Part 2: FAA-mandated Triennial drill….Memphis simulated airplane crash

See Part 1 here.

We drove to the grassy field next to the airport in large buses. Several buses lined up together to look like the fuselage (?) and they had a torn-up wing there too. There were explosives set up all over the place. We all walked out far into the field to be away from the explosives and scattered ourselves around appropriately. They couldn’t make the call into all the emergency places until we were all staged and ready for them.

After a while, as we sat there in the grass waiting, they started setting off some initial explosions, to get the smoke going. The wind luckily blew the smoke away from us, so everything was still really clear. A few minutes later, we started hearing the sounds of sirens…many, many sirens, nearing. None of us victims were sure when the acting was supposed to truly begin. The firefighters showed up and started fake-battling the plane explosion stuff. We just watched. The coordinators had a guy in a white suit who was on fire, waving his arms. A firefighter saw him, ran at him, and tackled him. IT WAS AWESOME! Everyone was shouting things like “Stop Drop and Roll!” ahahahaha.

Finally firefighters started coming to us victims for initial assessment. A nursing student named Leslie and I had been hanging out together and she was near me, so she started staggering around looking drunk as her head injury required, and I lay down, unable to sit or walk, with extreme lethargy and complains of coldness due to being in hypovolemic shock. Leslie and I decided we should be sisters and would make that part of our acting.

An initial firefighter finally got to me, and while I thought I’d have to do acting (I complained I wanted a blanket), he almost immediately just flipped over the card I was wearing with my diagnosis and vital signs. He put a yellow ribbon next to me (Error #1) and assured me he’d find my sister, then moved on. He told my staggering friend Leslie, who had very prominent Battle’s sign (pooling of blood under the eyes and sign of serious injury), to walk towards the safety area. She would agree, then veer elsewhere. The firefighter would help someone else and if nearby, direct her again. She kept staggering around, confused and belligerent.

After quite a while, more firefighters came with stretchers, prioritizing victims (there were 150 of us or so in the field although many were walking wounded) based on the initial firefighters tagging of those of us who couldn’t walk. My yellow ribbon (which should have been red because I was critical) kept them from getting to me as quickly. When they did finally come to me, the firefighters were very nice and sweet, getting me a blanket, assuring me they’d keep an eye out for my sister, etc. One of the men was calling me “baby” as in “It’s ok, baby. We’ll find your sister.” but it was in a kind gentle voice and perfectly appropriate in that context. They slid me onto a stretcher and a neck brace.

Unfortunately, their kindness did not make up for the fact I probably would have died right around then, since they didn’t put me into the stretcher very securely. I’m sure they were overwhelmed/nervous/etc, but still. I kept sliding down the stretcher until my nose had a strap on it, my feet and arms were hanging out, my head was way low…they’d stop to fix it (they were carrying me on the board, no wheels yet), but to fix it they’d slide me back up, so I’d moan in pain since I was supposed to anytime they touched my legs/stomach. They had to fix it again and again, and at one point one of the evaluators or coordinators even said sharply, “You need to get her back on that stretcher”. My legs and arms were dragging against the sides of the stretcher and against the rocky parts of the grass field. It felt like I was being dragged by one person, but it was impossible to tell in my position. My head was banging violently against the stretcher because the ride was so bumpy and I was in pain from that. I almost asked them to stop because it hurt, but decided I’d survive. They took me as a yellow person (not as critical) and put me down. I was next to a yellow tag girl sitting up and I kept lethargically smacking at her, asking her for a blanket. It was fun. I was starting to realize how tags worked based on what I could hear, and realized I should have been red-tagged, as even my card said that was the case. The emergency people were trying to figure out who would go in which ambulance and to which place based on priority. They were talking about red tags/yellow tags and one of them even flat-out asked me if I was a yellow. I said, I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be a red. They looked at my tag and made me a critical at that point. It was clear most of them weren’t trying that hard to act.

Considering how many times I had been violently bumped/slipped on the stretcher, and that I had been tagged wrong/lay there a long time, I probably would have already been dead from all the internal bleeding. Anyway, they were finally ready for me to be in an ambulance…

See Part 3 for the ambulance ride and hospital visit!

May 07, 2008 | Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

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