A friend falls ill aboard your boat, what would you do next?
Scenario: You’re out sailing with friends when one of them becomes unwell, complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath. You suspect they’re having a heart attack. What would you do?
a) Send out a mayday call and take advice
from the coastguard?
b) Call the coastguard and start heading back to shore?
c) Give them an aspirin and wait to see if they start to feel better?
Richard Faulkner, RNLI Clinical Operations Manager
In this scenario, option A would be the best course of action. A mayday distress call should be used if a vessel or its crew or passengers are in grave and imminent danger. Erring on the side of caution and suspecting a heart attack is the best option until proven otherwise in hospital.
By engaging early with the coastguard, they can advise on the next steps and connect you with a doctor, if required. Depending on your location, a lifeboat, rescue helicopter or both may be tasked to you. You may be asked to head towards a location to speed up help getting to you.
RNLI lifeboats carry medications and crew who are trained to support someone having a suspected heart attack until paramedic help arrives. If you’re concerned that the casualty’s condition is worsening while waiting for help, call the coastguard back and update them.
Heart attack at sea
At just 37 years old, Sailor Tim Bailie suffered a heart attack while on a pleasure cruise with his family. Less than 2 weeks later, he and his wife Rachael visited Bangor Lifeboat Station to thank the crew who rescued him.
Tim recalls: ‘I had chest pains which got progressively worse. The lifeboat crew came out to us and got me safely back to Bangor. I was so grateful to them. I spent 4 days in hospital. A heart attack was confirmed, and a stent inserted into one of my arteries.
‘We made some errors when calling for help. Instead of putting out a mayday call, we radioed the Coastguard then dialled 999 from a mobile phone when we didn’t get an immediate response.’
‘Tim was lucky we got to him when we did,’ says Bangor Helm Kyle Marshall. ‘It’s lovely to see him with his young family doing well.’
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