NATION

Medics Save Diver From Bends Fatality

A crew of an Australian helicopter evacuated a Vanuabalavu diver just in time to be treated for the bends at the Colonial War Memorial hospital in Suva. Medic Sergeant Bernadette
24 Mar 2016 09:00
Medics Save Diver From Bends Fatality
Temo Olita(centre) with Australian Army Taipan MRH-90 crew, at CWM Hospital, Suva. Photo: Australian Department of Defence.

A crew of an Australian helicopter evacuated a Vanuabalavu diver just in time to be treated for the bends at the Colonial War Memorial hospital in Suva.

Medic Sergeant Bernadette Serong said if the patient hadn’t been evacuated when the Australian Army Taipan MRH-90 left for Suva last week, diver Temo Olita likely wouldn’t have survived.

“We knew that we had to evacuate him, and evacuation by air was probably his only chance of survival at that time,” said Sergeant Serong.

“He was unconscious and experiencing severe muscle twitches conducive with the bends.

“If we hadn’t taken him at that point, getting him to definitive care wouldn’t have been achieved within the timeframe required.”

The helicopter crew was originally responding to an Aero-Medical Evacuation (AME) request to evacuate an injured New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) soldier from the island when the injured Mr Olita was brought to their attention.

Helicopter pilot Major Andrew Lean from the Australian Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment based in Townsville, said that the additional casualty was unexpected as the crew was responding to the AME for the injured Kiwi soldier.

“We dispatched to the island expecting to evacuate one NZDF casualty,” Major Lean said.

“Shortly after landing, local villagers approached the helicopter carrying a second injured man on a blanket.”

Major Lean said the medics were quick to assess Mr Olita’s condition after receiving reports that he had been suffering symptoms consistent with decompression illness.

“Our AME doctor quickly assessed that he required urgent medical attention and requested a casualty evacuation back to Suva,” he said.

“With the doctor’s assessment it was easy to make the call to bring the diver onboard along with our other AME patient.”

During the flight the medical team continuously worked on Mr Olita assisting his airways and oxygen intake.

The crew and AME team (medics and emergency responders), transferred the patients to the mainland, where they were received by a team of NZDF medics and taken by ambulance to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.

Co-ordinating with the hospital staff, the Australian medical team ensured the hospital was ready to receive Mr Olita where he was treated for decompression illness.

The medical team have since visited Mr Olita, who is recovering well, although keen to return to his family on Vanuabalavu island.

Mr Olita said he was extremely thankful to the AME team that helped him but also to the Australian Defence Force who have been providing initial disaster relief assistance to his village.

Source: Australian Defence Force

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