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Telling their stories: Scott Fetterman

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 9, 2016

Scott Fetterman, 36, flight paramedic/clinical base educator for rotor-wing EMS transport system:

“Don’t put me to sleep. I won’t wake up.’” That’s a question. This was a bout two years ago. It was the second flight of the night. 9 O’Clock. A fuel tanker crashed into a building. Another truck was involved. The driver of this truck burned on 100 percent of his body.

He crawled out of the flames. Emergency responders went and picked him up. They put him on a stretcher and they realized his only option and possibility of life was to fly him to the closest burn facility. So they called a helicopter.

That’s me. I hear the call over the radio. I am in the air. I can already see the black smoke. As we get closer, about 40-foot flames. Ten thousands gallons of fuel burning. And this man.

We landed in a remote LZ, came over there. This is just a regular job for me. This is my day to day basiss. I know what to do. I climb into the ambulance and I take control. I’ve been doing this for 15 years now. I go about my medical treatments in a very specific played out role. I step in I start calling out procedures, ‘I need a line. Draw up some drugs. Putting this guy down. He’s gonna die in front of us if we don’t put him down and capture his airway before he swells.’

Now, I am faced with a plea and a decision to make. An ethical moral decision. How do I deal with this? Do I go through the procedure or do I honor his request? He will die in front of me. I know that.

This gentleman was burned so badly, I couldn’t tell the color of his skin. It was just flesh. He has no hair, no eyebrows. And his lips are already swelled to the point where they are not even recognizable. His airway is closing on me. But he’s pleading with me.

What would you do? I’ll tell you what I did. I put him down and captured the airway. I went about my procedures the way I always do. I called these shots. The whole time in the back of my head, I am torn. I don’t know what I just did is right. I’m scared.

We got him to the hospital. He lived long enough to see his family. It was a great story. It worked out.

The reason I share this with you is in our community we have first responders, EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, military …. The problem we are faced with: we are not trained to deal with these emotional and ethical dilemmas that you see in the community. This man was a husband. This man was a father. And now I had to deal with this.

I don’t share this with you to scare you or to bother you. I share it with you as a community to reach out and embrace these people. They are living with demons – very difficult, difficult things to cope with by themselves. I am happy to be here tonight, to bring our stories to you, to reconnect with the community.

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