**Warning – Long Post**
Several months ago, I was talking with one of my co-workers at AirMed, Jared, about joining up with him to help present a class AMTC. This is a confernece for Air Medical Transport teams throughout the U.S. and it was being held in San Jose, CA. Oct. 25th to Oct. 28th. He was initially going to be presenting with Zach, but since Zach decided to leave AirMed, it opened a speaker slot and I was fortunate to be able to attend the conference.
The week was busy. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and made our way to the hotel. Jared ran into some people he knew from other AMTC’s he’d been to before and they invited us to a dinner that was for other flight dispatchers. There were maybe 100 or so people that showed up and we were able to meet other dispatchers from across the U.S. It was good to network and get to know others that do the same job and discuss their issues.
On Monday we made our way through the exhibit hall. There were hundreds of exhibitors and we were able get some really good ideas to bring back to AirMed. There were 7 helicopters that were on the exhibit floor from flight programs across the U.S. Everyone was handing out free pens, pins, shirts, water bottles, stickers, etc. I brought home a lot of stuff for the kids to play with. We attended classes and learned a lot of things from the presenters. In fact, we attended a class that was presented by Rick Howard. I worked with Howie at Sandy Fire until he left and took a BC job at Lehi Fire. I have kept in touch with him and it was good to see him again. He did a great job presenting his class. Later that night we went to an awards banquet for all of the conference attendees where they hand out awards for Program of the Year, Nurse of the Year, Medic of the Year, etc. Our medical director Dr. Swanson was presented with an award: Physician of the Year Award. It was quite an honor to him and AirMed.
Tuesday we were scheduled to present at 1:30pm. I should back up and say that we started preparing ideas several months prior to this week. We spent quite a bit of time preparing our power point presentation and continued fine tuning it right up to the hour before we were to present it. We spoke about distractions in the flight center and communications problems. Overall we felt we did alright, but in hindsight it could have been put together a little better. After attending several other presentations though, I felt pretty good about our presentation. This was my first time preparing and presenting a class at this level. There a couple thousand people that attended the conference and while we were presenting there were 8 other lectures going on at the same time. The other classes going on at the same time had far more interesting titles and content, but I was grateful to see we had more people attend our class than several other classes that were going on during the week. Although I didn’t count exactly how many people attended our class, I estimated that we had about 40 or so people show up. I was glad to see our fellow AirMed folks in our class to support us. We had about 18 of us from AirMed come to the conference, quite a bit more than any other flight program. During our presentation I became nervous for a brief time and stumbled over my words, but somehow I was able to pull it together and continue on. Jared did a great job and held it together really well. Later that night we went to a dinner/reception hosted by Air Methods. They are the company that AirMed contracts with for our pilots, mechanics, aircraft, hangar, etc. Again, we met more people from around the country and stuffed our faces with a lot of food.
Wednesday brought more classes and especially an emotional one for me personally. John Cooper, Casey Thompson, and TaLyse Francisconi presented a case study that I had been involved in. They recreated the airplane crash that happened to one of our medics at AirMed . Craig Weaver is a flight medic for AirMed and also a private pilot. He and 2 of his friends, were on their way to Colorado Springs in his Cessna 172 when they crashed in the Uinta Mountains last November. The 3 of them are good friends and all work at SLCFD. Craig, Bryan Miner and Dylan Hopkins were all critically injured in the crash. Dylan passed away at the hospital after our flight teams had found them and transported him, Weaver, and Bryan back to University of Utah Hospital. Weaver and Bryan have since fully recovered from their injuries and are doing well. I was working at AirMed the day they crashed. Weaver called directly to our flight center and I happened to answer the call. The line was broken and his signal was weak. After several seconds of listening to the broken line, I could tell it was Weaver but something was wrong. I could barely hear what he was saying. Several more seconds passed before I heard him say that he crashed. Hearing the actual dispatch tapes that they had in their presentation was very emotional to me. I had never heard them up until this time. A flood of memories came rushing back and it was as if I was reliving that day all over again at that moment in that conference room in San Jose. I admit that my eyes became watery, while hearing the recording of that desperate voice that was out in the wilderness somewhere hoping that I could help them somehow. I felt embarrassed and I ducked my head in hopes hiding my brief emotional spell. That day, about a year ago, I did my very best in trying help find 3 stranded guys that were in a cold mountain meadow. I wished I could have been out there flying around looking for them. I remember feeling so helpless just sitting there waiting for them to call back as their weak cell phone signal died. Fortunately they did call back, several times, and each time we were able to get a little more information as to exactly where they were. Our flight teams performed miracles that day. I have said before that all the planets lined up perfectly so our teams could find and rescue those guys. As much credit as the teams deserve for what they did, the most credit goes to Weaver, Bryan, and Dylan for the will to live and not give up hope of being found and rescued. I had no intention to relive the memories of the day that they crashed, but I have never really talked about it in any depth before. John, TaLyse, and Casey did a great job presenting and deserved the standing ovation from the packed room of attendee’s.
Later that night there was a big reception/party called M*A*S*H Bash. Since our business is fashioned after the M*A*S*H teams of helicopters picking up patient’s and transporting them to field hospitals during the Korean War, it was pretty fitting and it was a good time. Some people partied way into the early morning hours and really let their hair down, but everyone a great time.
It was a long week, but I enjoyed my time at the conference. I missed my family and it was sooooo good to see them when the picked me up at the airport on Thursday. Although I was able to talk to them during the week by cell phone, it was great to be home and hug each of them over and over and over again.
Thursday night we carved pumpkins, just in time for Halloween, and catching up on what everyone had done during the week. I am truly blessed for having such a supportive and understanding wife. And all 3 of my kids make me smile and laugh. I can’t imagine life any different:)