An emergency in Frederick Sound in November wasn't the first time Kennicott Steward Nancy Abbott's first aid skills were called upon. But the incident was an example of how important ingenuity, quick thinking and duct tape can be.
Abbott, an EMT from Hollis, and other crew members responded to a medical emergency just after 11 p.m. Nov. 28 near Kake. Capt. Roger Dunn, a marine pilot, suffered severe head injuries after falling about 20 feet to the deck while climbing a ladder from the tug Ardie to the Global Explorer. The Ardie contacted the U.S. Coast Guard for help and the Kennicott's second mate, Doug Hanson, overheard the call.
Kennicott crew members knocked on Abbott's door just after 11 p.m. Abbott and crew members Roberta Petersen and Matt Wilkens responded.
"We got the supplies we thought we'd need and lowered the lifeboat into the water. The tug Ardie came alongside. We took the supplies and boarded the tug," Wilkens said.
Abbott applied dressings to the patient's head to control bleeding and fashioned a collar out of towels and duct tape around Dunn's neck to prevent further injury. With assistance from nurse Freda Collins on board the Kennicott, she gave him oxygen and other medical care. The Kennicott's crew members and two other marine pilots placed Dunn on a backboard to wait for a Coast Guard helicopter that airlifted him to Sitka's Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital just after 1 a.m.
Dunn is on the way to recovery today, according to the Coast Guard.
Abbott, Wilkens and Petersen were recognized by the Coast Guard at a surprise ceremony on board the Kennicott on Wednesday while it was docked at Juneau's Auke Bay ferry terminal. Rear Adm. Thomas Barrett presented Abbott with a Public Service Commendation for her work.
"It's dark, you're on a boat that's rocking and rolling, it's extremely cold. ...You have no room to work. You try a cervical collar and you literally have to get towels and duct tape. Nancy had to do everything right or the pilot wouldn't have survived," Barrett said.
Abbott credited the Kennicott's crew members for their help.
"It's teamwork that makes everything possible out here and it's a great group of people to work with," she said.
As for the duct tape? "I don't go anywhere without it," she said.
Joanna Markell can be reached at email@example.com.