Without a doubt the most rewarding thing about volunteering with GOW is definitely all the people we get to meet along our intersecting paths and to be able to truly make a difference in their lives and in addition to, I find it equally interesting with all the different places we get to go to get to those intersections.
The latest GOW mission had Nellie and the crew flying our brother in Christ, Leo (“Paul”) from Effingham, IL to his home in the capital city of Nebraska. Incidentally, that was my first trip to the Corn Husker state too.
Paul, 65, retired from his vocation as a meat cutter after several decades in one of the processing/packing plants in Lincoln, and his wife of 40 years, Karen, retired from the Sprint Corporation also in Lincoln. They both are long time members of Cavalry Lutheran Church in Lincoln.
In anticipation of their retirement, a few years ago Paul purchased a fifth wheel trailer in order to be able to travel to “see the country” and also visit their two sons and their families who now live in Kansas and Montana.
Their latest travel adventure brought them to the town of Effingham, IL. Now I grew up in southern Illinois and to offend any reader is not my intention here, but I never really considered Effingham as a prime vacation destination. Curiously, as I usually do, I asked how or why they came to this part of the US. Come to find out, one of their sons is a Volkswagen Beatle “Bug” enthusiast and he repairs and restores the classic cars as a hobby and for profit. Paul was telling me that Effingham is the home to an annual Bug Fest which is a large, widely known venue in the Bug circle where people from all over the US and some foreign countries come to buy and sell VW parts/accessories as well as complete cars and just immerse themselves in everything related to the little utilitarian German car.
This was Paul’s third trip to the Bug Fest in as many years along with his wife and son. Unfortunately, for Paul, the third time was anything but a charm for him.
Their fifth wheel trailer they bought has a loft sleeping area above the living area with steps leading to and from. Two days after arriving in Effingham, Paul was getting out of bed and was in the process of climbing down the stairs when he suddenly missed a step and fell the remainder of the way down to the floor.
After convincing his wife to call 911 because she just knew he “wasn’t really hurt” and “should be able to walk it off”, Paul was transferred to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Effingham for treatment and care. After an examination in ER and the usual barrage of tests and X-rays associated, Paul was diagnosed with a hip fracture.
With a successful hip surgery and a recovery with a few complications (a heart arrhythmia and lymphedema of his lower extremities), Paul was finally stable enough and well enough to go to a rehab center in his home town of Lincoln,
Driving distance between Effingham and Lincoln was approximately 10 hours and while Paul was stable enough to travel by ground, he was still experiencing moderate post-op pain and to make matters worse, had very limited use of his legs. He required a lift to help him in and out of bed. That essentially eliminated a return trip in their truck and trailer or by a conventional ground ambulance to Nebraska.
The social worker at St. Anthony’s was acutely aware that Paul and Karen wanted and needed to go home to rehab and get on with their lives and she knew of GOW and our services and made the call.
After all the necessary arrangements were completed to get Paul and Karen back to Lincoln, off we went (I always want to insert a sound clip to the theme of Superman at this point in my mission reports!). The GOW crew that day consisted of Hal and Rusty as our proficient pilots along with Tammy and our newest recruit, Jackie and me taking care of the medical component.
It was a short 30 minute flight from Indianapolis to Effingham County Airport. We were met by a couple of very strong and helpful medics from the Effingham Ambulance Service which in turn proved to be invaluable due to Paul’s size and immobility. We arrived at the hospital to meet Paul and Karen. After an initial assessment was done, and report received, Paul was loaded onto our cart and back to the airport we went.
As we were preparing Paul for the next leg of our flight, Karen confided to me that she had never flown before on any type of aircraft (later Hal pinned her with her first flight “wings”). ‘Okay ‘I thought, ‘now we’ll have two patients on board for this trip.’ We asked her repeatedly if she needed some “chemical help” to make the flight less fearful for her, but she refused each time. As we took off and the first rather steep left banked turn that Hal executed according to his ATC instructions, her eyes became rather large and she said “I think I’ll take that medicine now.”
With the seating configuration in Nellie, I was directly across the aisle from Karen. We didn’t have enough radio headsets for Paul, Karen and the three of us all to communicate so Karen went without. Only after a few minutes into the flight I could see even with the medication Karen was still visibly anxious so I removed my headset and began to talk to her the REMAINING 1:47 minute flight to Lincoln!
I didn’t realize just how loud Nellie can be without the noise canceling capabilities of the Bose headsets! I must disclose that I don’t know anything about the patient care or condition in-flight because I was incommunicado with the med crew, but not to worry Tammy and Jackie had everything under control. Later that day on our return trip to Indianapolis the girls joked and said I had the hardest job that day. For someone like me who doesn’t talk a lot, I agreed!!
We arrived at the Lincoln Airport to the waiting Midwest Medical Ambulance crew where they transported us to the Madonna Rehab Hospital in Lincoln. We tucked Paul in and then Tammy led a prayer over him. After our good-byes it was obvious that he and Karen were relieved and overtly excited to be “home again.”
By HIS grace and mercy, we had a very safe, successful, and as always a rewarding mission on Monday. I personally feel doubly blessed by being able to participate in back to back missions with GOW, for which I am thankful to GOD, because without HIM we all know none of this would be possible!
For HIS glory,
Alan Taber, RN
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