South Pole….the stroke victim

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    Well, I’ve known about this for awhile and hoped that this medical issue would be resolved without media attention, but the story is now out there on the international news…the front page of the 5 October Christchurch Press. in case you haven’t seen it, you might as well.


    it blows my mind that a corporation can decide the fate of a person by committee like that. but i guess that’s how all our health insurance companies work in the US anyway.
    it’s disappointing, nonetheless, and another hit for RPSC, USAP, and the NSF.


    The NSF is not a corporation. And as much as we all want to go get her, it can be just too dangerous in winter. The planes that can withstand the cold do not have the range to fly from any reasonable place non-stop to the Pole so they would have to make mid-winter landings at remote fuel caches on the plateau. The risks are real and serious. The smallest mistake would mean a desperate mid-winter rescue attempt for the stranded air crew.

    As hard as it is to take, the NSF probably made the right decision to wait to take her out in better weather on the first plane. Hopefully they are getting that first plane in as soon as possible.

    I wish Renee all the best, and get home safely!


    It is a very sad situation, and I pray for the best for her, but the correct decision was made. I would like to think if I were in a similar situation I would not expect otherwise. I think it is unfortunate the news was contacted and such an interview was made. I feel sorry for the family, and can understand their concern, but what about the families of the potential flight crew?

    I remember sitting in the galley at the pole in the middle of summer hearing a 130 buzz the station multiple times, then hear the announcement that the flight was turning back to mcmurdo. That was a somewhat sunny day, in conditions a fraction of what they are now. If conditions turn for the worst during a rescue flight, it’s not like the plane can just boomerang back to mcmurdo.

    Just out of curiosity what aircraft would be used in such a situation? A Basler or is there something else they would bring down?


    Let’s say for talking purposes that a medevac was under consideration at the end of August when this all started (well, there WAS discussion about it). They would have used a Twin Otter (two, actually–the second one for backup/rescue purposes) from Canada, as was done for the medevacs in 2001 and 2003. Here is my timeline of the 2001 medevac, with map and links to photos: You’ll notice that it took 2 weeks from the time the planning started until the time the aircraft reached Pole, and another few days before he was back to a location with major medical facilities (Punta Arenas). Weather did not delay them that much. The weather in September tends to be a fair bit raunchier and changeable than in April…there really IS significant risk to the aircrew and pilots.

    Ron Shemenski was recovering and stable when the medevac happened, but one reason NSF decided to push forward with it at the time was because of the potential of a relapse later in the winter when weather conditions would make the mission much more difficult if not impossible. Another factor was that he was the only physician on station, and if he were later incapacitated there would be no medical care available for him or the rest of the station (beginning in 2002 there has always been a physician’s assistant or a second physician in the winterover crew).

    The 2003 medevac did occur in September, in similar fashion, but it was closer to 3 weeks before the Twin Otter reached Pole. Here is my timeline of that event:


    I’ve been around the program for a lot of medivacs. I think that in general serious health concerns are extremely important to the NSF. They don’t want the bad publicity. I don’t know the whole story here, but my gut feeling is that what is being reported is not the whole story. If they are not going forward with an early medivac, somebody has concluded that degree of severity is not as great as the potential for a plane crash. The fact that the planes don’t work too well at -50 degrees plays in and it would be a major talk to fly up the twin otters from Canada. Yup, I’ll wager it’s less serious than the news accounts.


    It’s a shame that this whole situation has ended up this way. I wish Renee the best. I imagine she’ll be on the first plane that comes through which should be in another week or so. There have been lots of lessons learned from this winter. Hopefully next year is without so much drama.


    I don’t know the situation too well, but I am sure if it is determined that situation for the victim is really severe, they will do everything to get her out. Like ThePool said, they calculated the risk of ‘victim dying’ vs ‘ppl flying the plane dying’ and determined the alter is higher, so the decision was made to wait?


    Speaking of medical issues, here’s an update on one we were watching last year about this time.

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