I've been flying helicopters now for 38 years, so more than half that time has been spent flying sick folks to get the help they need. As you can imagine, the machines and the industry as a whole have changed a great deal during that time. How interesting it has been to watch as aircraft have gotten more powerful, lighter, stronger, and faster. Coffee grinder radios, literally sometimes with vacuum tubes, have been replaced by solid state equipment that is better in every way and makes the job safer and easier.

I don't know when I'll leave this job. Petty politics are an aggravation in any organization, including the one I work for. I'm not paid nearly what I'm worth, considering the risks I must take to do what has to be done to do my job well, but the money has never been why I have stuck it out since 1986....... this job is as nearly perfect as any I have ever had. I'm doing something I love to do, and helping others at a critical time in their life while I do it.

My hearing is slowly failing after nearly 40 years of assaulting decibels.
I now must don reading glasses at night to read radio frequencies off charts when I go to an unfamiliar airport. I'm blessed with good health, but know there are no guarantees....... the annual flight physical is a little more tense each year.

What is most comforting is the people that have passed through my life during this time, many of whom come here to read and comment. I have strong friends...... (strong is such an understatement), that stay in touch, even after moving on to other jobs. That brings me great comfort.

Two years? Three? Five? When the time comes for my retirement party, I think (and hope) it will be a memorable event!

24 September 2006

The Clinton Interview

Did you watch?
If not, have you seen the highlights?
Those of you that stop by now and then know I am no Clinton fan.
I've surveyed the blogs, and it was predictable:
Lefty blogs loved his performance,
Conservative blogs think he overreacted and was out of control.
Me? I think he's still one of the best politicians on the face of the earth.
His wife can't possibly compare.

And my take on the interview......
Who cares?

What Bill Clinton did during his Presidency isn't important.
What King George the W did prior to September 11, 2001 isn't important.
Before 9-11, we thought the world loved us. We now know that all the good the U.S. does in the world counts for nothing among those that want all women home taking care of the kids.

What is important TODAY is that we realize we are involved in a fight with an enemy that wants to control the way we live, and the way we impact the rest of the world.
Casualties mean nothing to this enemy.
They are patient....time also means nothing to this enemy.

They'll wait and take advantage of any weakness we show.
Those that want to withdraw from battle are denying the danger, and when they finally realize our plight, may find it is too late.

Forget Bill Clinton. Forget GWB, prior to 9-11. Hindsight is 20/20.
Remember Jimmy Carter and Iran's takeover of our Embassy in Tehran.
We've been at war since, and are finally realizing it.

The water around our frog continues to heat up.........
Western civilization is at war, and had better get busy prosecuting that war efficiently.

I Flew Those!

If I had a nickel for every time it has happened, I'd have a heavy piggy-bank.
I land at some hospital and get my crew on their way, then cool and shut down the engines. Most hospital helipads are conveniently located somewhere near the Emergency Room, so we generally have an audience for our landing.
Every couple months, some middle-aged dude will stand up, hitch up his britches, approach me as I walk from the helicopter toward the ER and strike up a conversation with, "I flew those in Viet Nam."
This is kind of a strange statement, because the BK117 I fly as a helicopter ambulance was not manufactured until the 1980's. But I give the guy a pass, knowing he's talking about some helicopter in general.
"Oh really? Where were you?"
At this point the guy will refocus......... sort of take a half-step back and take another look at me, and notice my hair is grayer than he first thought, and there are a few more wrinkles than he may have initially noticed.
Then it's fun to watch their face........
First I can see the question as he thinks, "Is it possible this guy is a Viet Nam Veteran?"
Then the panic......."How do I get myself outta this situation without looking like a fool?"

Then comes the answer I have heard several times-
"Oh, I was all over!"
My next question, "What unit were you with?", almost always gets the same answer: "The 101st."
These fibbers have done enough study to know the 101st Airborne WAS all over the country, and by claiming they were a member of the 101st, they avoid having to go into detail about any particular area when questioned about Viet Nam.

Invariably, the next step is to extricate themselves as quickly as possible by saying, "Well, I gotta go...... see ya."

What is it about people that causes them to lie about such a thing?
Oddly, I take pride that someone thinks they can make themselves look more important by claiming something I can truthfully say:
"I flew these things in Viet Nam."

20 September 2006

Are You a Slave?

Have you been watching the news about the Pope, and his reference to what some long ago Emperor said about Mohammed?

Does it seem to you that the reaction to what the Pope said proves his point beyond question?

Are you offended by cartoons about Mohammed?
What about a cartoon of Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, and her venereal disease?
Which of these cartoons do you think might result in your being blown to pieces by an IED?

Are you uncomfortable with this subject?
Will you use your 1st Amendment rights to discuss how ridiculous this whole issue is, and defend to your death the right of the cartoon producers to publish whatever they choose, no matter how foul?

If not, you are already a slave.
And it will get worse.........
Too soon.

19 September 2006

In My Little Town

Living in a small town is a good/bad thing.
It's good that everyone knows you and knows your business.
It's bad that everyone knows you and knows your business.

Something about the front suspension on my old, (202,000 miles), car has been rattling, and I can feel a vibration in the steering. I took it to have it fixed. Paul called late in the afternoon to say repairs were complete. (It was a bad sway bar.) I wrote him a check, grabbed the keys, started the car and drove off the lot.
At the stop, the brake pedal went all the way to the floor.
WHOA, Betsy!
Immediate return to Paul's shop....... "Man, Paul, I really need this car tomorrow!"
"What time do you need it?"

This conversation is taking place at 4:45 P.M., when Paul closes at 5:30.
When I called this morning at 8:15...... "It's done, come get it."
Knowing my urgency, he had the line brought over last night and installed it, then put new brake fluid in and bled the brakes first thing this morning.
I'll be on my way to Big Town to teach students in 30 minutes.

Thanks Paul, and thank God for small town life!

17 September 2006

NASA Question

Partly, this is a test.
I once published a post about what it must have been like for the Challenger Astronauts to know they were gonna die as they fell to the ocean's surface after the explosion. An almost immediate commenter was a NASA employee.
So NASA is keeping an ear out, paying attention to blogs...... good for them!

It seems to me that some time back, one of the shuttles came home with a cracked windshield. Upon investigation, they found that the shuttle had collided, at 17,000 miles per hour, with a paint chip.

Makes sense to me....... traveling at almost 5 miles per second, hit something with even the slightest mass, and it's gonna hurt.

The shuttle detached itself yesterday from the International Space Station after delivering supplies and doing some extra-vehicular activity, (work on the ISS). Apparently, while doing the work, Bolts/Nuts/Washers escaped the grasp of the Astronauts and floated off on their own to encounter life somewhere in the reaches of outer space. They obviously weigh more than a chip of paint.
If any space vehicle should encounter one of those things later, it could go through the craft faster than a knife through room-temperature butter.

Space is a big place, thank God. But how long can we go on allowing stuff like this to happen?
What steps are we taking to protect the Shuttle and other Spacecraft from this potential disaster?

I know it's unintentional. I know it's hard to work in that environment, and humans make mistakes. But the potential for catastrophe gets greater and greater with each piece of debris that gets away. At some point, I can foresee trash making Space a prohibitively dangerous place to explore.

14 September 2006


Several of those on my blogroll will look at the title of this post and think I'm gonna address the reservoir for storage of fuel to be used by an aircraft.
Not Ole Prairie Dog.
Having attended Officer's Candidate School with me, I bet he immediately formed a different picture.

This one!

Few readers know that when I finished OCS, I was awarded the Military MOS (Job Speciality Classification) of 1203: Small Unit Tank Commander.
OPD and I were trained to Command five of these 52- ton monsters, but started Flight School immediately upon completion of OCS, so we never got to do that job. Nevertheless, I have had a fascination with these behemoths since my training in them.

Basically, the machine is a HUGE rifle, capable of moving at 40 or so miles per hour. The armor protects the crew from anything smaller than an anti-tank weapon, so this big rifle sort of carries its' own foxhole with it wherever it goes. I'm no expert on the Abrams, (the Army's new main battle tank), but the M60 we trained on was armed with a 105 millimeter gun, a coaxially (slaved to the main gun) mounted 30 calibre machine gun, and a 50 calibre machine gun on the Commanders Cupola. It was a fearsome weapon, but the Abrams would make a snack of the M60...... the Abrams' systems are improved in too many ways to think about listing here.

But I want to tell you a story to give you a feel for tanks in general.
As Officer Candidates, we were at the firing range at Ft. Knox, Ky. to learn how to use the main gun. The targets at this range were bedsheets with Bullseyes painted on them, stapled to 4X4 fenceposts, one mile downrange. 18 tanks were in line abreast on the firing line.

The range Safety Officer was a Second Lieutenant. His briefing informed us how the exercise was to proceed and how we could avoid hurting ourselves while learning what we were supposed to learn. At the end of his briefing he added this warning:
"Gentlemen, whatever you do, DO NOT SHOOT THE TARGETS DOWN!
If you shoot the targets down, those firing behind you will have no targets to practice on."
We were then divided into groups of three Candidates per tank, to perform as Gunner and Loader under the supervision of a senior NCO tank Commander.

When we arrived at the tank, the NCO supervisor told us which Candidate would perform what job first. I was to first act as Gunner........ sighting and firing the gun. The NCO would be in the Commander's cupola performing that job. And then he surprised us all with this announcement:
"Forget what that Lieutenant said about the targets! We are gonna shoot our target down, and then we'll look around the range to see if any targets are still standing and shoot those targets down. If we don't shoot our target down, another tank will!"

The M60 tank had a target range-finding mechanism on it similar to that on old 35mm cameras. Looking through the sight you would see two separate images. By adjusting the sight so that the images were combined into one, you could then read the distance to the target and adjust the trajectory of the gun. Before the range was opened, the NCO instructed me to range in on the left 4X4 post just above ground level and read the range, which he entered into the firing computer. He advised me that when the order was given to commence firing, I was to fire the gun at that left post. That shot completed, he would traverse the turret to our target's right post, I would aim the gun at the same point there, and that post will disappear. Then we would scan the other 17 targets to see if any were left standing.

Over the Public Address system we heard the Range Safety Officer, (the Lieutenant), ask,
"Ready on the Left? The Left is ready, Ready on the Right? The firing line is ready. Commence firing!"

18 Big rifles erupted.
And what power! 104,000 pounds of tank rocked back about a foot in response to the round leaving the muzzle. Inside the turret, the explosion compresses your chest and nearly takes the air from your lungs. The turret fills with smoke and the smell of cordite. The first-time experience is slightly disorienting.

Through the sight I see our left post is down, the sheet now held up by the right post only. In a second, the NCO has traversed the turret to our right post, I have joined the two images and read the range, he has entered it into the computer. The Loader shouts "Up!" indicating the next round is loaded, the NCO Commands "Fire!". As the Gunner, I respond "On the way!" and pull the trigger........ another huge explosion and again the tank rocks back on it's tracks.

We survey the target line.
All 18 targets are gone.
Shooting down the 18 targets took much less time than it took you to read this description.
36 rounds fired at 4 inch posts a mile away, and NOT ONE missed it's mark.

Consider this:
A 105mm shell is about 4 inches in diameter.
If you see an Abrams tank 2 miles away, he could, if he wanted, put that 4 inch shell EXACTLY through the center of your chest cavity.

Our enemies know they can't face such weapons.
That's why they kill women and children with airplanes.

Governor Richards

Dead at 73 of esophageal cancer.
Too soon. (Anyone know- was she a smoker?)

Politics today are too often a shouting match.
Nasty, and bitter-
"Don't confuse me with the facts, I already have my mind made up!"

Ann Richards was definitely a politician,
BUT she wasn't nasty. It was obvious she was striving for the good of the many.
Her "George Bush can't help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth" comment made us all laugh. Good natured political fun.
Those running for office today should study her methods.

We're all worse for her leaving us.

11 September 2006

11 September

Should I do this?
Write about how events of 5 years ago impacted me?
Like Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination, everyone will remember that day.
Can I put my thoughts to words without emotion getting in the way?
Probably not. And maybe that's a good thing.

Leaving work at 6:30 A.M., I was tired. My night shift had been quiet- no flights. But although I can sleep at work when the routine tasks are completed, I always have one eye open. Sleep at work is fitful at best.
Before I could get horizontal in my own bed, I had a task to complete. Big Bubba had been mowing a neighbors lawn, and the mower had shut down on him. He's no mechanic, so he couldn't tell me what was wrong with the mower. I had to find a way to make it run in order to bring it home to tinker with it.

Listening to NPR on the way home, the first fuzzy reports came in:
A twin engine airplane had hit the World Trade Center.

My thoughts immediately were of the B-25 hitting the Empire State Building during WWII, and that some guy in a Beech Baron had gotten off course in bad weather and had impacted the WTC.
Tragic, but not unimaginable.

At home, car radio left on for further information, I loaded tool kit and jumper cables.
Under the seat of the mower is a safety cut-out that shuts down the whole shebang if the rider gets dismounted. That switch had failed.
I defeated it by jumping across it with a wire, started the mower, and drove it home.

Fox News on the TV at home, I walked in just in time to see the second airplane collide with the second tower.
My knees buckled.
That was no Beech Baron.
We are at war.

I called Sara Jean. "Are you watching the news?"
"Turn on the news."

She now says she wishes I had left her blissfully ignorant until she had finished her work.

Big Bubba was a High School Senior at a Private School. I called.
The secretary answered and said all the kids were in one room watching unfolding events.
"Would you like to talk to him?"
"Yes, please."

"Are you okay?"
"Yes Dad. What do you think?"
"I think we are at war."

No sleep for the rest of the day, yet back to an all-nighter at work again that night.
Initially all air traffic was grounded. Soon, the powers that be realized that unless Public Service and EMS operations continued, lotsa folks would die. We were notified we would be allowed to fly, but had to be in touch with ATC at all times.
Ridiculous. We fly low enough most of the time that ATC cannot receive us, nor us them.
A moot point anyway, because the phone didn't ring. That was a good thing too, because if someone had called, I would have turned the flight down. I was in no shape to fly safely.
Pre 9/11, I had walked out on the helipad at work and counted 8 anti-collision lights from horizon to horizon........ big airplanes up high and small airplanes droning so I could hear their recip. engines down low. How odd and sad to walk out on a clear night and see nothing but stars.
But wait! Landing lights down South, headed Northbound. They pass close enough for me to tell it is a C-130 on landing approach to the Air Force Base just North of us.
That fact is simultaneously comforting and saddening.

The U.S.A. is "King of The Hill".
When there were two superpowers, we were the lesser of two evils, and we had allies that had a common foe. Our Allies were glad we were in their corner.

Now we have no common enemy, and our Allies fear us.
They want to deny they are at risk here.
Terrorism? Aimed at us?
Absolutely not! No one wants to hurt us! You, (the U.S.), are the problem.
You guys are stirring the hornets nest. Stop it!"

Close friends talk about reaching "consensus with our Allies", yet admit the U.N. is a failure and have no good answer about where we go to talk and reach consensus.

And history? What's that?
Over a ten year period, there were 17 U.N. resolutions to Saddam Hussein that were ignored, with no "consensus" response. Our Allies watch, unable to control events, knowing they are safe so long as the "King of the Hill" is the big target.

So, what happens when the King is dead?
Who is next?

It's my hope that the world as a whole gets the wake-up call before it is too late.

09 September 2006

Wheat from Chaff

Crap is crap, and should be labelled as such.

I can remember being frustrated at Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911", knowing much of it was fabrication and knowing the (shrewd) release came at a time where it would have a negative affect on the Presidential election. It was also released at a time close enough to the election so an effective response could not be mounted.

Revelation about the GWB drunk driving charge was even worse, and the "Rathergate" fiasco was of the same cloth.
Nasty politics...... dirty tricks.
Thank God, much of this was vomit in the windstream, and blew back into the perpetrators faces.

Now comes ABC's "The Path to 9/11",
and what is good for the Goose is good for the Gander.
The phrase, "Based on a true story", or "Inspired by true events" means what you are seeing is FICTION. I have never understood why creative people do that...... why come out with an important work that will mislead people, even in the smallest way, when all it would take to make it a factual story is to make slight changes and take just a little longer to show what actually happened?
Propaganda does not have to be lies.

President Bush knew the truth would come out about Fahrenheit 911, and gracefully allowed Michael Moore to assume the position of honor next to President Carter at the Democratic National Convention without a word of criticism.

President Clinton is handling the situation differently.
Desperately trying to overcome being impeached and disbarred for depriving Citizens of their civil rights, he is now publically criticizing ABC for airing a work of fiction. He is within his rights.......
I thought President Bush should have done the same thing when Michael Moore's work of fiction hit the theatres.

Now you can judge this issue on it's merits.
THIRDWAVEDAVE has a post about an on-line interview that
Andrea Shea-King and Mark Vance will conduct next week.
LTC Buzz Patterson was an aide to President Clinton during this time-frame, and would certainly be in a position to know what is FACT about this story.
Go and read TWD's post. Then, if you have an interest in the events leading up to 9/11, tune in to the show, listen, and form your own opinion.

I hope it will help to separate truth from fabrication.
In November we need to walk into the Polls fully armed with the FACTS of this issue. (Maybe Col. Patterson knows what Sandy Berger was stuffing into his socks?)

Update: Ya absolutely gotta see this!

06 September 2006

The Minnie Pearl Memorial

I like 'em and wear 'em a lot.
I prefer Black...... they accentuate my "svelte" physique!
Nothing better for working in the yard during the summer.

During the Fall and nice weather days in Winter, I'll switch to sweatshirts, but my T's get a workout and get really holey before I throw them away.

Last fall my son bought me a nice black T-shirt from "Big Dogs". It has the Big Dog logo on the front, and "Get 'R' Done, (tomorrow)" on the back, with a drawing of the Big Dog lying in a hammock. A great T for yardwork!
Today when I took it out of my T-shirt drawer, I noticed it still had the store tag attached to it- I had not yet worn it.
I put it on, store tag hanging out front conspicuously, and with Sara Jean looking up from the sofa, waltzed down the stairs like Loretta Young....... the Grand Entrance.
When she commented on the tag, I suggested it was my tribute to Minnie Pearl..... (for those of you living in Vancouver, or too young to remember Cousin Minnie, she was a country comedienne, and always left the store tag very visibly on her hats when she was onstage doing her act. It was her signature.)

Sara Jean got the joke and was mildly amused at my lameness.

Then I said, "Well, I'm goin' to Wal-Mart. Think I should leave the tag on when I go?"

She cackled,
"Yeah, do that. They'll arrest you for stealing the shirt!"

Her funny was funnier than mine.

04 September 2006

Cirrus SR22

I'm a political and News junkie.
I leave Fox News ("Faux News" to some of my cousins who come here and read), on my TV while I putter around the house.

In the kerfuffle following the crash of Comair 5191, I caught a glimpse of another, smaller aircraft that had crashed......
One dead, but three had survived the crash into a pond just a few miles from Eagle Creek Airport outside Indianapolis, my old homestead.

The announcer commented how it was obvious the pilot had attempted to eject, because there was a parachute floating in the water alongside the aircraft.
Wow! Isn't that spectacular?
The pilot attempted to eject, leaving his three passengers behind to fend for themselves as the aircraft crashed and sank in the pond!

And I don't mean "Faux News" baloney.
I mean "major news media getting the whole story wrong again" baloney.

Cirrus Aircraft company employs a built-in a ballistic parachute on their SR-22 model airplane.
If the aircraft fails or for any other reason becomes unsafe to fly, the parachute can be deployed and is capable of supporting the weight of the entire aircraft, floating the whole shootin' match gently to the ground. Under these circumstances the aircraft is gonna be damaged in some way in the landing, but the occupants are almost certain to survive the incident.

In this case, the Pilot became incapacitated due to a stroke, and he had briefed his family on how to deploy the 'chute should such a thing happen. His son knew exactly what to do, and did it. The pilot died, but there is conflicting information....... some of the latest reports are that he died due to the stroke.
The others got wet and are hurt, but will probably survive.

Again, News channels filling the air 24 hours a day need something to broadcast, and exciting news brings better ratings. A pilot ejecting from a General Aviation aircraft....... now there's excitement!

The Preliminary NTSB accident report is HERE

01 September 2006

You Think You've Got Problems?

Life wasn't fun anymore.
She was heavy....... built sorta like Roseanne Barr when she was at her heaviest. She had the beautiful coffee and cream complexion that comes with having one parent who is black, one who is white.
Unless the case makes the local news, we won't get details on our patient's life..... we only get the facts pertaining to what caused their injuries.
For whatever reason, after consuming an unknown quantity of alcohol, she decided the "permanent solution to a temporary problem" was the answer to her difficulties.

Her tool of choice was a .357 Magnum. It's a very powerful piece, more than capable of doing the job. She was serious.
She positioned the barrel beneath her chin, trigger away from her body, took a deep breath, and jerked the trigger downward.

The phone rang at 3 A.M. for us to launch on a "scene" flight.......
a 24 year old female with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Her vital signs were stable, but EMS personnel on the scene were having trouble establishing an airway.

Airborne, I saw a multitude of emergency flashing lights from 15 miles away, then landed between the pine trees in the lawn of a duplex....... probably a rental property. A fairly large crowd...... Neighbors, some in pajamas, had gathered to watch the activity. My crew went into the house knowing they needed to get a secure airway established quickly.

When they came out with the patient I was taken aback.
A big portion of the lower half of her face was gone.......
If you have seen an animal on the road that has been hit on part of it's body, so that the tissue on the part that is under the wheels explodes outward...... that's what her lower face looked like. Pulling the trigger on the revolver, she had redirected the barrel so that it blew off her chin, mouth, and nose in a pie-shaped, triangular wound. The flesh immediately alongside the wound was torn in shreds that looked kinda like the flaps over the mouth of the movie monster "Predator". The sides of her face and everything above the cheekbones looked normal. My crew had somehow navigated their way in this mass of torn flesh to find her windpipe and establish a safe airway for her.

Still under the influence and in a state of shock, she tried to talk to my crew. With no tongue, palate, teeth, or lips, the words she couldn't form were heartbreaking. Her eyes told the story-
Frantic. Confused. Pleading.

We got her safely to the trauma center. With the airway established, her injury was not life threatening. I think of her often when I hear about a suicide or attempted suicide.

I don't know what happened to her.
Her recovery would be a years-long affair, both physical and mental.
Rebuilding her face would take many, many surgeries, and would require the skills of a real artist.

And the mental part........
I constantly wonder. If she was so unhappy with her life that she wanted to end it before, what about now? Under the best of circumstances her face will attract the attention of the curious, making her feel like a freak.
If she was depressed before, how can she possibly make her way through life with a face so mutilated?

I know, I've said it before........
and if you continue reading here you'll hear it again and again:
Life comes with problems and problem solving.
Sometimes we are so self-centered, we begin to think our problems are insurmountable. In this job, I'm continually reminded how blessed I am, and how small my problems truly are.
I am grateful for that reminder, and glad to have a job where I may be a cog in helping someone resolve their problems.