Flying doctor saves fisherman
AN Exeter flying doctor was the toast of Australia after she saved the life of a man stabbed by a giant fish.
Former Maynard schoolgirl Elizabeth Thompson, from Pinhoe, is a flying doctor based near Brisbane, Queensland.
One of the first medical students trained at Exeter's Peninsula Medical School, the 28-year-old, who had only been working for the service for a month, leapt into dramatic action when her medical helicopter was scrambled to go to the aid of a fisherman whose upper leg was impaled on a large swordfish.
Jessy Vandevis was helping his crew drag the fish along the deck of their boat at night when he slipped and fell on top of the fish's razor-sharp bill. The ship was on the very edge of the aircraft's 100 nautical miles range offshore, a giving it just a 10-minute window to winch the man aboard.
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Dr Thompson, the critical care doctor who treated the shocked fisherman in the helicopter, said he was lucky the bill had not snapped off in his leg. As it was he had lost significant amount of blood.
Dr Thompson said: "He was in quite a bit of pain and it was a frightening and unusual experience for him.
"But we kept him calm and he was conscious and talking to us throughout the rescue."
Once back at base Mr Vandevis was taken to hospital in a stable condition.
He said: "I felt it go in and immediately freaked out. All of a sudden there was blood going everywhere. I clutched it as tight as I could to stop the blood coming out – it was definitely coming out pretty fast. The first thing I thought was, I'm 190 nautical miles out, I'm not going to make it."
Dr Thompson is the younger daughter of David Thompson and his wife, former city councillor Cynthia Thompson, of Pinn Lane, Pinhoe.
The couple also have a son, James, who is doing a masters degree in music and elder daughter, Maria Whitton of Topsham.
Mr Thompson said Elizabeth has been doing anaesthetics and intensive medicine at Southampton Hospital and saw the opportunity to go to Australia on a temporary posting as a flying doctor.
"She has only been there a month and has already flown out in a plane to Fiji to tend an emergency. We are very proud of her. She saw this as an opportunity to do something a bit different. Certainly being stabbed by a swordfish is not something that would usually happen at the RD&E."
Professor Steve Thornton, Dean of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: "Elizabeth's achievement is an impressive one and we congratulate her for her courage and for getting her patient back safe and well.
"Our students are given a wide range of experience during their five years with us, and we are confident that they leave us able to cope with the many challenges presented by a career in medicine.
"Injury by swordfish does not feature as a specific aspect of our training, but we are pleased to hear that Elizabeth was prepared enough to deal with this most unusual situation."