Third-Floor Window


The lab was humming with activity. Lights were flashing, pumps were pumping, and people in white coats were moving from bench to bench adjusting dials. Two different experiments were occurring simultaneously in the room and the workers were careful to make sure the mechanics of the room were correct. Getting accurate data from the experiments was the primary goal. There were three white walls and two doors; occasionally, a worker from the lab next door would come in and borrow some chemical or apparatus piece. Everybody seemed to know their job.

As exciting as the activity in the lab was, however, the fourth wall showed another aspect of life. It contained a large window that looked down on a parking lot for the hospital/research center. Cars were lined up in their proper places between yellow lines, spots finally located near 8 a.m. by hospital workers circling the lot; it was time for work. Among the many cars, however, there was a large space with none at all. Enclosed by a low chain-linked fence, it was not for cars; it was for the helicopter.

Medical Helicopter taking off Istock photo

Although usually parked, the helicopter was gone this morning. That suggests that there was a trauma somewhere else and anybody’s mind could build a story of the causative event. The type of event, however, was relatively unimportant; the single focus of the situation was the helicopter somewhere in flight at the moment and due back sooner or later. The scene was, frankly, quiet and calm, especially from the third-floor window. There was no sound, but an observer from above had a clear view of the events about to unfold below. It was a scene repeated more than once a day and often drew a window-peering crowd.

The arrival of the fire trucks was the first indication that the plane was approaching. Apparently standard safety procedure for the helicopter arriving, the fire trucks were in position several minutes before flight arrival. The fire fighters had opened the fence and positioned the trucks in designated spots. Just in case. It was still quiet.

Even through the closed window, however, one could hear the approaching copter. The buildings were tall enough that from most directions, it was not visible until it appeared hovering just above the landing spot. Kicking dust, leaves, and trash, it stayed almost steady over its spot before settling.

The blades were still rotating but slowing when eyes shifted to a nearby part of the medical complex. The sign read EMERGENCY in red letters and, as the blades neared a stop, doors beneath the sign burst open and four people rushed out pushing a bed on wheels. Dressed in scrubs and athletic shoes, they ran at top speed together pushing the gurney a distance of perhaps of 200 yards. They had clearly done this before.

Down the parking lot driveway and through the now-opened gate in the chain-linked fence, they ran to the plane, arriving as the blades stopped. With similar speed, a patient on a bed was lowered from the plane and placed on the gurney. Strapped down with the accompanying IV on a pole, the race back up the driveway into the hospital began. As the transport team arrived near the building, the doors pushed back and the group disappeared inside. The whole activity from leaving and returning took about five minutes. Everybody seemed to know their job.

In our age where individualism is celebrated and sought, it is refreshing to see teams in action. One of the positives of youth involvement in sports is that it usually pulls them into a team of some sort. On that team, while learning and practicing specific individual skills, they learn that success depends largely on cooperation with others. Many adults seem to lose that understanding.

This third-floor window experience reminds us that there are still some well-functioning teams even in the adult world. We have learned the hard way that individualism run amok diminishes marriages, governments, companies, and churches. As those runners with their patient disappeared into the hospital, there was another team inside waiting to begin their responsibilities. In the best situations, everybody seems to know their job.

Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current hospice chaplain

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