I interrupt the regularly scheduled “Back in Saipan” series for another transport story. Basically, I plan to sum up my last 5 days. In sum, I was either in an airport or riding an airplane! Joy! (Actually, it truly is a joy.. stay tuned for more).
If you want to know the basics of what it means for me to do a patient transport, see this very informative post. There are so many things to prepare for and so many contingencies to be aware of. While this is part of what I enjoy about transports (thinking on your feet, etc) it can make for a stressful many hours of your life.
Earlier this week, we finally settled that a baby who needed to be transported off island was going to go to the mainland for a needed surgical procedure. The schedule was worked out for me to travel with the baby with a team including a nurse and respiratory therapist. This trip was a little bit less stressful because the infant did not require extra oxygen or me (or someone) constantly breathing for them. This means we can take our hands off the baby for a number of minutes at a time!
Here’s the play-by-play!
The time came and .. even more than most plane rides .. getting to the airport early is important. Besides getting in early to check-in, checking in with a baby who is traveling with a slightly unconventional form of ID (birth certificate) and traveling with an extra number of bags with lots of stuff which may be considered not-so-TSA-friendly all lead to a long process.
I had prepared the medications in advance and briefed my team on how things would go and what contingencies I had planned for. We carefully bundled the baby in its carseat (we do not have incubators to carry the babies in.. they just have to go in a carseat and we have to bundle them well) and some members of his family said their goodbyes and whispered their best wishes.
The first step is to go from the carseat from the hospital area onto a stretcher — and with each step you need to make sure the patient is secure and all of the medicines or lines or tubes that are attached are safely secured as well! Here we are pushing our way out with the emergency medical crew to our local Saipan ambulance.
Out the door to the ambulance. Of course, since flights into and out of Saipan seemingly can never leave at normal people times.. it is in the middle of the night right now.
Then, it comes the fun part. Check-in.. dum dum dummm! Usually we sit in a corner with the patient and the one family member who is allowed to travel with the patient while one of us takes all of our documents to the counter. We wait while they process our paperwork — which always seems to take much longer than a normal person. Finally, we usually get escorted by the airport police past the security line to the front of the line. Of course, by this point everyone is staring at you. I don’t know why that bothers me so much because I know that if I was the one watching even though I know what’s happening.. I would stare too!
Security is a WHOLE new beast. And you thought taking off your shoes was annoying. Usually one of us goes through to the other side directly with the patient while the others go through the normal screening process. That someone is generally me. I subsequently get a full body pat-down and usually have multiple swipes of the ?drug-detector machine on my hands and body. The patient has a whole other level of security. Usually they cannot safely be removed from the carseat at that time so the TSA representatives have to gingerly look through every part of the car seat as well as do as much as they can do pat-down the patient. It is for the safety of everyone, but sometimes I wonder how effective the pat-down of a baby in a carseat with multiple lines and tubes on them is. Regardless, we get screened.
In the meantime, another team member is usually going through the long process of explaining all of the medications (a ton of liquids obviously not in zip-lock bags and not less than 2 oz or whatever the limit is) and getting those thoroughly checked. You can imagine this takes a bit of time.
And then, we finally get through to the gate area. By this time, we are already tired and we have already sucked some life out of our batteries so we take the time (if we have any) to recharge.
And then…….. after all that and as you wait patiently for your flight, you find out your flight is cancelled.
This means not only is your flight cancelled, but you will not make any of your connecting flights! The frantic phone calls begin to get your flight plan rescheduled, to inform the receiving doctors at the other institution, to call back to the hospital to re-prepare the patient’s bed, to try to get the ambulance to come back to get you… Haha, good thing for cell phones I say.
You do the whole process in reverse and tuck the patient into their hospital location again. You re-write for all the medications which will likely be expired by the time you leave again and hope that the critical patient you are traveling with is able to travel as soon as possible.
At this time, I went home and literally laid down and fell asleep so fast that I don’t remember falling asleep! (When I woke up the next morning, I didn’t think my tiredness boded well for my repeat trip of 24+ hr plans).
More to come on the successful second half of this story soon! Stay tuned!