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Updated: May 12, 2022

Words. So powerful. They can crush a heart or heal it. They can shame a soul, or liberate it. They can shatter a dream, or liberate it. They can obstruct connect, or invite it. They can create defenses, or melt them. We have to use words wisely’ Jeff Brown

Glowing embers of the evening braai formed a stark contrast to the night sky. The banter amongst the night crew ranged from the latest sport scores to the best butchery to buy your steak. Almost overseeing the braai chefs stood ROCKET1, checked and ready for any potential call out. As Murphy would have it, half way through dinner the all too familiar ‘PING’ – ‘activate for primary’. These three words set the night crew in motion; the light-hearted chatter replaced with final checks as the crew make their way to ROCKET 1, steaks forgotten.

We had been called to a motor vehicle accident; this one of such serious nature two helicopters were required for transportation of patients to appropriate facilities. It was also month end, and simultaneous multiple incidences had spread ground crew thin resulting in few hands available for assistance on scene.

On landing I was directed towards a vehicle and told; ‘watch your 6 (back)’, the weight of these words felt with the volatile crowd two helicopters had attracted. I was introduced to a young lady *Mary. She had been seated in the back of the vehicle, where maximum impact had occurred. Mary was in severe pain due to fractures and needed extrication from the vehicle she was trapped in. She had also just been told that she would be transported to hospital in a helicopter. Her first words to me were ‘I am scared of the helicopter and will my legs be okay? Her moments of terror post car accident and the pain from her injuries were clouded by the fear of transport by a helicopter and the possibility of life changing injuries and shattered life dreams. Her pain can be easily relieved, broken bones stabilized and wounds bandaged, but there is no aid in our jump or drug bag to ease personal fear.

After handing Mary over at the receiving facility I leant over to say good bye. ‘You kept your promise’, she told me; ‘You never left me and gave me hope.’ It is in those moments we realize that emergency medicine has no boundaries; that no textbook teaches the right words and that often, our words are remembered by the patient above any medical treatment. Tonight I am glad our words gave Mary hope.

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