Crew Respond to Medical Emergency in The Bahamas

20 September 2022 By Lauren Beck
iStock: bmswanson

Lauren Beck is the former editor of Dockwalk and was with the publication from 2006 to 2023. At 13, she left South Africa aboard a 34-foot sailing boat with her family and ended up in St. Maarten for six years. Before college, she worked as crew for a year, and then cut her journalistic teeth at Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal online. She loves traveling, reading, tennis, and rooting for the Boston Red Sox.

Capt. Kelly Gordon of M/Y Freddy is a well-known name on our site. (If you haven’t seen her “Ask Captain Kelly” column, make sure you check it out.) But this time, she’s making waves for a different reason: coming to the rescue when another vessel’s guest experienced a medical emergency.

Capt. Gordon was moored at Obrien’s Cay in The Bahamas on August 1 when her first officer, Shawn Riera, heard the call over the radio. “I tried to communicate with the vessel, but they were just out of range. I could hear them, but they couldn't hear me,” Gordon says.

According to Max White, the nephew of the injured man, a slip and fall on their catamaran resulted in serious injuries — as White detailed later in a letter, his uncle, Chris, slipped and landed face first on the swim deck, breaking his jaw, both arms, ribs, and losing 10 teeth. He was unconscious after the fall and ended up in the water.

His family jumped in to rescue him but were struggling to get him back on the boat. “We radioed over the VHF to see if anyone could help,” White says. “We had no idea what to do, everyone on the boat was shook. We were about [a] 15-hour sail to a hospital — we were absolutely screwed, or so we thought.”

Back: Shane Hughes, Gianna Mesi, and Alex Pujol. Front: Shawn Riera, Capt. Kelly Gordon, and Amy Kowalksi
Courtesy of M/Y Freddy

Capt. Gordon was six miles away when she heard the call. “We grabbed our medical bag and AED and headed [over],” she says. They joined the others who were now on the boat to help.

“When we got to the scene, it was my mate that jumped off the tender first and went immediately to Chris,” she says. “I followed and made a quick assessment of Chris and established that he was stable but did need advanced medical help. After I saw that he was stable, I quickly noticed that the command structure needed a hand, and I was happy to help.”

“She immediately took control of the situation,” White says. With so many people around trying to help, White says it was a bit hectic. “Everyone was ‘trying’ to help, but in reality, they were just getting in the way, and not offering any real solutions,” he says.

“We had no idea what to do, everyone on the boat was shook. We were about [a] 15-hour sail to a hospital — we were absolutely screwed, or so we thought.”

But then Gordon stepped in. “There was zero hesitation or uncertainty in her words or actions,” White says. “She started calling the shots, and everyone fell in line accordingly. It was then that I realized we were in the right hands. THE BEST HANDS. We couldn’t have been more fortunate to have her help. Her experience, knowledge, and dedication to her craft were instrumental in this situation.”

As White explained, Capt. Gordon took command and ensured that only medical personnel were able to examine the injured man. “There is no telling what would have happened to Chris if Kelly wasn’t there,” White says. “Her character, commitment, and knowledge are unrivaled.”

According to White, with the coordination of Gordon and the crew from M/Y Cupcake, the injured man was able to reach a hospital within three hours thanks to Capt. Nick Kinkaid, who transported the injured man in M/Y Cupcake’s tender. In White’s letter, he also thanked “EMT/Medic Doc” and a Canadian doctor who was also on the scene.

As Gordon noted to Dockwalk, “This is event reminded me just how careful you have to be in the Out Islands — you really are ‘out’ there. It reaffirmed the necessity to drill and train for these events.”


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