At the beginning of November, the crew of the Learjet 35 of the DRF Luftrettung was alerted to a mission which involved some particular aspects regarding the distance covered, the medical indication of the patient as well as the current corona pandemic.
A malignant, life-threatening disease of the lymphatic system had been detected in a middle-aged patient. The treatment options in Laos were not sufficient, which is why he was to be transported to a specialist medical clinic in England as soon as possible. Due to their modern and medically excellently equipped ambulance jets, the Operation Centre of the DRF Luftrettung was contacted for this mission. This ensured continuous and high-quality care for the patient, that required medication to be dispensed via a nebuliser mask and a continuous supply of oxygen during the flight.
In addition to the usual preparations for a repatriation, measures had to be taken to meet the tightened entry requirements due to the corona pandemic. Obtaining the necessary permits was consequently more difficult. Good planning and preliminary discussions by the doctors and the Operation Centre of the DRF Luftrettung paid off: This facilitated the planning of the logistics and the required medical equipment for the mission. The crew, consisting of the three pilots Miles Bennett, Michael Bobe and Christian Schaub as well as the medical staff, emergency physician Dr. Marco Baderschneider and emergency paramedic Klaus Grimm, was ready for action with detailed information and the necessary equipment.
COVID-19 tests (also known as PCR tests) had to be organised for the crew in advance and as quickly as possible, as entry into Laos was only permitted with negative results. These tests were necessary even at an airport where only a stopover for refuelling was planned. The crew could not have left the Learjet without a negative test result.
The aircraft finally took off from Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden Airport at noon and, after 12 hours, 45 minutes in the air plus refuelling stops in Turkey, Turkmenistan and India, arrived at the destination airport 9,200 kilometres (5,700 flight miles) away. The experienced and well-trained pilots mastered the demanding route without any problems. Corresponding airspace restrictions, special radio procedures and individual organisational factors at the various airports required a high level of knowledge and appropriate experience.
At the destination airport in Laos, the entire crew had to undergo another COVID 19 test. Finally, all crew members were subjected to a hotel room quarantine and were not allowed to leave their rooms until the following day, when they returned home.
The return flight to Europe was carried out along the same route, but required a change of crew at Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airport in addition to the three refuelling stops, in order to ensure the onward flight to the special medical clinic in England. The total flight time was 13 hours and 30 minutes. "By nebulising various medicines, the patient's shortness of breath was significantly improved. Furthermore, appropriate medication was administered intravenously to complete the treatment," describes emergency paramedic Klaus Grimm.
Despite the described extraordinary circumstances, it was especially the professional advance organisation by all parties involved that made it possible to carry out the operation and bring the patient to the appropriate hospital and thus receive adequate medical treatment in these eventful times.
"It was a wonderful feeling for all of us to be able to hand over the patient in a stable condition to the destination hospital," confirms Christian Schaub. "and to experience that even - or especially - in these difficult times of the current pandemic, all those involved acted as an excellent team and that we thus could guarantee a smooth and uneventful flight for the patient".
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