I spent a day with a helicopter team from the local trauma center as a flight observer several days ago. Here are a few photographs.

This was taken at a hospital we flew to in order to pick up a patient to be transferred to our home base. We’ve just arrived and are heading in to get the patient ready for the flight. The pilot is working out weight, balance, and fuel calculations pertaining to our return flight.

The aircraft is a Eurocopter 135.

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This is a view into the back of the helicopter. In this view you can see two of the three seats as well as the head of the stretcher. The third seat, the so-called airway seat, is rear-facing at the head of the stretcher, on the other side of the aircraft. The person sitting in the airway seat is responsible for maintaining the patient’s airway; ground ambulances have a seat in the same place in relation to the patient’s head.

The orange bag, the jump bag, is sitting on the head of the stretcher. This bag is full of all kinds of advanced life support gear and medications and is taken by the medical crew to the patient on arrival. In flight with a patient, the bag is on the floor between the flight-nurse seat, forward-facing on the left, and the observer seat, rear-facing on the right with the pen on the seat. There is very little room when the back is full.

The white box on the stretcher to the left of the jump bag is a portable monitor which performs EKG monitoring as well as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and end-tidal carbon dioxide measurement. The monitor, jump bag, and oxygen cylinder (not visible) are strapped to the stretcher in preparation to be taken into a hospital in the case of a transfer. On the way to a transfer or scene call, the paramedic and flight nurse will prepare interventions and medications from the jump bag in anticipation of immediate care for the patient after arrival.

The two green nylon bags hanging in the doorway contain body substance isolation gear; non-latex gloves and masks.

On the rear bulkhead is a defibrillator. The overhead contains radio and intercom gear and oxygen gauges. Oxygen ports are available on each doorway.

I observed quite a few interesting things from the vantage point of the observer seat. Poised ten inches from the patient’s head, it is difficult to miss the details of the various procedures. During my four hours of flight time, I saw an accident victim get intubated and ‘bagged’ (ventilated using a bag-valve mask), I saw a nasogastric tube installed and used, I saw a nasopharyngial airway removed, I saw suction used.

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Here we are leaving the trauma center on the way to the scene of a traffic accident. The flight nurse watches the hospital parking lot fall away.

The tubes on the door post contain thoracic catheters. The container with the blue lid hanging in the window is the suction reservoir; secretions and fluids removed from the patient end up right next to the flight nurses’s head. Yum.

The headset hanging at the rear of the back window is for the use of conscious patients. The patient can be switched in or out of the medic intercom, or the medics can set it so that they can hear the patient but the patient can not hear them.

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