In the early morning hours of October 21, 2018, Sangay Rinzin, an expectant mother at 34 weeks, was airlifted by helicopter from Panbang in Southern Bhutan. Given Sangay’s history of two preterm deliveries and an unfortunate experience of losing her first son on the way to the Regional Referral Hospital, the Bhutan Emergency Aeromedical Retrieval (BEAR) team was called to evacuate her by helicopter, equipped with both neonatal resuscitation and a delivery set. While in mid-flight to the hospital, Sangay went into labor. There, at an altitude of 12,000 feet, two BEAR team members safely delivered a healthy baby boy, whom his grandfather would come to appropriately name Namdu Dorji, “the helicopter baby.”
Since its establishment in May 2017, the BEAR team has been rescuing lives and providing emergency medical services to the far-flung, hard-to-reach communities of Bhutan. Within the first year of operation, 117 people were treated and evacuated by the BEAR team. In 2018, another 126 lives were saved.
To further improve aero medical resuscitation services, the team was trained in November 2018 on basic aeromedical retrieval. Then, in January 2019, the team was provided with the refresher course Helicopter Safety and Emergency Protocols. This program will now come standardized as the annual refresher training program for all BEAR team members. As in the case of the miraculous helicopter baby, the effectiveness of the BEAR team’s services has drastically reduced mortality through efficient in-flight interventions, and these trainings are critical to their success.
As the BEAR team continues to work relentlessly to serve the emergency medical needs of rural Bhutan, we hope their remarkable work inspires you to support critical emergency medical equipment and training for the Bhutan Emergency Aeromedical Retrieval program.