Journey home by air-ambulance
Rega is standing by ready to come to your aid anywhere in the world. Find out in our video how Rega can help you abroad. The following incident is one example of how a repatriation operation from abroad is carried out.
Accident abroad – Rega comes to the rescue
During their holiday on Corfu, Mr and Mrs M. hire a motor scooter. As they go round a tight bend, they lose control of the vehicle and are thrown off onto the ground. Fortunately, Mr M. has only suffered some grazes, but his wife’s head is bleeding and she is complaining of severe back pain. She is taken to the casualty unit at a local clinic.
Later, the doctor shows the couple on the X-ray picture that Mrs M. has broken a vertebra. As he only speaks broken English, they do not know if this injury could result in paralysis. Mr M. has his Rega patronage with him and contacts the Rega Operations Centre by calling the emergency number +41 333 333 333.
Flight coordinator Sabine Zahn makes a note of the patient’s data and finds out about the medical care on Corfu and about the hospital where Mrs M is being treated. She records the name of the doctor in attendance, takes details of the cause of the accident and the diagnosis, and asks how the couple had planned to return home. Then she informs Mr M. that the Rega medical consultant would contact the doctor at the hospital and discuss with him the medical situation.
Sabine Zahn was given on-the-job training for her work as a flight coordinator for Rega’s ambulance jets. As a qualified tourism specialist, she has an excellent knowledge of foreign languages and geography, as well as strong organisational skills. From her own travels, she knows that openness and empathy help to solve problems, even out-of-the ordinary ones. She appreciates the benefits that irregular working hours bring. She also loves the fact that she can be coordinating a patient transport with Air Mauritius, informing the hospital in Crete about the expected arrival time of the ambulance and booking a hotel room in Bangkok for the Rega physician all at the same time. She might also be obtaining overflight permission for Botswana, enquiring at Belgrade Airport about the possibility of landing after 11.00pm, and discussing the forthcoming night mission with the jet crew.
Planning the mission – teamwork is called for
As Mrs M.’s serious injuries cannot be treated properly on Corfu, after speaking to the local physician, medical consultant Annina Gerber decides on the following course of action: “transport by stretcher accompanied by physician and intensive-care nurse” – in other words, repatriations on board a Rega ambulance jet.
Together with dispatcher Markus Burri, the medical coordinator draws up the flight plan and calls out the pilots, flight physician and intensive-care flight nurse. She organises a ground ambulance to transport the patient from the hospital to the airport on Corfu, and also obtains the necessary flight and landing permits and visas.
In addition, Annina Gerber informs the hospital, the patient and the next-of-kin about the repatriation procedure. Before the ambulance jet takes off for Corfu, she briefs the crew on the flight details and remains in constant contact with them throughout the mission.
After completing her medical training in the fields of anaesthetics and internal medicine, Dr Annina Gerber joined Rega as a flight physician, where she spent almost two years flying on repatriation missions. After a spell of maternity leave, the opportunity to return to professional life by working as a part-time medical consultant transpired to be an ideal solution. Annina Gerber enjoys being in contact with all kinds of medical specialists throughout the world and helping and advising the patients, but appreciates the fact that she still has enough time to spend at home with her young daughter.
As a dispatcher, Markus Burri is responsible for the operational flight planning and acts as a link between the Operation Centre and the pilots. With the aid of detailed information about the airspace, approach procedures and airports all over the globe, as well as about current weather forecasts and fuel prices, he draws up the best possible flight routes and plans any necessary stopovers for refuelling. He helps the flight coordinator to obtain overflight and landing permission, prepares the necessary documents for the pilots and during the mission provides the crew with up-to-date information.
Journey home with the best of medical care
The air-ambulance takes off from the Rega Centre at Zurich Airport for Corfu, where the Rega flight physician, Dr André Keisker, and intensive-care flight nurse Christine Wagner make their way to the hospital. They check that Mrs M. is fit for transport, attach her to the necessary monitoring devices and carefully lay her on a vacuum mattress.
When everything is ready, the ground ambulance transports the party to the waiting aircraft. In the meantime, co-pilot Marc Wälti has refuelled the ambulance jet and made all the necessary preparations for the return journey. Frau M. is taken on board and transferred to the aircraft stretcher. The medical equipment in the ambulance jet allows patients to be monitored and treated without interruption.
As there is also room for Mr M. in the aircraft, he is able to accompany his wife on the flight back home. As soon as jet lands in Switzerland, Mrs M. is taken by ambulance to hospital and entrusted to the care of the medical staff, who are awaiting her arrival. Subsequently, the ambulance jet is carefully checked over and made ready for the next mission by jet mechanic Albert Hertaeg.
Marc Welti gained his professional pilot licence in 2001. Since 2008, he has been employed at Rega as a co-pilot and particularly enjoys working in a small team. Every day and every operation is different and requires a well-drilled yet at the same time spontaneous manner of working. The irregular working hours also demand a high degree of flexibility in his private life; fortunately this poses no problem for his wife, who as a practice nurse understands and accepts the situation. Marc Welti is also involved in the medical aspect of the mission when the patients are loaded on and off the aircraft, for all hands are required for this task. Although he experiences the personal fates of the patients at very close quarters, he is able to maintain the necessary professional distance.
Already as a child, Dr André Keisker was fascinated by flying. After studying medicine in Fribourg and Berne, he spent one and a half years working at the Aeromedical Centre (AMC) in Dübendorf. His extensive knowledge in the field of paediatrics allows him to deal competently and professionally with the transfer of newborn babies and children, no matter how complex the task. During the flight, he bears the full medical responsibility for his patients and works closely together with an intensive care flight nurse. Since he has been working for Rega, Dr Keisker has been pleased to discover that his irregular working hours allow him to spend more time looking after house and home.
Intensive care nurse
On the water, in the air, on the ground - Christine Wagner has worked everywhere! After being employed as a nurse on a ship, more than 20 years ago she joined Rega, where occasionally she has had the opportunity to work with the rescue services on the ground. Over the years, she has not lost any of her enthusiasm for her extremely varied job. In fact, she cannot forget about flying even in her free time - for besides enjoying other sporting activities, she is a highly experienced parachutist! Her knowledge of five languages is very useful when dealing with the many international missions.
As the head of a team of three licenced aircraft mechanics, Albert Hertaeg is responsible for ensuring that Rega's ambulance jets are ready for take-off at any time of the day or night. In order to comply with the stringent maintenance regulations laid down by the authorities and aircraft manufacturers, they need to work in a very precise manner. A sound understanding of the various systems and aircraft engines, as well extensive knowledge in the fields of electronics, avionics, EDP and English, are essential. Naturally, strict hygiene rules also apply in the hangar. Albert Hertaeg is regularly called on to do on-call duty, for if technical defects arise or special missions - such as transporting wheelchair patients or search dogs - are necessary, the ambulance jet needs to be repaired or adapted very swiftly.