Emergency flight nursing is a gruesome and emotionally draining job that is only boring when waiting for the next call. Then comes the adrenaline rush of racing through the air to a scene, the pain of working over a dying child, the exhilaration of saving a life, and the fatigue from long hours without sleep. In this new and expanded edition of Trauma Junkie: Memoirs of an Emergency Flight Nurse, author Janice Hudson vividly recreates her 10 years with California Shock/Trauma Air Rescue (CALSTAR), and updates readers on how she and her colleagues have fared since the first edition of the book was published in 2001. Soon after the first edition was released, Hudson was diagnosed with cancer and then multiple sclerosis, which ultimately forced her to give up the job she loved. Trauma Junkie: Memoirs of an Emergency Flight Nurse: Updated and Expanded is available in paperback from Firefly Books.
You started flying in 1987, but you had been a nurse before that.
I started out as an open-heart nurse, but when my husband, Mark, and I got engaged, we didn't think it was a good idea to both work in the same place, so I transferred to the ER. That's where I met my friend Dana, who got me the job on a helicopter. I was not a typical CALSTAR flight nurse, because most of the crew had been paramedics before they became nurses, and they understood field work and how the EMS system works. I had no idea what goes on in the field, so I had to learn the entire system. I went through a 4-month training program--the first month was all didactic and the next 3 months, I started doing fly-alongs and was slowly integrated into the primary and secondary roles.
You said you started keeping a journal after it was suggested in a CISD class you were taking. Was that the basis for this book?
Yes. I was taking the class to become a CISD facilitator and we were encouraged to write about our experiences. I come from a family of writers, but what I wrote in the journal was not intended for anybody but me. Then, my husband bought me one of the first Apple laptop computers and it became fun to write, so the stories started piling up. As I shared stories with friends and co-workers, they encouraged me to write a book, but I had no idea how to get published, so I found a list of publishers in a directory at the library and sent out letters to several of them. Several weeks later, I got a phone call from someone I thought was a telemarketer, and it turned out to be Lionel Koffler, the president of Firefly Books, who was looking for a book about emergency medical services. It was a time when the TV show ER was popular, and my letter hit Lionel's desk at just the right time. All I had at that time was a raw manuscript that was just a collection of short stories, but with the help of editor Dan Bortolotti and many hours of work, we put together a manuscript. I wasn't really happy with the original version of the book, even though the editor and I worked really hard on it. I like the second edition a lot better.
What do you think made this new edition better, and how much of the first book is included?
We cleaned up a lot of things that weren't right and included better pictures and better writing. We did a new introduction, a new epilogue and a "where are they now" with all of the major characters in the book. We put in a few new stories, but about 80% of the book is the original material.
Flight medicine has gotten a black eye in recent years with so many crashes, but you seemed to have strict guidelines for flying.
When I started flying, EMS on helicopters was a completely new field, and helicopters were crashing because there were no standards. So CALSTAR put together standards, and if someone didn't follow them, they were out of a job the next day. Now there are national standards, and it breaks my heart every time I hear about an accident. Helicopters are dangerous by nature, and one of the things they drummed into us was safety, safety, safety. Industry standards are so tight, I don't understand why there has been such a rash of accidents.