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Always Ready; Responding to an Emergency at Sea

Always Ready; Responding to an Emergency at Sea


I’m surrounded by the lush jungle of Okinawa on a muggy day,

The warm glow of the sun on my face brings me to life.

The alarm screeches overhead jarring me out of my reverie.

“Attention in the medical bay. This is not a drill.”

An airplane is in the water. Casualties inbound,

The medical bay of the aircraft carrier is abuzz with anticipation.

Drill after drill--for this.

Years of study and experience come down to this one moment.

Medical school;

Field trauma training;


Aviation medicine;

Are you ready? Is your team ready? Could you have done more?

We are prepared. We are ready!

Eyes are on you, “Sir, what do we do?”

What do we know? What happened? Who’s involved? Where are they?

Details are scarce.

Take a breath…think…remember your training.


Airway, breathing, circulation, disability, environment;

The mantra marches to the forefront of my thoughts like an eager Marine.

Assign roles, prepare the equipment,

New information, the two pilots are my friends.

Only one is recovered. Push the sorrow to the rear. Three minutes out.

We are ready.

The whirling rotors are deafening as we unload the patient,

We move by instinct thanks to constant drilling,

Next thing I know we are in Trauma One.

He has one question, “The crew, are they safe?”

Airway is clear, he is breathing and ventilating. Brain is perfused.

Primary survey; distal femur and posterior hip are shattered,

Our team of nurses, corpsmen, and doctors take to their assigned roles,

We splint the femur and bind the hip.

Medical management with morphine, normal saline, and antibiotics.

A job well done; he is going to be okay.

We medevac him via helicopter to Roll 3 ashore,

His parting words. “Any updates on the crew?”

I tell him answers will come, but I know in my heart the truth.

He is in the water…Our brother is dead.

How do you prepare for that?

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