In a multiple agency effort, a Nulato woman experiencing early labor symptoms was transported to Anchorage for emergency care, despite bad weather, aircraft issues, and the rural location of the village.
According to Senior Master Sgt. Rob Carte, the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was contacted by LifeMed at 7:45 a.m. Monday about a Nulato woman who was 25 weeks pregnant with twins and experiencing early labor symptoms. LifeMed was unable to reach the village due to bad weather.
“The combination of our HC-130 and HH-60 rescue teams can often get into locations in Alaska where other aircraft cannot due to bad weather,” Carte explained. “With Forward Looking Infrared Radar technology and highly experienced aircrews, the Air National Guard is often the most technologically advanced search and rescue organization in the state.”
The two aircraft team was unable to reach Nulato, however. Midway into the mission, the helicopter encountered a mechanical issue, and the HC-130 plane was unable to land at the airport due to the condition of the gravel runway.
“Ultimately, we turned to the Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska Fire Service for help,” Carte said. “The nearest military helicopter was in Nome, so the BLM airplane was much closer.”
The crew from the HC-130 accompanied crew of the new plane, contracted from Suburban Air in Galena. They were finally able to reach Nulato and began treating the woman at 1:30 p.m. The woman was then loaded onto the plane, and transported to Galena, where the HC-130 awaited to carry her, two family members, and the crew on to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. An ambulance awaited the group and transported the woman to the Alaska Native Medical Center for further treatment.
“Without the extremely well-coordinated effort of all our rescue partners around the state, we could never have the success rate we do,” Carte said. “The efforts of everyone involved in this case prevented those babies from being born in Nulato, where survival of pre-term newborns is unlikely. A big thanks and job well done to the whole team at BLM and Suburban Air, as well as the brave aircrews of the 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons.”
According to a Department of Military and Veterans Affairs spokesperson, the mother had not given birth prior to arrival in Anchorage, and no updates had been forwarded to the medical crew that transported her.