Southwest Memorial Hospital’s Classic Air Medical Helicopter made an appearance on the Mancos School District’s practice field Thursday, as students from various classrooms surrounded the field to watch it descend.
As it landed, the copter created a wind vortex, blowing a gale toward everyone and everything that was close enough to it as its diesel exhaust briefly filled the immediate area.
Soon after, most students went back to class, but about 30 high school students on a health care pathway high surrounded the Classic Air Bell 407 GX crew to view the copter, equipment and listen to the crew members talk about what life is like up (or down) in the air. Some of the students were also from a drone class.
Two of the students said they wanted to do something related to this profession. One said she thinks she wants to be in the medical field and another said he wants to be a pilot, but mostly he wants to work on big planes.
The crew also brought swag for the interested students – red T-shirts, calendars, lip balm, stickers and pens.
Jacklynn Romine, the flight paramedic, said the Classic Air copter is stationed at Southwest Memorial Hospital’s landing pad, unless it’s in use.
The crew said they’re constantly busy responding to calls and teaching the public first aid and CPR in a region that includes Utah, Arizona, and La Plata and Montezuma counties.
The students also wanted to know about the training they receive.
The crew’s pilot, Kyle Davis, captivated the young audience with what his job entails.
“Last night we had to fly to Montezuma, Utah, for a gunshot wound in the abdomen,” he said. “She had to be flown to Farmington.”
He also explained to the students that since this area is so remote, there’s not enough light to see in the night sky. To counter that they wear night vision goggles. He said the idea of wearing them is cool but after many hours of wearing them, the added 8 pounds around their heads gets heavy.
Davis, who’s flown for about 20 years, two of them for Southwest Memorial Hospital, said he doesn’t have any medical training.
“This might sound cruel, but my job is to not care about the patient. If I start to care about what’s wrong with them, I would put too much pressure on myself,” he said. “My only job is to get these guys from point A to point B.”
He then asked if anyone wanted to get on the tiny stretcher that’s located behind the pilot seat to show how uncomfortable it is inside. A male student, who once was a patient in a medical helicopter, volunteered to get in.
“Thing is, you don’t want to be in my helicopter,” Davis said. “Trust me, it’s not fun.”
Before working as an EMS helicopter pilot, Davis gave tours in Las Vegas for seven years after he closed his flight school, Suncrest Aviation, in Grand Junction.
“I was flying famous people – from Kermit the Frog to Tommy Lee Jones,” he said.
Eric Thomas and Seth Wayman were the other crew members who spoke with the students.
Thomas, the flight nurse, informed everyone that the shift routine was four days on and four days off. He said in total that’s only eight days of actively working a month.
“It’s nerve-wracking at times, but the hours are a plus,” he said. “It takes a certain breed (to do this job). We’re there with limited resources, and we have to fix problems.”
Seth Wayman, the flight medic, said that each crew member brings specific skills. The flight medic has more experience being in the back of an ambulance and knows more about ventilation management and intubations, while the flight nurse has more experience working in clinical settings and administering medications.
Within a half-hour the students ran out of questions and the educators asked a few more including, “How do they know which hospital to fly to?”
The crew said that it’s based on the hospital’s specialty and the weather.
Soon after, the presentation ended and the crew packed up.