At 9:45 Thursday evening, a call to the U.S. Coast Guard for a passenger in cardiac arrest from the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship resulted in a second call---this time to the Maryland State Police Aviation Command.
"Time is of the essence and every minute can count," said Helicopter Field Operation Commander Lt. Nathan Wheelock.
Trooper 7 helicopter crew raced towards the ship's location---10 miles southwest of Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay to perform one of its most dangerous rescues---from the air.
"Time is heart muscle and in cases where it is a cardiac event, every minute counts,” said Wheelock, “So our ability to go in, do a rapid extraction of a patient in an otherwise inaccessible location like a cruise ship where they may have to wait until the next port to be able to get them off by ground or by sea or land, we're able to go in, deploy our provider down to the ground, pull them back up to the aircraft and then immediately take them to a hospital."
In this case, the crew successfully hoisted the patient from the port side of the ship's upper deck and flew directly to Southern Maryland Hospital while providing life-saving medical treatment.
The Coast Guard can perform such rescues, but its nearest helicopters would have to fly out of Atlantic City to the north or Elizabeth City, North Carolina to the south, which would have cost the patient time, they may well not have had.
"We can be anywhere in the state, plus out to the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, we can be anywhere in about 20 to 25 minutes from the phone call," said Wheelock.
The state police have 10 such helicopters spread throughout the state and already this year, they have performed eight similar rescues at sea, from swift water and from mountain cliffs saving a dozen victims in the process.