Author: Dave Foulk

Special VFR

It was a cloudy and rainy day, and my pilot and I were tired and ready to return to the airport from our morning shift.   But the air traffic controller would not grant clearance for our “special VFR” (visual flight rules) approach.   Helicopters were allowed to land and take off from the airport in marginal weather, providing we followed a prescribed route.  But that morning, we were told to stay outside the air traffic control space.  The tower had lost an airplane.  The single engine aircraft had disappeared from the radar as it approached the runway.

We bored holes in the sky for a few minutes, waiting for permission to land.  Finally my pilot, Mike Ward, asked the tower if we could be of any help if the controllers believed the plane was down somewhere.  The air traffic controllers told us the last spot they had for the plane was just beyond the outer marker, just northwest of the airport. 

Mike was an excellent pilot, with great instinct, and he flew directly to the site of the crash.  It didn’t look like an airplane anymore. Instead, it looked  like a collapsed metal tool shed.  We radioed the tower and told them we had located the downed plane, and gave directions for emergency crews.  We both knew the pilot had not survived the impact.

When fire crews arrived, we offered to lift a couple of responders to the site.   Mike landed on a sloping, grassy hillside.  I hopped out, and opened the door for a paramedic/firefighter, but the responder nearly walked into our main rotor.  We had landed on a hillside, and our main rotor was much lower than usual on one side of the hill.   Just a  second before a calamity, Mike  jerked the collective up, raising the machine and its rotor to a safe distance, at that same moment, the responder saw he was about to walk into the spinning blade and ducked.   Meanwhile, I lost my footing and found myself flat on my back with a helicopter skid right over me.  Mike stayed steady in a hover as I regained my footing.   In a few minutes, we were back airborne, and doing the job of reporting the news of the crash.    

We had some close calls in my three thousand hours of flying, and some of them were the result of flying in bad weather.   That was likely the same thing that happened to the airplane we found crumpled in a field.

In the moment, I didn’t think about anything but helping the police and fire responders,  and then reporting live with the news.  But later that day I wondered about fate, odds, survival, and dumb luck. And I still can’t tell you I’ve figured out how some folks cruise through the bad weather of life, and how others end up getting slammed into the ground.  And it sent a chill up my spine. 

Breaking News Needs Fixin’

A note from the geezer in the balcony.
Breaking news is broken.
The phrase “breaking news” is one of the most over-used, mis-used, abused, scattered, covered, and smothered phrases in the history of news writing.
Breaking news is supposed to mean a developing story, something that is happening at that very moment.
I’ll give you an example from the network television news tonight:
Several newscasts labeled as “breaking news” the confession in court of a woman who helped two inmates escape from prison in New York. It was not breaking news. It had happened earlier in the day. It would have been breaking news had the woman been in court at that hour, but the story actually was about eight hours old. That is not breaking news.
Over, and over I hear and see stories labeled as breaking news- and the information is older than yesterday’s burrito special.
I have a theory about it.
Some news executives think we’re a bunch of dummies.
They might be listening to consultants who tell both network and local news directors they have to push “breaking” into stories to make them “compelling” or “watchable”. Slick graphics splay ‘BREAKING” across the screen. But if you put a clock on the story to see when it actually happened, sometimes you find it’s hours old.
The words “breaking”, “alert”, and “bulletin” are supposed to be powerful, but they are rapidly losing their punch. In earlier times, they carried the same emotional impact as a bedside telephone ringing in the middle of the night. Now, it’s more like a snoring spouse, a poke in the ribs, and “roll over”.

Another Chapter In Life

It’s back.
It’s officially called Stage IV colon cancer, metastatic to the right lower lobe of my liver.
The unofficial name is heartbreak. I know I am not alone in a fight like this and I thought the folks who check in with this blog  deserve some info, too. Here is part of an e-mail I sent to the staff at Cumulus, Knoxville.
It started with a visit to our long time family physician Dr. Dean Mire, with a complaint of a cold.
On a scheduled check of my CEA test, it showed a near doubling of the factor, from 3.1 to 6.1.
Dr, Midis scheduled a PET scan, and it indicates a mass in my liver. The scan also showed why I lost my voice. I have pneumonia.
Treatment of the pneumonia started immediately (I had already called in sick because I sounded so cruddy).
My commanding general in this fight is Dr. Greg Midis, a Fort Sanders physician who is known as a hot shot who comes from M.D. Anderson hospital. He is also a friend and a listener of Newstalk 98.7.
Proving once again the doctor’s care and effectiveness, he called me last night, saying he had been thinking about me, rather my cancer treatment, all day.
Here is the battle plan:
It will definitely involve liver surgery. Which is quite painful, I understand. God put our important parts inside the ribcage, and it has to e moved in order to get the job done. The doctor says then, the liver is pulled down and cut upon. There’s about a twelve inch incision.
Then, there is around five weeks recovery.
It will definitely involve chemotherapy. The question is whether is comes before or after surgery.
For those who might not be familiar with how this operates, so to speak, Thompson Cancer Survival Center has a cancer committee. Doctors present their cases for consideration on Tuesday mornings. That brings more minds into the fight, and its ia good thing. I’ll be assigned an oncologist who will be Dr. Midis’ wing in the fight. My treatment is in their hands.

For now, I’m working hard to beat the pneumonia which is essential before any other treatment begins. Pneumonia is dangerous in, and of, itself.

This time, I am scared, and worried. Not scared of my ultimate destination from this life, but scared of the pain, as any normal human might be. and worried over what my family will have to do with endless “work around” and compensation for my down time.

So that is exactly where I stand right now, in my jammies, loaded with Levaquin and Combivent,
and pondering these words from Jereimiah:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

And I’ll hang my hat on that promise any day.

As they say…. stay tuned.

Random Tuesday Thoughts

**I sound like Andy Devine if try to stretch into the upper range of pitch… as in NEWStalk ninety-eight-point seven. Comes out like NeWWss Talk. I think it’s the RAGGggweed.

**Speaking of voice, I heard a young person in a band today doing a great job on Marty Robbins’ old hit “Big Iron ON His Hip” Several of those ole classics have been re-done.

**In the re-do department, I’m going to have to either buy some new headlight lenses or use a refurbishing kit on the existing ones. It’s too easy to out-run my lights, or miss spotting a lurking Kamakazie deer just off the road.

**Traffic note, in case you have missed my on-air alerts– there’s work on I-40 westbound in Roane County scheduled until the end of October, and it’ll be down to one lane. (per TDOT)

** Did anyone see the CNN piece on the Chinese government’s crackdown on Christian churches? It was in one particular city, nicknamed The Jerusalem Of China. As I have posted here earlier, the report documents how some churches have been razed, and members of another beaten for taking a stand against Chinese law officers. The church members (seen on a smuggled video) lost their fight to keep the Cross on top of the church, and it has been taken down. China has blacked out the reports in its country.

** And finally, the power of radio. I listened to a Blue Bell Ice Cream commercial today, and the jingle and voice-over took me back to a time when my dad and my uncles took turns on an ancient ice cream maker…turning the crank and pouring in the rock salt and ice. Just for a minute I was a burr-haircut kid asking if I could have a turn at the crank, and anticipating some vanilla heaven in a bowl. Thanks Blue Bell. And I think just sold me some ice cream!

New Police Cars- And A Tale From My Files

A The City of Knoxville Police unveiled their choice, and color scheme for new police cruisers today.  Dodge won the trials, and this is what we will start to see on the streets: 

The police department had to pick another vehicle...after operating Ford Crown Victoria police specials for years and years. Ford decided to discontinue building them. Police graded the candidates Dodge, Chevy, and Ford on a points basis, while the candidates were also checked by fleet services during the try-outs. Dodge won with 9.89 points, followed by Chevrolet Caprice at 7.66, and Ford Interceptor at 6.31. In all- five models were tested, and this one came out tops. Photo: Knoxville Police Department)

The police department had to pick another vehicle…after operating Ford Crown Victoria police specials for years and years. Ford decided to discontinue building them. Police graded the candidates Dodge, Chevy, and Ford on a points basis, while the candidates were also checked by fleet services during the try-outs. Dodge won with 9.89 points, followed by Chevrolet Caprice at 7.66, and Ford Interceptor at 6.31. In all- five models were tested, and this one came out tops. Photo: Knoxville Police Department)

A few years ago, a KPD officer had placed a woman under arrest. I was working outside doing traffic and street reporting at the time, and heard him mention the fact that she was “pretty large” and that she might not fit into his back seat. That….was an understatement.  Because of my oddball curiosity, and because it was quiet– nothing going on, I decided to roll over that way and take a look at the situation. It appeared to me that the officer had arrested a woman who was tickling the five hundred, to -six hundred pound range. I parked a discreet distance away and watched as the events unfolded. Make sure that I place no judgement on the woman’s physical attributes, I was just curious as to how this would end. I had seen ambulances transport large people, but never a paddy wagon for someone this size.

A Knoxville Police Department cruiser from the 1950's (Photo from KPD)

A Knoxville Police Department cruiser from the 1950’s (Photo from KPD)

Another one or two officers arrived, and then the paddy wagon. The woman was not violent…and I really don’t know what would have happened had she decided to rassle with the police. it was just a matter of fit. After much cogitating and discussion, it was decided that officers would help her back up to the open door of the paddy wagon, and then back-step inside onto the floor, where she would scoot all the way inside. No bench, just a ride on the floor. Comfort was not an issue because the steel floor probably felt as hard as the steel bench. The whole process took several minutes to complete, and I presume she exited the wagon by scooting out, and reversing her step outside.

I Missed My Day

Yesterday was National Cancer Survivors Day.   I don’t know how I managed to miss it.  It’s meant something to me since 1996.  That’s when the doctor told me I had bladder cancer and needed surgery.

Since that time, I have managed another bout with cancer.  This time, it was colon cancer.  The doctors believe it was caught in time, even though the tumor was the size of an orange, or a baseball.  

When I woke up from my scope, the colorectal doctor told me immediately. By the end of the day, I had an appointment with the surgeon. Right after my first battle with cancer, someone told me that from the minute you are diagnosed with cancer you are a “survivor”.   That doesn’t mean you can stop worrying about it and everything is going to be cheesecake and hot coffee.   It means you are surviving a battle.

You have to keep fighting cancer.  And once you have been diagnosed, you will always hear those footsteps behind you, or wake up in the middle of the night concerned about the potential for a return of the cancer, or that the medicine doesn’t work, or the radiation won’t kill it all. I worried.  I still do.  I tell my children that I am a professional worrier, so let me handle it.  And it is not a sign of weakness in your religious faith if you worry.  We are not supposed to, but God knows how we are.  At least he knows I worry…because I tell Him about it.

It just comes naturally to be concerned about the unknown. Winston Churchill spoke to British lawmakers during the early months of World War Two.  He said “never give up”… and when he said “never”, he said it several times in a row.  My cigar chomping, brooding, clever, and brave hero had it spot-on.

Maybe the doctor told you today that you might have cancer, or probably have it somewhere in your body.  Then you are already a survivor.   Fight it with knowledge, your own research, good doctors, and good questions from you and your family about care. Never give up.  Make a resolution to never… give… up.  If only for a year.  And if not for a year, a month, or a day,

or an hour.

a minute… or a moment.

Be a survivor.  

Phantom Traffic Jams

Ever been driving in heavy traffic… then everything comes to stop-and-go for a long stretch… only to start moving again? Sometimes, it might be a stall or minor wreck holding you up. Otherwise… it could be a phantom traffic jam. MIT researchers studied  phantom traffic jams.. and they have developed math formulas, and factors called jamitons that can explain phantom traffic jams.

Read more about the rather heady research into jams that can cause headaches, here

One application might be an addition of sensors inside vehicles.

Until all cars have sensors…. maybe some common sense ‘ers would help prevent those dreaded jamitons.

A Good Deed

Law officers have all kinds of requirements for the job, such as the ability to lift a certain amount of weight, and run so far in a certain amount of time. But the last time I checked… bagging groceries are not one such job requirement.

But a couple of Knox County deputies were pretty good at it Friday afternoon.

I was northbound on Chapman Highway to turn right into the entrance to Wal-Mart, Wallgreen Pharmacy, Radio Shack, etc. I noticed there was a big pile of stuff in the oncoming side’s left turn lane. And then, I saw what caused it. Some folks in a van had apparently been to the grocery store, and placed several bags of groceries in the back. Either the latch broke, or somebody didn’t close the hatch all the way. When the van accelerated to make the left turn, the back door flew open and a bunch of groceries hit the pavement.

The van had stopped on the little road that goes beside Walgreen Pharmacy so a woman inside could hop out and shut the hatch. Then, instead of abandoning the groceries, she pulled into a parking lot and started to walk toward the intersection. She obviously wanted to retrieve as much as she could. Anybody who knows that intersection would say a pedestrian bent over picking up items from the pavement would be a terrible risk. There was nothing I could do because grand-daughter Sarah was with me.. and the safety of the grandchildren trump every other thing when I’m driving.

When we pulled into the pharmacy parking lot, there she was the woman gathering groceries. But she wasn’t in the road lanes.

Instead, a couple of Knox County deputies had stopped lanes for a second on Chapman, and made quick work of picking up what was left of the spilled load. It didn’t take the two officers long at all to get things taken care of. It’s hard to say what the groceries were worth, but I know my purchases run a rough average of about ten bucks a bag.

The two men were either just getting off their shift, or just starting their tour and would not be off until around midnight. I’m sure they were Knox County Officers, but I didn’t think to check the roof of their cars for ‘airwatch’ numbers. Both deputies would probably say it was no big deal for them to stop and help clear the intersection and keep someone safe.

But it was a big deal. A lot of us might be able to lose a few bags of groceries and keep on going. But whoever had bought these items was hit hard enough by the loss they were willing to walk into that road to try to get some of it back.

They don’t teach a class in “Law Enforcement And Helping Someone With Spilled Groceries” at the academy.

That kind of thing comes from upbringing, and a sense of duty to do the right thing even when you don’t have to.

Day after day, I listen to law enforcement, EMS and fire services on radios. You can hear them humming in the background of my morning newscasts. Sometimes the boss complains about it when it really gets loud. But I don’t miss a lot. And I promise you that, in East Tennessee, the kind of thing I just described for you happens a lot more than you might think.