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California Air Guard medevacs stroke victim from cruise ship

A cruise ship passenger who fell ill hundreds of miles at sea is back on land after a rescue mission by the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing.

The afternoon of Feb. 11, the U.S. Coast Guard alerted the wing’s command post of a patient needing medical evacuation from the Ruby Princess cruise ship 345 nautical miles west of San Francisco.

U.S. Coast Guard District 11 requested support from the 129th Rescue Wing when the Ruby Princess reported a 35-year-old man was experiencing stroke-like symptoms. Three hours later, the wing launched two HC-130J Combat King II aircraft and one HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.

“We got the patient to advanced medical care much faster than if he had stayed on the ship,” said Lt. Col. Jason Funk, deputy group commander of the wing’s 130th Rescue Squadron, which flew the HC-130Js. “That’s the key. If he had stayed on that ship, he would have been delayed another day, which could have been catastrophic.”

Once the aircraft reached the cruise ship, Guardian Angel pararescuemen hoisted themselves down onto the vessel. They stabilized the patient before hoisting him up into the hovering helicopter for transport to Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto that evening.

“Every time we fly one of our training sorties, we are preparing for something like this,” said Funk.

The three rescue squadrons train together regularly to execute a variety of rescue scenarios.

“We’ve seen these situations, civil rescues, a number of times,” said Funk. “So we have a lot of knowledge [and] a lot of experience that we rely on for making decisions on the best way we handle these missions.”

The 129th Rescue Wing’s mission is to train and prepare to perform its wartime mission of combat search and rescue anywhere in the world.

The patient is the wing’s 1,153rd life saved.

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