The Japanese sailor with neurological deterioration on Ascension Island

One of our patients was a Japanese sailor, Mr. Ogawa (Name is fictitious for privacy reasons), who was on Ascension Island. Where is this? This small volcanic island, which is part of the British Overseas Territories, is located between South Africa and South America. Mainly used by NASA and the British and US military, it also has a small hospital that usually treats seamen with a medical emergency in the area. 

The seaman was injured on board a ship and needed emergency treatment

The series of events began when Mr. Ogawa was injured on the ship on which he was working as a crew member. In line with SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea), the vessel immediately contacted the nearest medical facility for emergency disembarkation and treatment of their crew member. Emergency treatment began at the only hospital on the island. This medical institution, being suitable only for day-to-day complaints, was not equipped enough to offer more advanced treatment to Mr. Ogawa. 

The treating doctor deemed it necessary for the patient to obtain specialist orthopedic consultation and possible surgery because of a fracture. This treatment was not possible on Ascension Island. That was when Medical Air Service was contacted by the vessel company. We were requested to organize the medical evacuation of Mr. Ogawa, who at that point in time, was in a stable condition medically. 

Ascencion island

Urgent medical evacuation mission with a complex organizational procedure

Soon afterward, we received an update stating a drastic change in Mr. Ogawa’s condition. He started demonstrating signs of underlying neurological deterioration which required a higher level of care and appropriate imaging, technology not available on the small Ascension Island. 

Thus began the urgent mission of transporting the patient to an appropriate neurological surgical unit in Cape Town in a medical flight. Medical evacuation to Cape Town seemed to be the most logical solution instead of medical repatriation to Japan because of the proximity of South Africa to Ascension Island.

Our aviation agents were faced with two challenges: 

  1. Communication issues while dealing with multiple agencies and institutions to safely organize the medevac. Our experts had to liaise with the hospital on Ascension Island, which was not responsive in a timely manner, the insurance company and several other institutions to be able to plan this mission. However, thanks to their dedication and hard work, it was possible.

  2. The complicated flight route and airspace of St. Helena airport on Ascension Island. This route is quite complex because of the remote location of the airport and dangerous cross-winds. The air ambulance flight required an experienced pilot able to efficiently maneover a safe landing and take-off. We deployed an expert pilot and the Bombardier Learjet 35, which is fitted with state-of-the-art medical equipment to safely transport the patient to Cape Town. 

Bombardier learjet 35

We successfully overcame these two challenges and upon landing in Cape Town, transported Mr. Ogawa to a hospital in a ground ambulance. He was immediately taken care of. After a few days, we were pleased to learn that his condition was significantly improving and he was going to remain in Cape Town until complete recovery, after which he will go back to his family in Japan. 

Contact us for an air ambulance for medical evacuation or repatriation

This type of medical emergency can happen to anyone and at any time. Like in the case of Mr. Ogawa, our aviation agents are available and ready to handle any challenges that may come their way while organizing the medical evacuation. They are dedicated to help you out. Contact them at any time and on any day for a free consultation and non-binding quote

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