NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – A Search and Rescue (SAR) team from Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island conducted a Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, from the Friday Harbor Airport.
The SAR crew of five received an alert for a patient at the PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center in Friday Harbor suffering from stroke-like symptoms at approximately 6:45 p.m.
After a thorough discussion with the chain-of-command about inclement weather conditions, and seriousness of the patient’s condition, the command approved the evening launch. The crew began preparations to launch the helicopter after reviewing the local weather.
The crew dodged pockets of heavy rain, snow and fog along the 20 mile route to pick up the patient, arriving at the island airport shortly before 8 p.m. Once on deck, the Search and Rescue Medical Technician (SMT) conducted the patient turnover with the local medical personnel, then readied for an immediate departure to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash.
Knowing that the weather was going to be similar along the route to Bellingham, the crew conducted an intensive study of the local map, while on deck at the airport and determined a route that would expedite the flight to the hospital. The helicopter launched at about 8:30 p.m. and arrived shortly after 9 p.m. where the patient was turned over to a higher level of care.
Naval Aircrewman Second Class Francisco Toledo said, “This was without a doubt one of the most challenging nights of flying we’ve had in a long time, but the crew worked together discussing concerns and coming up with a plan that would allow us to get this patient to the higher level of care they needed.”
This was the fifth MEDEVAC of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted one search. In 2016, the unit conducted 51 missions including 14 MEDEVACS, 24 Rescues, and 13 Searches totaling 53 lives that were delivered to a higher level of care.
The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue platforms for the EA-18G aircraft.