The Extraordinary Life Of A Flight Paramedic In The Canadian Arctic

Flight Paramedic Hugh Gilmour works in the furthest reaches of the Canadian Arctic, evacuating patients from remote communities to hospitals in southern Canada. He is also an amateur photographer and his often breathtaking photos provide a rare glimpse of his extraordinary job.

"The people I get to meet, and the cultures and the places I get to see are amazing," Gilmour told The WorldPost by email. "Not many Canadians have a chance to see these places."

Gilmour works as a Critical Care Flight Paramedic and Clinical Educator for Advanced Medical Solutions - Medic North which provides medical evacuations, or medevac, services, to Canada's Northwest Territories and the Kitikmeot region.

The paramedics typically spend 28 days on call, before flying home for 28 days of rest, Gilmour explained. When they are dispatched, the team has 60 minutes to gather the appropriate medical equipment, check the weather, file a flight plan and prepare the aircraft.

"The Arctic is an unforgiving place to fly, so all proper precautions are taken prior to launching a medevac," Gilmour said. "We manage very sick people over vast distances in very remote situations."

Despite the difficulty of being away from home for long periods, Gilmour has spent more than six years working in the Arctic.

"It's so huge, and so empty, and getting anything done here is an enormous undertaking," he said. "As a result, people's access to healthcare, affordable fresh food, and social programs that most Canadians take for granted is significantly limited."

"But the people here make it worthwhile," he continued. "The culture and spirit of the indigenous peoples in Northern Canada is something to be treasured by everyone."

See a selection of Hugh Gilmour's extraordinary images from his work in the Canadian Arctic below. For a full gallery, visit his Flickr page.

An early morning helicopter flight over the Beaufort delta.
We always top up when we get home so we can get in the air quicker when we are called.
Charting on a late night medevac from Paulatuk NT to Inuvik NT.
We are not a specialized neonatal transport team, but we see more than our fair share of neonatal patients.
Driving back from the airport in Inuvik one night they were so amazing that I just had to stop at take it all in.
People have pointed out to me that many of these pictures are people sitting in airplanes. Unfortunately, it's a big part of our job. So we make the best of it.
Spring in Ft. McPhearson NT means we really don't mind waiting for our ride into the health centre.
It was -39ºC outside when this picture was taken. It was probably about the same temperature inside.
Heading north toward Cambridge Bay, with the sun setting to the west.
The coastline is dotted with whaling camps. Sometimes you have to buzz some of them before you find the right one.
Out over the delta heading towards a whaling camp on the Yukon coast.
Once we are in Yellowknife, our patients are loaded into Fire Department ambulances where we accompany them to the local hospital.
Our King Air in Inuvik, starting up for an early morning medevac.
Its empty. It's cold. It's frozen. And it's dark.
We had a 3 hour window of "daylight" to conduct this helicopter medevac. We were off the ground by 11:30am. We had to be back by 2:30pm or it would be too dark to fly. That's all you get in January when you are 250km north of the arctic circle.
Critical care at 23,000 feet and 265 knots.
There are many challenges to moving critical care patients in these conditions. Frozen IV and ventilator tubing is a real risk.
This is a selfie with the reflection of the northern lights in the van, and the big dipper above. Taken outside Yellowknife.
We are about to unload a patient from our LearJet at the Yellowknife airport.
Departing the Inuvik hospital in a helicopter. At 2am.
The Yellowknife and Inuvik medevac crews and local EMS working hard to get a critical care patient south. Don't worry - someone was actually inside the aircraft caring for the patient while this picture was taken.

Canadian Medevac

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