We followed the blood spatter trail from the clinic entrance to the dirt road that lead down the main street into town. The doctor and I had made the mistake of leaving our patient on his own for a couple of minutes while we prepared the helicopter litter for transporting the injured Leonard.
Leonard was from the Carrier Tribe in the little Northern British Columbia village, Takla Lodge. My contract helicopter job had begun a few weeks earlier and the company was contracted with the Province to perform medevacs. I had grown to dislike medical evacuation flights for a number of reasons. Leonard had just added another reason to the list.
The Provincial emergency medical dispatch had requested I fly to Leonard’s village early Saturday morning. It was a welfare weekend and the checks had been cashed that week. Takla Lodge village was not a dry village, which is to say that alcohol was allowed in town. The free money and the alcohol had predictable results. There would be trouble and injuries or there would be a mystery internal ailment that required the “sick “patient be flown into the city. The city had a better selection of bars and entertainment so the “sick” patient usually recovered soon after arrival at the city hospital.
The doctor and I walked quickly along the dusty road. Spring meant thaw, and the smell of defrosting pampers tossed into backyards all winter long wafted over us.
“How far can a man walk with a bullet in his knee and an entry and exit wound in his front teeth and left cheek?” I asked the Doc.
“It depends on how bad he wants a drink.” was the doctors reply.
Leonard was where the doctor had predicted and I was not surprised to see that the bar had served a man who could only sip rye whiskey from the good side of his face while blood ran down his leg from his bandaged knee past his ankle (minus boot) onto what was probably a floor.
“Time to go Leonard,” said the Doctor displaying no emotion. “No, no beers to go. Lets the three of us get back to the clinic and get you a ride to the hospital.”
As we slowly made our way back to the clinic and helicopter we were joined by the nurse who would be flying with Leonard and myself. How had he injured himself, she asked Leonard. After spitting a big chunk of blood clot and gauze Leonard explained.
He had been told to take out the garbage while sitting, drinking and watching TV. Leonard had made it very clear in language I can’t write that his wife could take it out herself.
It was the wrong answer told to the wrong woman and she pumped two rounds from Leonard’s little 22 into him. The clip had been emptied but two had hit the flailing and fleeing Leonard. The R.C.M.P. would be around later this morning, nothing much would happen to change anything.
We got Leonard re-bandaged, wrapped, loaded and strapped into the helicopter. The flight back was through a Spring snow, sleet storm and the nurse and I chatted on the intercom about life in the North. Leonard moaned every once in a while and his leg twitched beside me up front.
I told the nurse that I was looking forward to some warmer weather and some different flying. Did I not like this work she asked?
“No,” I replied, “its just very discouraging” I said.
“Well, we do what we can” she said.