The Learjet-45 aircraft was all prepped up and medical and flight crews were ready for a record mission. Racing against time, the team obtained clearances from five Central ministries. The only obstacle was in getting a nod from an island nation to land the aircraft for the night.
At the centre of the mission is a bank employee suffering from terminal cancer who needs immediate evacuation from Johannesburg to Chennai, where he is to undergo treatment and re-unite with his family. Amid the lockdown, there is no other way his family can see him.
In a one-of-its-kind operation in the country during the lockdown, an air ambulance took off from Chennai to airlift the employee in what will be the longest medical airlift ever attempted for an Indian national.
It is learnt that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) intervened and requested the government of Mauritius to allow a night halt for the aircraft and crew after the Seychelles and Madagascar refused.
The employee is Vijay Yasam of Nellore district, while the air ambulance service, International Critical Care Air Transfer Team (ICATT), is headquartered in Hyderabad. Yasam is chief manager in the Johannesburg branch of Bank of Baroda.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle from Nellore, Yasam’s wife Kavitha said her husband was diagnosed with cancer on April 8 during a routine medical check.
“Our world is shattered,” said Kavitha, who along with her daughter and son have been inconsolable.
Yasam, who underwent an operation in Johannesburg, was desperate to return home to his family. After mulling over the options, the bank authorities in South Africa roped in ICATT for the task.
Contacted by this newspaper, ICATT Learjet air ambulance director Dr Rahul Singh Sardar said the mission posed a huge logistical challenge of flying over the Arabian sea and Indian Ocean with only a few small islands to stop for fuel.
“Some island countries refused permission for landing the aircraft and after much deliberation, the Mauritius government gave the nod. It is a four-day mission to retrieve the individual,” said Dr Rahul, who along with his colleague Dr Shalini Nalwad, both intensive care and aero medical specialists, are in touch with the doctors based in Johannesburg.
Yasam’s further deteriorated on Thursday night and he has been admitted to the ICU. The doctors are involved in pre-optimizing the clinical condition so that Yasam remains stable in the long journey back home....