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Ronald Reagan and HS-4 Medevac 14 Year-Old Girl From Cruise Ship

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS071215-02
Release Date: 12/15/2007 4:22:00 PM


From USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

USS RONALD REAGAN, At sea (NNS) -- Sailors from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), and the pilots and aircrew of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Four (HS-4) rescued a teenage girl Dec. 15 who suffered a ruptured appendix while aboard a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean.

The girl, a 14 year-old from Albion Ill., had been experiencing abdominal pains while aboard the Dawn Princess. The Bermuda-flagged vessel was located off the coast of southern Baja California, Mexico and was approximately 550 miles away from Ronald Reagan when they issued the distress call late Saturday evening.

"It's a great example of the type of things we are called upon to do, and it's neat we were able to execute it as well as we did," said Capt. Terry B. Kraft, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer.

"I was most impressed with the teamwork on board the ship. Everybody rallied together," added Kraft. "It was a great coordinated effort between our helicopter squadron, HS-4, our medical folks and the Sailors here on the ship that enabled us to head down there very quickly. I'm also very proud of our ship's surgeon, who completed a successful operation."

Under the direction of Commander, U.S. Third Fleet and Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup, Ronald Reagan Strike Group Commander, USS Ronald Reagan responded to the call for help because it was the closest vessel with a hospital and the ability to transport and stabilize the patient.

Ronald Reagan launched two HH-60H helicopters from HS-4 at approximately 5 a.m. Dec 15 to transport the patient from the Princess cruise liner to Ronald Reagan for medical treatment. Because the cruise ship was unable to provide a landing area for the helicopter, a basket was lowered in order to raise the patient into the helicopter for transport.

"The patient was stable upon arrival, however with a presumptive diagnosis of a ruptured appendix, she was taken straight in to the operating room," said Cmdr. Theron Toole, Ronald Reagan's senior medical officer.

Reagan's surgeon, Cmdr. George Linville, performed the emergency appendectomy. According to Toole, the patient is currently resting comfortably aboard Ronald Reagan.

"She's getting the best care and her prognosis for a full recovery is good," said Toole.

Toole said that most cruise ships don't have surgical or advanced medical capabilities and are limited to minor emergencies and some trauma situations.

The HS-4 crew flying the rescue mission was commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Gregory J. Leland, pilot; Lt. Earl A. Crawford, co-pilot; Chief Aviation Warfare Systems Operator Matthew Shicks; Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Scott A. Heintschel and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Aaron McCullough-Sanden.

"The motto of the rescue swimmer is, 'So others may live,' and this mission pretty much embodied that," said McCullough-Sanden. "It feels really good that tomorrow somebody is going to be OK that otherwise might not have been."

Ronald Reagan's commanding officer had similar feelings on the incident.

"This crew is amazing. They always find a way to turn to, especially when this kind of assistance is needed, for civilians. As you saw with the San Diego wildfires, or a quick search-and-rescue-operation like this, they always answer the call," said Kraft.

Ronald Reagan is currently underway in the Pacific Ocean conducting tailored ship's training availability. The ship is also currently operating with other surface assets from the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group including USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Gridley (DDG 101) and USS Thach (FFG 43).

Ronald Reagan was commissioned in July 2003, making it the ninth and newest Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship is named for the 40th U.S. president; its motto, "Peace through Strength," was a recurring theme during the Reagan presidency.

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