Saturday, August 28
A Flugtag Perspective
I was a nineteen year old new medic when the infamous day occured.
I was going to work at the fire station in Vogleweh when my team leader wanted me to stay at Landstuhl to work at the hospital till 1500. It was a calm day, nothing much going on until the earth rumbling sonic boom hit.
I remember saying that it was a plane breaking the sound barrier or something, nothing bad could happen right?
We got the phone call to get everyone in for the mass cal right away. My teamleader called the barracks and sent a medic over in a PTV to bring in people to work. I stayed in the ER waiting for the first wave of injured to arrive.
Our 66 passenger mercedes bus was already there and filled quickly. It was the first and only time that I had seen this many patients at one moment.
Time froze as the bus showed up with many patients still smoldering, tourniquets on limbs, moaning and groaning, smoke still so thick it was hard to see what was happening.
The first thing that struck me was the smell of burning flesh and the amount of kids and German nationals on the bus.
My job, with all of this going on, was to assess who to take care of first. Everyone seemed like an emergent patient to me, but in a split second we had to take live or die now patients first and leave the expectants to die.
This was a new sensation for me; someone's loved one, child, father ,mother etc. could die as a result of going out and watching an air show and having fun together.
I wanted to save everyone... Now!
My senior medic took over and told me that we can't save everyone but to focus on the one's that can truly be saved versus letting my emotions dictate who gets saved.
I remember thinking airway, breathing, circulation... the abc's of the medical field. Sucking Chest wound emergent now, O2 ,chest tube, IV, amputee tourniquete stable but start IV for blood loss.
Put fires out fluid, fluid, fluid...I learned a lot that day.
In retrospect, I did not realize the enormity of the situation because I was engrossed in the moment. We ran out of supplies, the war crates were opened and used up.... then it happened.
The NATO trucks started comming in with all kinds of supplies and we had to translate the packages to make sure what we were giving was correct. All kinds of helicopters were landing on our open helipad area from different NATO countries as well.
The hospital filled up and we stabilized the new patients and took them back to the different helicopters for transport to surrounding hospitals. I was amazed later to find out that we treated about 400 patients and only around 70 died.
Please don't misunderstand me, I think that loosing one life is a big price to pay... given the circumstance we did one hell of a job... From the flight line triage and treatment to the hospital level care and transport in all areas in between.
I am truly proud to say that I did my best with everyone else involved to save all that could be saved...My unit at the 2nd general hospital in Landstuhl did not receive any awards that day for exceptional treatment under such dire circumstances, but that does not diminish the collective acts of exceptional people rising to the occasion...I was only nineteen at the time, and saw more suffering and death in that short 2-3 hour time frame than most will see in a lifetime.
Having to make the decisions about who gets treated and who goes to our waiting room with an expectant tag still haunts me, but I am here to say that I'll never forget those people that I treated and I hope they are all well...