Little girls are restless, inquisitive and adventurous. Sitting still for a few minutes at a time is not in their nature, let alone for 58 days. But five year-old Bodhi Dickinson had to do just that. For nearly three months she occupied a room at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio awaiting a bone-marrow transplant. Through it all, she had her family, her team of doctors and nurses, her determination, energy and endearing smile…and she had a window.
Bodhi’s room was on the side of the hospital that overlooks the helipad. Daily, she watched a bright yellow helicopter emblazoned with ribbons of primary colors. It came and it went, came and went, a friendly and reassuring sight. And as the days went by, little Bodhi dreamed more and more about the people on the helicopter and what it would be like to soar in the air and touch down lightly again.
One day, the helicopter did not arrive. Another day passed without her canary-colored friend and Bodhi’s disappointment grew. She asked one of her nurses where it had gone. She was told the helicopter and its crew had moved to a new home base near the airport, from which they were better positioned to help more people.
Still disappointed but resolved, Bodhi made a new determination. During a chat with her nurses, she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. “A flight nurse,” she said without a moment’s hesitation.
The Other Side of the Window
Stephanie Cruz, a flight nurse for Methodist AirCare, is a member of the team that made those daily trips to Methodist Children’s Hospital. They came and went, came and went, getting children to the level of care they desperately needed, saving lives.
She didn’t know that a little girl was watching their EC135 helicopter land and take off, waving at the yellow mechanical bird from behind a pane of glass and dreaming of flying off with it. After the base move to the airport, Cruz didn’t know that they would be missed so keenly by someone who needed them for more than an air-medical flight. That is, until Bodhi’s pediatric nursing team asked for a favor.
“When Bodhi mentioned wanting to be a flight nurse, it sparked something in her team, who then came to our flight crew,” said Joe Flores, Methodist AirCare program director. “We, of course, jumped at the chance.”
With pediatric flight nurse Bronson Smith, Cruz immediately went into action. She wanted to do something special for Bodhi. “Right away I was drawn in and so intrigued,” said Cruz. “Bodhi's determination, resiliency, and ability to fight against all odds is really the equivalent of what it takes to become a successful crew member in the helicopter emergency services (HEMS) industry, so I think this is why she has touched so many of our hearts.”
A New Crew Member
Cruz and Bronson arranged to make Bodhi an honorary flight nurse of the Methodist AirCare team. They procured a miniature flight suit and boots from one of Cruz’s neighbors. Cruz’s daughter made beaded bracelets to share with the littlest flight nurse. And they made a custom teddy bear that Bodhi decided to call “Heli,” for helicopter. Even more thrilling for any five-year-old, the team made it possible for Bohdi to take her very own first flight in the EC135.
When Bodhi and her mother, Jordan, stepped onto the helipad, the little girl’s excitement was infectious. After what Bodhi had been through already, weeks in a hospital room waiting for that critical transplant, her bravery was unquestioned, but now she showed no fear at all as she boarded the yellow aircraft. Decked out in her flight suit, boots laced up, bear in hand, she looked every bit the flight nurse she dreams of one day being.
As the rotors turned and whirred, even the protective mask that Bodhi wore could barely contain her smile. She took off with her new crew soring past the window she had looked out of so longingly. A local news crew captured the moment on video. The only thing that could top that experience would be going home, which Bohdi did soon after.
“I'm hoping that Bodhi and her family carry these memories with them forever,” said Cruz. “We are so lucky in our field to be able to help others, and if I can encourage just one young person to grow up and consider life as a HEMS provider then I know our industry will have a great future ahead. I hope we solidified Bodhi's career choice and that maybe when she is all grown up, I'll see her up in the friendly skies, doing the best job ever.”
“This year has been such a challenge,” said Flores. “That’s why, for us, it felt so natural to go above and beyond for Bodhi.”
Methodist AirCare is operated by REACH Air Medical Services and Air Evac Lifeteam, both GMR companies.