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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Guest Blog: Himself "Man Overboard"

This is something Himself sent a couple days ago... There's always something happening up there! (Up there being Bristol Bay, AK where he is working salmon season).

Tough day today. Got to bed at midnight and was woke up at 2:35 AM for a knee injury. Finished that at 4:00 AM and was going lay back down until my alarm went off at 4:30. Never got those 30 minutes. That's OK- I figured I'd nap when my morning clinic ended at 0630 hrs.


I got a call from the Bridge ref 'some fisherman fell into the sea and was floating with the current 20 minutes before being rescued'...and they were steaming as fast as they can to the Indy for me to stabilize a hypothermic patient.


Air temps hover around 50 degrees, water temps lower than that. Over the radio we tell them to strip off his wet clothes, get anything warm around this guy that you can and lay him down. And get here as fast as you can.

Our deckhands & engineers teamed up to receive the gillnetter ship in very rough seas as I did a quick glance in my paramedic book for hypothermia protocol. Seeing different levels of treatment in my med book, I set up my defibrillator...just in case. Had IV bags out to microwave for extra warmth (around the patient as well as a warm IV if needed). Then we waited...

Out of all the fishing boats visible on the water eventually here come TWO gill netters-one towing the other. The wet hypothermic dude is in the second boat. The first boat comes alongside and releases the second gillnetter to drift into us because he is 'not under power'. Drifting means, well...drifting, and soon this powerless gillnetter drifts right into our sponson. THUNK! It then continues to beat on it due to very rough seas. The towing gillnetter peels off and sat out 50 feet...bouncing in the waves. The thunking gillnetter (with the patient) soon gets lines thrown to-and-from it by our deckhands and theirs. Only partial success- now in this position it keeps slamming into our steel sponsons and an increasingly miffed gillnetter captain barks orders to, "Get the #&%*$ tire-bumpers in PLACE before we break APART!!!" Watching his wood and fiberglass hull crash against our steel hull, I had to agree.

His three deckhands scramble to accommodate while our guys try to put extra 'buoy-bumpers' in place. Me? I'm thinking, "How am I going to get onto that boat to check the patient?!"

Someone comes up with the idea to fit me with a harness and snap-link a rope onto it. (That way if I DO fall into the drink, at least I can be fished out.) Then they seated me onto the 'rescue scoop litter' and crane me over. As I was lowered, I hopped that last 18 inches down onto this bucking rodeo boat- trying to time my landing with the bouncing deck. Once aboard I work my way to an open hatch. With barks & growls still coming from within, I figure I'm about to meet the captain.

With the Indy folks working to 'make this happen' safely, (including doling out the safety line rope I'm attached to) I get onto this boat and 'go below'...dragging the safety line behind me. Stepping into the dark interior, I see a 60-ish dude standing there (the captain) who is trying unsuccessfully to hold his gillnetter steady. I move past him to their 'sleep hold' to my patient.

Except no patient...

I ask this grouchy captain, "Where is the man who fell overboard?!"

The captain--amid bucking waves, blaring radios and yelling people says, "It's ME!"

I look at him like, "Say again?"

Him: "Yes, it is me! I'm the one who fell overboard!"

Me: "You drifted in that cold water for 20 minutes? What did you have ON?!"

Him: "This-just regular clothes."

Me: "AND??!"

Him: "I floated."

Me: "And, how are you feeling NOW?!"

Him: "OK."

Knowing I should do something, I take his temp with my 'hypothermia thermometer'--which shows lower readings for hypothermic patients. Waiting the proper time for a reading to take effect I studied this guy. If disposition was a factor, hypothermia wasn't an issue. But I checked anyway. Temp? Almost normal. Of course, with this guy who KNOWS what is normal because he was still barking orders to his crew with the thermometer sticking out the side of his mouth and bobbing up and down to the rhythm of various emphatic and colorful commands.

I then take his electronic vitals (pulse rate, SaO2) amid seriously bucking seas while everyone else are standing by with bated breath and ready to call the Coasties in case the man-overboard-guy 'goes unconscious and needs to be medevaced.'

I declare him fit to live a few more years after telling him don't EVER do that again... It turns out this is the second time he has done this. Floated away.

Then I get ready to be lifted back off this little bucking bronco ship. And none too soon-I was starting to get seasick. Mission accomplished.

Oops-not quite. Before I left that little ship Captain Grouchy asked me to check one of his men. Might as well check him, the barky ol' captain certainly didn't need me...) This guy? He had a raging ear infection and the captain-softening a bit out of concern, had asked me to 'take a look' at this deckhand.

Upon getting back on our ship, I determine to run back upstairs to get this guy some stuff before they cut the ship away- a priority for them due to the beating it was taking against our hull. Our own captain wanted a 'report of events' concerning our 'patient' but that could wait-let me take care of Red first. I takeoff...forgetting I am still attached to...something. With me zooming into the ship from the sponson I suddenly become aware of lots of yelling. NOW what? Thank goodness I realized it wasn't more yelling between the gillnetter crews and our crew.

It was our guys yelling at ME! I stopped just in time before being yanked to a stop and unhooked myself as if I meant to do this the whole time. They didn't buy it for a moment...

End result? Their deckhand should be recovering, their captain is dry (for now) and I was back in my safe clinic.

Time for a nap...


  1. Wow, that is a good story. So glad everyone was okay. Thanks for sharing that.

  2. What an interesting story. Thanks for the "guest" post

  3. You had me on the edge of my seat! Wow, Mr. Grouchy is one tough dude. And you, dear sir are Grace Under Pressure! ~Lili

  4. WoW! What a great post. You narrated the story very well. I could see that you are indeed good at emergencies. I think you are a doctor or sort of medical assistant. :D

  5. Wow! This is a very interesting post. I like the way you narrated the story. I mean you narrated it well. Anyway, after I've read this article, I was thinking that you maybe a doctor or a medical assistant. Because you have these medical terms which is, for me, not so common. :d


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