A 55 year old Englishman Anthony Barry Roberts is lucky to be alive after sustaining extensive head, facial and chest injuries. A trained para-glider with 15 years’ experience, he was paragliding in Kangra in Himachal Pradesh in India* when sudden turbulent weather smashed him against a rock face where he was left suspended by his parachute. A Russian pilot who was also paragliding too, landed near him, risking his own life. He got him to a safer place and administered first. Blinded by the blood and swelling on his face Barry still managed to send the distress SOS from his satellite phone. This was at 2pm on the 24th of October.
The SOS set off a chain of events that subsequently led his rescue at 7 am the next day. His SOS signal was picked up in the USA from where the Weather Centre at the Indira Gandhi International airport, Delhi was alerted, who in turn sent a mail to the Distress Cell at the Commissioner’s office in Kangra. A young IAS officer Mr. Jatin Lal then spent the whole night getting clearances from the Army and Air Force locally, Air Force Command Centre in Jammu and Kashmir, the American Embassy in Delhi and the Ministry of Defense in Delhi.
He was first flown to the Army Hospital in Kangra where a chest tube was inserted for a pneumothorax caused by six fractured ribs and a ruptured lung. He was then shifted to the local Medical College for CT scan and neurosurgical care.
He was air lifted to Apollo Hospital in Delhi on the 26th of October where a team of surgeons including Neurosurgeon Dr Rajendra Prasad, Plastic Surgeon Dr Kuldeep Singh and Cardio thoracic surgeon Dr Ganjoo operated upon him. He had a compound comminuted fracture of the frontal bone with fracture of the frontal air sinus resulting in air escaping inside the cranial cavity. He had extensive facial bones and skull base fractures.
Surgery involved repairing the covering of the brain (dura) and stabilizing the frontal and facial bone fractures. Evacuation back home to U.K. was delayed till later this week till all the intra-cranial air has cleared.
As many times in his life Barry has shown true grit and determination and to fight through all odds. He climbed Mount Everest in 2004 and subsequently fought polar bears while climbing in Greenland. A true superhero!
Having seen a number of such cases, I feel it necessary to point out a few things to remember -
When you go on holiday make sure you have good insurance to cover treatment locally and also evacuation back home.
Satellite phones are a must for people indulging in adventure sport like paragliding. Once SOS has been received like in this case by the IGI Airport Weather centre there should be a person taking direct responsibility and communicate by phone and email only if necessary for records.
Authorities at holiday destinations have to realize that such injuries are common in holiday season so that a plan has to be in place for immediate rescue and evacuation of the injured. In case of multiple injuries a disaster drill is practiced so that the injured are given primary trauma care by trained first responders as early as possible, triaging is done, and then evacuated by ambulance or helicopter to the nearest hospital for resuscitation and further care. First responders should be able to recognize a patient who has had a head injury so that the evacuation team can take the patient directly to the Neurosurgical Centre, saving transfer to multiple hospitals.
There should be trained Primary trauma care teams at these hospitals.
*Incident as told by Anthony Barry Roberts.