‘We've got quite a crosswind this morning. Those of you familiar with this airport will know, the runway is on stilts.’
A cliff edge had clearly gotten in the way of this island's runway construction, but undaunted they persevered, allowing the tarmac to continue outwards, defiant and held up by stilts; mountain to one side, ocean to the other.
The pilot tells us that the maximum wind speed rules are absolute, but that we might just have a window to attempt an approach in ten minutes’ time.
The man beside me gulps, says 'Oh, Jesus' and then answers me yes, he has landed at this airport many times. His wife reassures him. ‘Look love, these guys are the experts, they know what they're doing.’
Passively, I allow myself to be convinced by this, because 20,000 feet up into the air, what choice do I have?
So I stop thinking about the man beside me who has done this many times and is still frightened. I tell myself the pilot is an expert and I am soothed by the fact that the tone of his voice has remained confident and calm. I am soothed by his accent, because I convince myself that I can understand his intimation.
The patient in front of me is a few years past seventy and has had out of hospital ventricular fibrillation and a cardiac arrest, followed by another short arrest in hospital and then another. I had him packaged up, ready to take to the catheter lab when his family arrived.
I recount the situation and tell his son and wife that I am going to move him shortly; back through A&E, down two long corridors, up in a lift and around another corner. I recognise that this may be the last time that they see their loved one alive and so I add that I need to be honest; he has had two further cardiac arrests since arriving here and while we think this procedure is the best chance he has.
'... I have to warn you that his heart might stop again either on the way or during the procedure'
'So he isn't stable?'
'No, he is as stable as I can make him currently, but that's still very unstable by any standard.’
'But will you stay with him?'
'Yes,' I reply. 'I won't leave him.'
The wife looks at her husband and the son says: ‘They know what they're doing Mum, it's their job.’
I take the breaks off the trolley and push it forwards out of the cubicle, then look back at the family, sitting on two grey plastic chairs and what now is now a large empty space beside them.
I wonder if they trust me, if they really think I know what I am doing.
Did they unconsciously try to measure competence from my face or the way that I spoke? Did they clutch at straws?
I continue to push the trolley and wonder if the realistic answer is that having already left the comfort of the ground behind, they just had no choice.
By the Secret Doctor
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