4 out of 4 stars
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Thank goodness for people like Kurtis Bell, who are brave and selfless and willing to take on challenges that would break most people. There are many of those among us who choose to be first responders, medical personnel, or police, but the rest of us may have a hard time understanding the true impact of these jobs, both on society and on the responders themselves. In Aid From Above: Inside My Veiled World as a Flight Nurse, Bell gives readers a glimpse into the life of a CFRN.
Most people know that RN stands for registered nurse. Many do not know that CFRN is a certified flight registered nurse. To achieve this designation, candidates must first be an RN or paramedic, take extra training and pass rigorous tests. Bell’s path includes military medic, LVN, RN, and then CFRN.
All stories contained within this book are true incidents from Bell’s flight career with Native American Air Ambulance (NAAA) in Phoenix, Arizona. As might be expected, he recounts the gruesome details of ambulance calls in the clinical way any medical professional would. His calm demeanor on the job is reflected in technical and sometimes matter-of-fact language. “Rapid Sequence Induction, or RSI, is a fancy term for the process of giving the right drugs in the right order to put a patient to sleep and paralyzing them to make the intubation process much easier and effective.” It’s all routine to him, but ewww to the uninitiated.
Bell declares that the life of a flight nurse is not as glamorous as it may seem. This is evident from the amount of time the crew sits around watching TV or playing video games while waiting to be scrambled. For the most part, even the calls are routine. The crew goes through the same protocol for every patient to ensure a safe pick up with the best care during transport. The intensity comes from the human stories of people in trouble and how fate can sometimes play into the outcome. “Well, that’s a save,” is Bell’s standard line after delivering a patient to the nearest ER alive. Even when the patients don’t make it, the crew takes some solace in knowing they did everything possible to ease pain and provide reassurance. However, most of the time, the crew doesn’t know the outcome of any case. “We rarely, if ever, get to know any aftermath of the patients we transport. It’s just part of the job.”
The chapters are not presented chronologically. Interspersed with the flight calls, there are portions dedicated to company founder Rick Heape and how he started NAAA, how the medical transport business works, and to the specifications of the helicopter they normally fly, affectionately called “Little Girl.” Real name N206AZ. All in all, ten of Bell’s colleagues have passed on, and he reflects on the lives of several of these people. These interludes are slower paced, but they give the reader a welcome break from the emotion and trauma of the missions.
Much of the humor in this book is “you had to be there” type stuff. Silly nicknames, voice imitations, nonsense words, out-of-character practical jokes and juvenile plays on the word “nurse” don’t translate as funny in print as in person. The exception is medic Bob’s story about the first time he tried Viagra. That one does qualify as comical. The author readily admits that he can be inappropriate. When another male flight nurse gets married and divorced, then married and divorced, and finally marries a “drop-dead-gorgeous, highly motivated, extremely intelligent girl a few years his junior,” Bell praises him for “trading up.” It’s the one time I was disappointed in his attitude.
The editing is professional, although I did notice repetition at some points. It was as if the author forgot he already explained certain facts, or he thinks that the readers have forgotten these facts. Twice we’re told that epinephrine is also known as adrenaline. Twice that the Jetstream aircraft was originally made to transport British military personnel. Nine times how this job involves personal and uncensored things.
Overall, I rate Aid From Above four out of four stars. It’s realistic and insightful, full of emotion hidden behind the veil of professionalism. Anyone interested in the medical field would enjoy this book as would those who like drama-filled true stories. For those who are squeamish or are easily upset, it may not be as much fun. I hope I never have the need for an air ambulance, but if I do, I want Bell along for the ride.
Aid from Above
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