Evacuation challenges… recently we discussed the many and miriad challenges of evacuating divers in need of treatment. Here’s another example in Vanuatu: an air crash.
DAN received a call from a doctor at the Lunganville Medical Centre in Vanuatu. She was treating a 63-year-old diver who had completed a reportedly uneventful dive to 55m that morning. The diver presented to the medical centre with mental confusion and a purplish/red rash on his torso that extended down to his thighs. When the call came in to DAN the diver was already receiving oxygen first aid via a nonrebreather mask with a flow-rate of 15 litres per minute (so a likely oxygen concentration of around 70-90%). The doctor called DAN seeking a Chamber Referral as she felt he needed recompression.
DAN’s initial diagnosis was DCS type II with skin manifestations and the DAN/DES Doctor recommended the diver be evacuated for recompression.
DAN started working on an evacuation plan. Initially, this was going to be to Port Vila, due to the close proximity, however, due to an air crash, no aircraft were available in Vanuatu. New Caledonia was looked at as an option, but ultimately, an air ambulance was sent from Brisbane to collect the diver and return him to the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane for treatment.
Once at the Wesley, the diver received two recompression treatments and recovered well.
(Note: We will share more details from this incident in a future post.)
In a recent blog, The Anatomy of an Emergency Evacuation, we discussed the challenges involved in managing a dive emergency, and co-ordinating an evacuation. We looked at challenges such as ensuring the diver is stable enough to be evacuated, bad weather preventing an air ambulance from landing or departing, meeting entry and visa requirements, lack of an airport or appropriate landing strip, amongst others. But this case presented a new challenge when an air incident occurred in Vanuatu and therefore all aircraft within Vanuatu had been grounded.
Fortunately, the diver was stable and the medical centre had adequate oxygen supplies, so the diver continued to receive oxygen first aid until the aircraft was able to arrive from Brisbane.
Even though DAN are the experts in diving accident management, the unique set of circumstances that present for each case can and do create challenges that our Team of experts work hard to overcome for our Members.