Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I'd hate to live in that neighborhood!

I wasn’t quite sure yesterday if a building I was in was getting ready to plummet due to an earthquake or if a plane was about the crash into it. And there were no windows in the room where I could see what was happening. As it turned out, it was only a test, but what a test it was.

I was in the examining room at my neurologist’s office. It is located on the top floor of a medical building directly across Congress Street and Maine Medical Center’s newly constructed parking garage in Portland. On top of that new garage is a new heliport, a place for emergency helicopters to land when bringing critically injured or ill patients to the hospital. Maine Med, you probably know, is one of the best hospitals in the country.

Apparently Life Flight helicopters have been using the new heliport for some time. A person who works there told me they hardly know when the Life Flight machines come and go. But the heliport, apparently from what I was told today, had never been tested for military copters, especially the ones used for search and rescue at sea by the Coast Guard.

Until today.

As I was patiently waiting for my doctor to come in for the examination, I heard what sounded like an aircraft approaching. Now normally an aircraft flying by wouldn’t be unusual as the Portland Jetport, airport in most cities, is just across the river from the hospital. But this one today wasn’t just flying by.

I had no way of knowing what it was, but my thought was, “Either that plane is going to land on the roof of this building or its going to try to fly through it.” The noise was deafening and only kept getting louder. And louder. Then the loudness became steady until after what appeared to be several minutes, it quieted down just a bit.

At the height of the noise, the whole medical building was shaking as if it were in a hurricane or earthquake. I don’t recall ever being in a building shaking like that before. As the noise level dropped some, the building stood still once again. That’s when I wondered if we had been hit. But no one came into the room to see if I were O.K. Now that might have been at least a nice thing to do, even though they knew about the practice landing and there was no danger. We in a room with just four walls didn’t know that.

About then my doctor came into the examining room as if nothing was happening. He took a look at the results of the blood pressure and temperature checks the assistant took when I first arrived and started to talk to me. He was all smiles and happy, opened right up with “I’ve looked at your CT results and last year’s aneurysm has shrunk considerably. That’s excellent,” said he.

“Hey. Wait a minute! “said I. “What in the name of heaven was all that noise? This building was shaking. Is everything all right?”

“Oh, sure. That was just a Blackhawk helicopter doing a test landing at the heliport across the street.” This was when I learned about the construction on top of the parking garage. “Come on, I’ll show it to you,” and he led me across the hall into his office. Sure enough, on the heliport was a clearly marked Coast Guard helicopter with its rotors still churning. He explained about the test as this was the first time a military helicopter had landed there. The authorities wanted to be sure it would work if there were a tragedy at sea. I wished I had my camera with me.

We returned to the examining room and all was well.

But I sure am glad I don’t live in that neighborhood. The sound of that Blackhawk in the middle of the night just might wake me up.


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