Touchdown. Phew. Thank goodness for that.
As the rest of the passengers vacated the plane and went through in my head how to reassemble the collapsible stretcher that I would use to carry him off the plane. My patient had limited mobility and would not be able to help much in the transfer. I would have to reassemble the stretcher around him. As the final passengers left the plane I prepared the stretcher. Putting the left side down on the bed underneath his back, underneath the bedsheets as I had been instructed. I then asked him to roll towards me on the other side, which he was able to do, whilst I placed the other part of the stretcher underneath his other side. Hmm, there’s supposed to be a clicking sound as the pieces snap together. Why isn’t there a clicking sound?
I felt for the location of two pieces underneath the patient, Oh they are slightly misaligned. A slight shove upwards of the right side piece and CLICK it went into place. Okay just need to put together the head and feet components, then strap the patient in. By this time four burly porters had made their way to our seats, ready to help carry our patient off the plane. I gathered my medication bag and other equipment and we walked down the aisle to the back of the plane.
As my new ambulance friend had told me, there was an elevated catering truck waiting for us at the back of the plane. We entered the back of the truck and then the tray was lowered to ground level, and we drove off to the airport building. Through local contacts I had arranged for our patient to be admitted to the Island Hospital. Waiting near the airport was the pre-booked ambulance. We had to carry the stretcher the short distance between the two vehicle rears. It was 28 degrees Celsius, it was raining gently and the sun was shining, welcome to the Island indeed. We carried the stretcher onto the ambulance stretcher, and I had to disassemble the collapsible stretcher, reversing the previous procedure. A few minutes later and my patient was safely strapped into the ambulance’s own stretcher. I handed over the medication bag to the nurse who was in the back of the ambulance as well as the medication chart that I had recorded the doses that I had given him during the transfer.
I had many doubts about my patient ever being able to get back home over the past weeks, days and even within the past hours, but he had made it. He had made it back home. Wow. We smiled at each other as I made my way towards him for the final time. We shook each other’s hands firmly and looked each other in the eye.
Thank you so much, for looking after me.
You’re welcome man, I’m so happy that you have made it home. I want you to enjoy your time with your family.
I will. God Bless You Brother.
God Bless You too, I wish you all the best. Goodbye Brother.
We waved at each other as I left the ambulance, heading into the wet sunshine.
Hey, that feels good, warm rain, now where’s the departure gate?
I raced into the airport carrying the collapsible stretcher. I rushed through customs and security as I had to catch the same plane back to New Zealand. It was hard to believe that I had only been on the Island for 30 minutes, and it was now time to leave.
Final call, final call, I heard as I ran to the departure gate.
I was the last passenger on the plane, and I was glad to find my assigned seat, which I was directed to by exactly the same flight crew.
Mission accomplished! I allowed the adrenaline and cortisol that had kept me going to peter out. Mere minutes after takeoff and I had dozed off in an exhausted heap.
After we had reached cruising altitude I was awakened by a tap on my shoulder. It was one of the flight attendants, and she asked me to grab my bag and follow her to the front of the plane.
They had kindly upgraded me to Business Class for the rest of the flight.
Island-Man: Homecoming Part 2