Whilst we reported daily on the latest action from the Clipper 2017-18 Race, there were a number of teams working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the fleet is ready for all eventualities throughout the year.

One of these teams was Clipper Race’s Global Medical Emergency Support Partner, PRAXES Medical Group, which provides the bespoke remote telemedicine service, ClipperTelemed+, 24 hours a day, to crew members and Skippers whilst at sea and during stopovers.

Based in Canada, PRAXES’ services are accessed by sat phone or email from anywhere in the world. The team is on hand to assist Skippers and crew members with any form of medical advice, from minor questions about day-to-day health on board to assistance with more advanced medical situations, making it the ideal support platform for cruising, offshore sailing or ocean racing.

Even with a medical professional on board and all eventualities planned for, the services provided by PRAXES from race start to finish can prove invaluable and reassuring should a medical condition develop at sea.

During Leg 3 from Cape Town, South Africa, to Fremantle, Australia, circumnavigating crew member, Erik Hellstrom, on board Garmin, developed an abdominal obstruction which required urgent medical attention. Despite fellow circumnavigator and on board medical assistant, Nell Wyatt, a 59-year-old doctor from Wiltshire, UK, having a wealth of medical experience, the support she received from PRAXES proved invaluable.

Talking about the events that unfolded, Nell said: “Erik was one of my fellow crew members and he became ill. At home I would have admitted him the very same day but unfortunately, we were about 2,000 nautical miles from the closest port of call so that wasn’t an option.

“I had fantastic support from PRAXES who I could speak to every day. They advised me further on how I should look after Erik and assisted with his medevac which, given our remote location, took three days to arrive.

“During the days waiting for the medevac to arrive Erik was very unwell and as his condition developed, the situation become more serious. The PRAXES team helped guide his treatment, which included a drip for dehydration and draining excess fluids.”

“From my point of view, even though I am a medical professional, having ClipperTelemed+ by PRAXES on the other end of the phone line was absolutely invaluable. Although I knew exactly how to deal with the condition on land, where I have everything available like x-rays and blood tests and a hospital, on the boat, I had myself, my Skipper and excellent, but limited, range of medical equipment. So, to have the professional assistance of the ClipperTelemed+ by PRAXES doctors to share ideas with and to get opinions from, was incredibly helpful. The best thing of all was having the reassurance and peace of mind that they were ready and waiting at the other end of the line at all times.

“I also can say for certain that if I wasn’t as experienced as I am, the service that PRAXES provided would have been absolutely crucial. I was highly impressed by the ClipperTelemed+ by PRAXES doctors and it is an essential service for such an adventure.”

Nell continues: “Without the assistance of ClipperTelemed+ by PRAXES and also the Australian Air and Sea Rescue teams, there is a real chance that Erik’s outcome would have been considerably worse.”

Although Erik plays down the situation, he was very thankful to have Nell and the PRAXES doctors at his side. He recalls: “Nell was in contact with PRAXES throughout and in consultation with the doctors, she kept me in my bunk and every single hour she monitored my pulse and blood pressure. Nell also monitored my stomach size and pain level. The remarkable thing is that I wasn’t in any pain, much to her surprise.”

A successful medical drop of supplies was carried out by the Royal Australian Air Force to Garmin and following ongoing medical care the Garmin team carried out a successful medevac of Erik via transfer to a vessel provided by the Royal Australian Navy (MV Stoker).

On the medevac, Erik continues: “It was very reassuring to know that there was on shore medical assistance to help. The access to healthcare is very important, especially if you were to venture out without a fully qualified professional doctor on board.”

Following a full recovery and medical sign-off, Erik re-joined his teammates in Seattle, USA, to complete the rest of the circumnavigation. He says: “Re-joining the race in Seattle felt like I was coming home again. I had set out to do the full circumnavigation so it was very good to be back on board, and just amazing really that I recovered and was healthy again so that I could re-join.”

For Nell, welcoming Erik back was a very special moment. She adds: “To see Erik fit enough to return to the race was incredible! He was extremely ill. So professionally, but also personally, it was very special as I had sailed with Erik for nearly a year of my life, to see him come back seemingly even fitter than he had been at the beginning was amazing.”

PRAXES Medical first joined forces with the Clipper Race in 2013. Following a successful first partnership during the Clipper 2013-14 Race, the two organisations created ClipperTelemed+, combining PRAXES’s medical expertise with the Clipper Race’s global platform in order to offer the benefits of a 24/7 global telemedicine service to other mariners.

To find out more, visit: https://clippertelemed.com/