Timely action by US Navy saves journalist's life

DUBAI - The life of Dubai-based Iraqi journalist and kidney transplant patient Mohammed Rajab Hussein was saved on Monday evening thanks to quick action and timely intervention of the US Navy and the Maritime Liaison Office (MARLO).

By Hani M. Bathish

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Published: Wed 27 Aug 2003, 11:50 AM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 10:15 PM

After the patient fell seriously ill on board the Dubai-bound Jebel Ali-3 passenger ferry, the ship's doctor recommended his immediate transfer to a shore-based medical facility.

It might have been a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster, a US Naval helicopter hovered over the Jebel Ali-3 as a pair of US Marine medics came on board, placed the patient on a stretcher and winched him onto the helicopter which transferred him to a waiting US warship that had come alongside.

Kholoud Mohammed Abbass, Mr Hussein's wife, who was accompanying her husband, stayed on board the ferry with her brother and two young children. She arrived in Dubai yesterday evening. Speaking to Khaleej Times, Mrs Kholoud thanked the concerted action and timely intervention of the ship's captain and crew and the US Navy, which responded quickly to a call for help.

"The last I heard, my husband is doing well in Salmaniya Hospital in Bahrain. My husband had a kidney transplant operation recently and it appeared that his body had rejected the kidney.

"He was getting very ill on board and his urea level was rising, but thanks to Dr Amjad, the ship's doctor, the captain and crew and Abu Ahmad the chief engineer, they took care of us until the helicopter came to transfer my husband to Bahrain. Had he not been taken to hospital quickly, I am sure my husband would have died on board," Mrs Kholoud said.

Mrs Kholoud's brother said that although Iraq's superior medical facilities were the best in the Arab world to conduct a successful kidney transplant operation, given the current conditions in the country any sophisticated medical treatment would have been a risky affair.

Michel Nye, General Manager of Naif Marine Services, the company which owns Jebel Ali-3, said that the transfer of seriously ill patients via helicopter and US warship is not an everyday occurance, pointing out that the last time a patient had to be taken by chopper for treatment was four or five years ago.

"We are still heavily dependant on the US Navy for rescue operation out at sea in the event of any accident. The bigger issue here is that the maritime nations (in the Gulf) need a more coordinated network of search and rescue. The important thing here is that the passenger's life was saved due to high level of cooperation and his quick transfer ashore in a matter of hours," Mr Nye said.

At 7.30pm on Monday, Mr Hussein began to experience difficulty in breathing and he began to lose consciousness. The ship's doctor informed captain Javed Aziz Kanwar, that the passenger had to be transferred to a shore facility quickly. The vessel radioed the company and Mr Nye along with Captain Ali Imam, Naif Marine Services Operations Manager, began to make calls to the US Embassy in Bahrain and MARLO.

"We spent the whole night discussing the matter with the various concerned authorities," Capt. Imam said. US Navy vessel 05 was the closest to Jebel Ali-3 and charted a course to intercept the ferry. At 10.10pm the warship arrived, at 10.52pm a US Navy helicopter hovered above the vessel and two US Marine medics landed on board. The patient was transferred to the forecastle of the ship by wheel chair and stretcher and by 11.15pm the patient was winched into the helicopter. The whole drama was over a little before midnight as the helicopter landed in Bahrain.

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