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Help where help is needed

Rega news dated 12.12.2017

One last flight

Rega provides emergency medical assistance by air wherever it is needed. Sometimes, however, it is not medical assistance, but the empathy, improvisation skills and compassion of the Rega staff that are at the forefront of their actions. We share with you three incidents that have deeply moved us. They show that help can take many forms.

One last flight

The Rega helicopter lands on the large expanse of grass next to an apartment building. The paramedic opens the cabin door and joins his fellow crew members in unloading a 17-year-old patient. She is lying on a stretcher, connected by numerous tubes to several portable medical devices. A mobile external heartlung machine (ECMO) ensures that her blood is supplied with enough oxygen. Without all this equipment, the patient would not be alive. The Rega crew carry the patient through the front garden, inside the house and into the sitting room. She is back at last – in her own home, with her mother, her brother and her much-loved cat, in the place where she grew up. She has not been here for many months. Her medical condition made it impossible, and her health was steadily deteriorating. Her illness was diagnosed as incurable; she will soon lose her battle. And so from her hospital bed, the young woman asks to see her home and her cat one last time. To say goodbye. Her mother talks to the attending medical team at the intensive care unit. They enquire whether it would be possible to fly her home by Rega helicopter. Rega gives them the green light and flies the patient, staff and medical equipment from the intensive care unit to the home she so loves. And now she is sitting in the lounge with all her family around her, saying her goodbyes. After a time, the Rega pilot starts up the engines; the patient is once again lying on the stretcher inside the rescue helicopter, looking out of the cabin window. This will be her last flight.

A long-distance call

A long-distance call

A retired couple from Switzerland are on a walking holiday on the coast of Italy, where they have spent a number of days exploring the region’s hiking trails. They are enjoying the Mediterranean climate and the good food. Today is a particularly hot day, and the climb is steep. Suddenly, without warning, the man collapses. When the local rescue services arrive, there is nothing they can do but pronounce him dead. The woman who has just lost her husband is in a state of shock. Far from home, surrounded by rescuers who are speaking a foreign language. Apparently they are waiting for back-up from other rescuers to help transport the deceased man down into the valley. In the meantime, the woman has contacted her son in Switzerland via her mobile phone. He calls the Rega Operations Centre: Is there anything they can do to help? Rega operates worldwide, doesn’t it? The flight coordinator reacts quickly – and has to improvise. For in the event of a death abroad, one thing is clear: Rega can no longer be called out, for the Swiss Embassy is now responsible. But she could put his mother in touch with Rega’s Assistance and Care Service. The head of the care service is active in various care teams and highly skilled in assisting people in difficult situations. Shortly afterwards, the wife of the deceased man and the Rega support worker are connected with each other by phone. The latter listens, asks the bereaved woman to describe her present situation and continues to talk to her as – on her own, far away on a hiking path in Italy – the elderly lady walks behind the rescue team carrying her dead husband into the valley. Some weeks later, back in Switzerland, the woman contacts the Rega Care Service again, and tells them that the phone call had been a great help at that difficult moment of disbelief, anger and loss.

Catch of the day

Catch of the day

An elderly man is fishing from a jetty at the harbour of a southern Italian town. The tip of his fishing rod suddenly bends down towards the water, so he sets the hook and starts to reel in the line. It must be something big, because the top part of the rod is threatening to snap under the strain. Very slowly, he manages to reel in the line. Then something dark appears on the surface of the water: the hook has attached itself to a black holdall. Disappointed, the man heaves the bag onto the jetty and opens the zip. Inside he finds clothes, shoes and a wallet – all wet, but otherwise in perfect condition. On one of the cards there is a telephone number: +41 333 333 333. He calls the number. “Hello, Swiss Air-Rescue Rega,” says the flight coordinator on the other end of the line. She speaks Italian, so the angler tells her about the card and his big catch. From the patronage number, the flight coordinator is able to identify the owner of the card. She finds the Rega patron’s landline number on the internet, calls it up, and luckily – thanks to the call forwarding service – reaches him on his mobile. The Rega patron is on holiday in Italy with his family, he explains, how can he help? “Sorry, what was that? You’ve found our bag?”, he asks in delight. It had been stolen just a few hours earlier. The flight coordinator quickly organises a conference call with the helpful angler on the pier, and interprets and liaises between the two. An hour later at the harbour, the fisherman hands the Swiss man the bag he thought he had lost: it is wet, but the contents – except for a few Euro notes – are all still there, including all his official cards. It is a happy end to this holiday day.

None of these three accounts describes a typical Rega mission. There are no rules, checklists or algorithms for incidents like these. And that is precisely why they are symbolic of what characterises Rega and its employees: the willingness to help and support people in any situation, with whatever resources are available at the time. Even if that is nothing more than a telephone line.


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