It took nearly three quarters of an hour of planning before Jamie and senior paramedic Sergeant First Class Rick Matheson began moving their patient out of sickbay. Even for a simple 30-minute flight from the shipyard to the planet’s surface, preparation was key for any inter-facility transfer of a critically ill patient.
The process involved a full handover from the doctors and nurses, swapping one-by-one from sickbay’s equipment over to their mobile gear, rearranging the massive tangle of lines, tubes and wiring, ensuring all pressure points on the patient were well-padded, running through the multiple drug and fluid infusions, discussing their plans for any potential mid-flight emergency, and updating the receiving hospital of their imminent departure.
The patient was young. Early twenties, like Jamie himself. Fresh-faced Crewman Lewis, who had unluckily lost his footing while performing maintenance work at one of the hangar bays, falling eight metres from a mezzanine deck. Spinal and pelvic fractures, a broken leg, but most concerning of all was the head injury. The surgeons did what they could – placing an external ventricular drain to reduce the pressure inside the poor kid’s skull – but with sickbay’s limited capacity to care for someone this seriously injured, the decision to to transfer him to a hospital on the planet’s surface had been made well in advance.
“So we’ve got everything we need?” Jamie’s eyes ran over the gurney in front of him. With all the life support machinery, wires, tubes and monitoring equipment, one could be forgiven for not spotting the patient at all on first glance. “I reckon so,” he said. “Let’s go.”
The trip from sickbay, to the hangar deck, and then onto the Raptor was uneventful. Jamie hoped the rest of the journey would be the same. It was his last job for the day, and things have been moving a bit too slow for his liking. As the clock crept into late afternoon, he wondered if he’d make it back home on time for dinner as promised. Jamie was both excited and anxious at the prospect of introducing Ollie to his father over a pub meal – his dad’s choice, of course, which made for a more relaxed setting than a fancy restaurant. But like many approaching his age, the old man had booked the table for 18:00.
“Six is a bit early, hey?” Ollie had commented the other day.
“Sorry. He likes to wake early, eat early, sleep early.”
“You’ll get out of work by then?”
There’d been a moment’s hesitation. “Yeah, should be fine,” Jamie had said.
And now he was glancing at his watch every minute. They climbed into the Raptor, after having pushed the large gurney through. They spent a brief while setting up the cabin perfectly, to allow for any situation mid-flight where they’d have to unbuckle and move around the patient. A quick hello to their pilot, SSGT Samantha Loza, and they were soon on their way back to Scorpia.
The Raptor shuddered slightly as they began skimming over the planet’s outermost exosphere. Jamie looked down the cabin and out the cockpit’s glass bubble canopy, seeing the thin blue halo of atmosphere approaching. He never liked re-entry – the thought of nothing more than reinforced hull plating separating him from thousands of degrees of heat was unnerving. And so he turned away and sat back, resting his head firmly against the headrest, one hand discreetly pulling on his seatbelt strap to tighten it.
He glanced at his watch again, but was interrupted when Matheson said, “Keep an eye on his MAP, Specialist. It’s been trending down a little. Systolic’s 110. You’d want to avoid hypotension and keep his CPP consistent, in order to avoid secondary neuro-ischemia.”
“Yep, sorry,” he snapped to attention, reviewing the numbers on the monitor, displayed alongside a colourful set of graphical spikes and waves. “Bringing his norad up to 10 mils per hour.”
After a pause, the sergeant said, “Got somewhere to go, son? You look pressed for time.”
Jamie hadn’t realised his watch-looking had been that obvious. “Uh… Oh, no, sir. Not really.” He lied, which he quickly decided was a bad idea. “Well… just hoping to make it back home in time,” he admitted.
“In time for what?”
He suddenly felt a little queasy, either from the direct questioning or the increasingly bumpy ride through the atmosphere. “A dinner, sir,” he said honestly. “I haven’t been back home for a while, so it’ll be the first time seeing my father in almost a year now. He likes to have dinner early.”
“Huh.” Matheson kept his eyes down on the patient’s chart he held, jotting down a few numbers and notes. “Haven’t seen many kids your age keen for a good father-son…”
“And he’s meeting my partner for the first time, sir. Whom I haven’t seen in a few months as well. A little nervous about it all. I’d like to make sure I’m there.”
That seemed to pique the Sergeant’s interest. He looked up. “How sweet,” he said, in a bit of a monotone that made it difficult to decide whether there was sarcasm in his comment. He looked back down at the chart. “What’s her name?”
“His name’s Oliver, sir.”
The pause lasted only about a second. “My apologies.” He then added, “I remember when I first introduced my wife to my parents. I was Sagittarian, and she’s Caprican. Needless to say, things turned out just as you might expect. I gave up my original citizenship to become Caprican. Joined the Fleet, moved to Argentum with her, and haven’t looked back.” The Sergeant’s voice became somewhat despondent, but not for long. “So being nervous is normal. You’ll do fine.”
Jamie hadn’t expected Matheson to open up the way he did, and didn’t quite know what to say. “Thank you, sir,” was all he could think of. More note jotting and chart reviewing.
“What does he do?”
Just the thought of Oliver brought a smile to Jamie’s face. “He’s a Corporal with the Marines, sir.” Then without thinking, he felt the need to further clarify, “On another unit. Visiting while on leave from Picon.”
Matheson nodded, failing to hold back a smirk, which progressed to a chuckle. “So he’s a Marine, hey? Bet you fell for him the moment you found that out.”
The Raptor began to shake and heave more. “Pushing into re-entry,” SSgt Loza said from the cockpit. “Buckle up tight, boys. And make sure Crewman Lewis doesn’t fall off his gurney. I’m talking to you, Specialist Perth.”
Matheson smiled and let out a short laugh as Jamie rolled his eyes. The young paramedic then second-guessed himself, reaching out to check the straps securing his patient.
The Sergeant snickered some more. “It’s the end of the day, Loza. Give the kid a break. And make it quick, will ya? He’s got a special someone waiting for him back home, and so do I.”
Little did any of them know that as their Raptor hurdled towards the surface engulfed in a fiery streak, Cylon battle stars made their first surprise arrival in orbit.
Spc Jamie Perth
Critical Care Paramedic
Colonial Fleet Reserve