McCrabb: CareFlight registered nurse fries up breakfast, deserves his ‘Bacon Man’ nickname

Mike Moyer believes bacon ‘always cheers you up. Everybody loves bacon. It’s just that simple.’

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

LEBANON — Even before you see Mike Moyer, dressed in his CareFlight jumpsuit, cooking in the kitchen, the smell that drifts outside a hangar at the Warren County Airport gives away what’s on the morning menu.

It’s sizzling bacon and freshly baked fruit-filled butter braid for dessert. With all due respect to pastries, bacon is king in this kitchen.

A sign above the refrigerator reads: “In Case of Emergency: Please Administer Bacon.”

You won’t get any argument from Moyer, nicknamed “Bacon Man” for his passion for pig.

Moyer, 41, a registered nurse, arrives for his 12-hour shift at 7 a.m., makes sure the CareFlight helicopter is fully stocked with medical supplies, then plugs in an electric skillet and fries bacon for the three-person flight crew and anyone else who stops by the hangar.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

But the more you talk to Moyer, a CareFlight nurse for 13 years, and his flight partner, Dana Zack, the more you realize this story is based on more than bacon.

The food draws the co-workers into the kitchen for breakfast, possibly their last meal of the day. Unless you consider eating out a vending machine in a hospital waiting room lunch or dinner.

“We are so busy and it’s nice to decompress,” Zack said of eating with her co-workers. “We are like a family here.”

When you work in a medical helicopter, your next assignment is one car crash away. The CareFlight crew can’t predict the workload of its shift. In a perfect world, they would go days without leaving the hangar.

This isn’t a perfect world.

“The things we see are never easy, never simple,” Moyer said while taking a break from frying bacon. “They’re always bad. You don’t call CareFlight because you stubbed your toe. We don’t fly you in the helicopter because you got a little boo-boo on your finger. We fly because it’s big, it’s bad, it’s major, it’s traumatic.

“Usually it’s life or death.”

Moyer remembered one emotionally draining flight. A mother had accidentally rolled over on her child in bed and the baby died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Moyer’s partner at the time realized the strain the call put on him.

“Sad case,” Moyer said quietly.

He walked outside the hospital and phoned his wife, Megan. Their 9-year-old son, Noah, 9, was only a few weeks old at the time. Moyer just wanted to hear Noah cry. He needed the assurance his son was alive.

“This job can take a toll on you,” he said.

The CareFlight team has a motto: “Everyone comes home.”

So all staff members, from the mechanics, pilots and nurses, take every precaution possible. While all employees — regardless of their occupation — are at risk, few face the dangers associated with flying in a medical helicopter.

“We are putting ourselves in a high-risk, chaotic situation,” he said.

There are times when Moyer and his three sons, Levi, 15, Noah, 9, and Adam, 8, all named after Bible characters, are working in the yard and they hear the unique sound of a CareFlight helicopter. He can tell by the direction of the helicopter’s nose and whether its landing gear is up or down, its destination.

Gears down typically mean a shorter flight from the airport to Atrium Medical Center. Gears up mean a longer flight.

Regardless of the helicopter’s destination, Moyer says a quick prayer: “Guys be safe.”

As Moyer talked while sitting near his computer, he smelled bacon cooking in the kitchen. He raced in, turned the bacon over and returned.

As a young boy, Moyer often spent a few days with his father, Norman, and grandparents every summer. Bacon was a big part of breakfast. His grandmother, Louann Moyer, knew the guys were heading into the field to work all day and may not return until dinner.

Now Moyer has continued his grandmother’s tradition.

“Bacon always cheers you up,” he said. “Everybody loves bacon. It’s just that simple.”

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