A British sailor is recovering in Queen Elizabeth II after being airlifted from a yacht last Friday in what is being hailed as a “textbook” operation.
Chris Drummond, a sixty-two-year-old British sailor from High Wycombe, was rescued roughly 220 miles from Halifax. As of Sunday afternoon, he was still in hospital receiving medical attention.
Drummond joined the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in New York — a six-continent race targeted at amateur sailors.
On June 20 he boarded the IchorCoal, one of twelve 21-metre ships, to partake in the last leg of the adventure.
But last Friday, after complaining of chest pains the day before, Drummond was airlifted from the yacht. In a public log, skipper Rich Gould says the mission was completed in just over 30 minutes.
Praxes medical director and emergency physician Dr. John Ross describes the rescue as a “textbook event.”
Praxes became the medical support sponsor for the Clipper Round the World Race back in 2014, providing crews with 24-7 global emergency medical support and telemedicine.
Gould was in touch with the medical group immediately after Drummond reported chest pains.
“When you think about all the moving parts, and all the people that are involved,” Ross said, “it did happen seamlessly.”
The first teams in action were the yacht crew and Praxes.
Founded in 1997, the Halifax-based medical group provides clients like the Royal Canadian Navy and Coast Guard with medical advice to prevent or find a solution to emergency health situations in remote areas.
In this rescue mission, Praxes provided oversight, authorized the medevac and provided treatment on board.
Ross even went to England before the race started to provide training kits and run through some hypotheticals as part of a mandatory training program for all participants. “Anything that might happen from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet,” he said.
The crews are then able to stay in touch with Praxes round the clock, by satellite phone or email.
After a detailed back-and-forth conversation, the crew and Praxes collectively determined that Drummond’s situation was fairly high risk and couldn’t be managed on board.
The call was made to dispatch a medevac run by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, a collaboration between the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian military.
The yacht had to temporarily leave the race and reverse back into the range of the helicopter transport area.
Ross says the original plan of rescue was to clear the deck, have the helicopter hover overhead and drop a line so the crew could grab hold of the line and the medevac worker could shimmy down to the yacht.
But prevailing winds and choppy sea conditions sabotaged that plan before it could be put into place.
The second, successful, plan was a two-person helicopter team that was able to get closer to the boat.
The rescue was successfully completed by 6:14 a.m. Friday.
“I managed to shake Chris’s hand quickly and wish him luck and then he and the second man were up, up and away,” skipper Rich Gould wrote in his daily Clipper report.
The last members of the rescue team were EHS paramedics who attended to Drummond when he reached safe ground, and QEII cardiologists who ran tests once he was admitted to hospital.
The IchorCoal team has now rejoined the race to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Twelve competing teams are now on their final leg of the 40,000-nautical mile journey that ends in London on July 30.
Ross attributes the seamless rescue to training and team work. Both the medevac team and the crew were able to remain cool under a high pressure situation, he said. This is especially surprising considering the lack of on-the-job experience an amateur sailing crew has.
“No one can really underestimate the fact that there is a ‘group think’ that has evolved as a result of living, crying and laughing together,” said Ross.
This rescue is the kind of feel-good story you may expect to watch on television. But when viewed from another angle, it’s exactly the type of rescue Praxes tries to avoid.
“The value we bring to the table is being able to talk to people in remote locations and try to treat them on board and prevent medevacs,” said Ross.
In Drummond’s case, there was no other option and Ross was thankful to all the teams that were able to pull it off.
“Each group trains to prepare for something like this,” said Ross. “But to actually make it happen is such an uncommon event.”
Original publish date: Jun. 26, 2016