A critically ill patient’s life was saved when an F-16 fighter jet was used to rush specialized medical equipment more than 280 miles in less than half an hour.
After falling ill, the man had been taken to a hospital in Bodø, Norway, but the hospital did not have an ECMO machine – a device that supports the heart and lungs – without which he would die.
Doctors at the hospital knew the nearest available unit was at a hospital in Tondheim, 280 miles to the south. With the machine more than 10 hours away by car due to terrain, they believed the man would die before the machine could arrive.
Before resigning themselves to fate, the medical team contacted the air force base near Trondheim to ask if there was any way they could help save the patient, who was in critical condition.
“Chance would have it that we had two flights bound for [nearby] Moss on an exercise,” Lieutenant Colonel Børge ‘Gaff’ Kleppe, leader of 338th Squadron, told local media outlet.
“One of them had even a cargo tank where there might be room. I called and asked them to keep [back] one plane, while we checked on it [for] all the possible places which could accommodate the machine.”
Militaries around the world have often helped with civilian medical emergencies, yet this is believed to be the first time a fighter jet has been used in such circumstances.
“Usually we spend about 35 minutes in flight,” said Lt Col Kleppe. “But because of the special cargo, the pilot gave a little extra, so he was there in less than 25 minutes.”
It took just 40 minutes from the first phone call to delivery of the medical equipment at the hospital in Bodø, saving the man’s life.
[This article originally ran on April 25, 2016]