Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Being Prepared and Trained Saves Lives

During the downwind leg of the third race, competitor Russell Dunleavy collapsed in brisk conditions of about 15-17 knots. His sailing partner Chris Gill, who was aware that Russell has a heart condition, immediately called for a chase boat which arrived quickly just after another Ideal sailed by Betsy Sorenson came along side. Betsy is a registered nurse who along with Chris commenced CPR.

Russell has had a heart condition for some time and carries nitro pills. Russell was unresponsive and was transferred to the chase boat and brought to Fayerweather Yacht Club (Bridgeport, CT) where he was further treated (defribbed, etc) and transferred to an ambulance to Bridgeport Hospital. The committee boat had called 911 and an ambulance was waiting at the dock.

Russell has made it thus far. He had four complete blockages hit while on the water. The doctors have said everybody's efforts saved him, and were certain that if his heart hadn’t been massaged the whole way back into the dock he wouldn't have made it. Apparently one of the blockages was opened by compressing him. He is now being stabilized for quadruple bypass surgery.

This reinforces that we can't predict things out there. Here were some of the discussion items following the incident:

- Anyone sailing that carries medication that may be required should make it aware to your sailing partner and make its location known to them. Fortunately, Chris knew this which helped him immediately realize the seriousness of the situation.

- Having two people on a chase boat was critical in saving Russell. Having a nurse on the water was vital too.

- Encouraging CPR certification within racing fleets.

- Carrying onboard horns or whistles might be needed to expedite initial assistance in stronger winds or larger race courses.

If not for the efforts by Chris Gill and Betsy Sorenson, and Charlie Gulotta and Greg Wykoff on the chase boat, this day of frostbiting could have turned out much worse.

Thanks to Cliff Crowley and Bill Sandberg for helping with this story.

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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