Aviation: Six-year-old Jigme Tobden was airlifted to Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) when his condition deteriorated after being admitted to the Bumthang hospital on November 18.

Jigme Tobden was admitted after being diagnosed with a high fever and a rash that had spread throughout his body, according to the medical officer of Bumthang hospital, Dr Tshering Penjor,

“We had to immediately refer the child to JDWNRH after the sudden deterioration of his condition,” he said. “Time was crucial for us. If the child was to be evacuated in an ambulance it would have at least taken us around 10 hours.”

Dr Tshering Penjor said that helicopter service has made it easier for the evacuation of such critical patients where time is a matter of life and death. “Such facilities not only saves time but also saves a life of an individual,” he said.

Medical services department director general, Dr Ugyen Dophu said that the request for the helicopter service was made at around 10:50am yesterday. The helicopter, which was at Paro, pick up the child from Bumthang and arrived at the Lungtenphu helipad in Thimphu at 12:30pm. The patient arrived at the emergency room (ER) at JWDNRH in the next 10 minutes.

Upon reaching the JWDNRH emergency room, medical professionals immediately attended to the patient and found that he was in a “very bad” condition.

JDWNRH ER medical specialist, Dr Sona Pradhan said that the child was in a state of respiratory distress where the patient was breathing faster than normal. She added that the consciousness level of the patient was also low along with very low blood pressure and oxygen levels.

Dr Sona Pradhan said that the patient was in a state hypovolemic shock where the heart is unable to pump enough blood due to severe loss of fluids in the body. “He was almost unconscious therefore intubation was provided where he was made to breath through a machine,” she said. “His condition was really bad. Had it been a little late to refer the patient here, it would have been a bad situation.”

She added that this was a “real emergency case” where timing was everything for the survival of the patient. “It would have been better if he was brought in earlier but he managed to reach here exactly on time,” she said. “The helicopter service has proven to be a boon at such time of emergencies.”

After the emergency team made sure that the condition of the patient was stabilized and improved, the patient was referred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Medical personnel are currently studying the case and a sample of the blood has also been sent to the Department of Public Health for examination.

This is the third time the government’s helicopter has performed a medical evacuation in the country. The chief pilot of the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Limited, Dave Peel, said that the Airbus H130 took around 36 minutes to reach the helipad in Thimphu and around 32 minutes from Paro to Bumthang.

Younten Tshedup