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Paramedics help Navy in daring rescue at sea

Dan Robiataille (left) and Michelle LaMoia of the Space Gateway Support Emergency Response Team with their ambulance at Cape Canaveral AFS. (Photo courtesy of Space Gateway Support)

Dan Robiataille (left) and Michelle LaMoia of the Space Gateway Support Emergency Response Team with their ambulance at Cape Canaveral AFS. (Photo courtesy of Space Gateway Support)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- On Jan. 22, two fire services personnel from Space Gateway Support were dispatched to an emergency medical call for a Sailor with chest pains - a not-out-of-the-ordinary call. However, the challenge wasn't the nature of the call, it was the location.

The patient, Chief Petty Officer Jeff Klimczek was aboard the U.S. Navy submarine USS Alexandria, which was on its way back to the Trident Wharf. The situation made it imperative that the paramedics get to their patient before the vessel arrived.

"When I heard that firefighter paramedics [Dan] Robitaille and [Michelle] LaMoia were responding to the incident, I knew we were sending the best,' said Fire Chief Gerald Wimberly. "Having observed them both on various emergencies, I knew that whatever the situation, they were fully capable of completing the mission."

The paramedics boarded the pilot boat used to guide vessels into the port and began their trip to rendezvous with the submarine. During the trip, Ms. LaMoia and Mr. Robitaille were instructed in the procedures they would employ to transfer themselves and their equipment to the submarine.

The transfer was accomplished while both vessels were in motion and required the passing of sensitive heart monitoring equipment, oxygen, drugs and other essentials.
"As a paramedic you try to play out a couple scenarios in your head based on what information you receive from your dispatcher," said Mr. Robiataille. "I learned early on that you always expect the unexpected, but boarding a moving submarine five miles off the coast was nowhere in my mind."

Soon, both paramedics were with the patient. Chief Klimczek was hooked up to the cardiac monitoring equipment, oxygen administered, an I.V. established and the appropriate drugs administered to stabilize the patient.

Upon arrival at the Trident Wharf the sailors of the USS Alexandria and the Naval Ordnance Testing Unit worked seamlessly with the Fire Services crews to transfer the patent from the submarine to a waiting ambulance.

"I am happy to report the crew member made it to the hospital safely and is recovering thanks to their quick response and professional efforts," said NOTU Commander Capt. William Drake.

"The diversity of our calls makes being a paramedic pretty interesting and unique," said Ms. LaMoia. "It's always rewarding to help others and having experienced what will probably be a once in a lifetime call keeps things interesting."

Editor's note: Space Gateway Support is a contractor that provides joint services to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center. Information for this story was provided by Norbert Kuhman, NASA/USAF Fire Services.