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Emergency Medical Support for a Manned Stratospheric Balloon Test Program

  • Rebecca S. Blue (a1), Sean C. Norton (a2), Jennifer Law (a3), James M. Pattarini (a1), Erik L. Antonsen (a4), Alejandro Garbino (a4), Jonathan B. Clark (a5) and Matthew W. Turney (a6)...

Abstract

Introduction

Red Bull Stratos was a commercial program that brought a test parachutist, protected by a full-pressure suit, in a stratospheric balloon with pressurized capsule to over 127,582 ft (38,969 m), from which he free fell and subsequently parachuted to the ground. Given that the major risks to the parachutist included ebullism, negative Gz (toe-to-head) acceleration exposure from an uncontrolled flat spin, and trauma, a comprehensive plan was developed to recover the parachutist under nominal conditions and to respond to any medical contingencies that might have arisen. In this report, the project medical team describes the experience of providing emergency medical support and crew recovery for the manned balloon flights of the program.

Methods

The phases of flight, associated risks, and available resources were systematically evaluated.

Results

Six distinct phases of flight from an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) standpoint were identified. A Medical Support Plan was developed to address the risks associated with each phase, encompassing personnel, equipment, procedures, and communications.

Discussion

Despite geographical, communications, and resource limitations, the medical team was able to implement the Medical Support Plan, enabling multiple successful manned balloon flights to 71,615 ft (21,828 m), 97,221 ft (29,610 m), and 127,582 ft (38,969 m). The experience allowed refinement of the EMS and crew recovery procedures for each successive flight and could be applied to other high altitude or commercial space ventures.

BlueRS, NortonSC, LawJ, PattariniJM, AntonsenEL, GarbinoA, ClarkJB, TurneyMW. Emergency Medical Support for a Manned Stratospheric Balloon Test Program. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2014;29(5):1-6.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Rebecca S. Blue, MD, MPH Preventive Medicine and Community Health University of Texas Medical Branch 301 University Blvd Galveston, Texas 77555-1110 USA E-mail rblue.md@gmail.com

References

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1.Blue, RS, Law, J, Norton, SC, et al. Overview of medical operations for a manned stratospheric balloon flight. Aviat Space Environ Med. 2013;84(3):237-241.
2.Murray, DH, Pilmanis, AA, Blue, RS, et al. Pathophysiology, prevention, and treatment of ebullism. Aviat Space Environ Med. 2013;84(2):89-96.
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4.Vann, R, Gerth, WA. Physiology of decompression sickness. Hypobaric Decompression Sickness. Brooks AFB, Texas: Proceedings of a workshop at the Armstrong Library, 1992.
5.Pattarini, JM, Blue, RS, Aikens, LT, et al. Flat spin and negative Gz in high-altitude free fall: pathophysiology, prevention, and treatment. Aviat Space Environ Med. 2013;84:961-970.
6.Beck, GR, Rabinovitch, P, Brown, AC. Acceleration forces at eye level experienced with rotation on the horizontal bar. J Appl Physiol. 1979;46(6):1119-1121.
7.Fraser, TM. Human response to sustained acceleration: a literature review. Washington DC: Scientific and Technical Information Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1966. Report Number: NASA SP-103.
8.Westman, A, Rosen, M, Berggren, P, Bjornstig, U. Parachuting from fixed objects: descriptive study of 106 fatal events in BASE jumping 1981-2006. Br J Sports Med. 2008;42(6):431-436.

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