Heroic doctor broke off from her maternity leave to spend eight hours underground in massive cave rescue – Wales Online
A doctor on maternity leave, along with her caving expert husband, were two of the 300-strong team who worked on the massive rescue of George Linnane from a cave in the Brecon Beacons.
Dr Rebecca Specht, 37, and her husband Morgan have been caving for “at least 20 years” and have worked with the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team for 10 years.
The mum-of-two was the first doctor to reach George, 38, who was trapped in the cave system Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, near Penwyllt, Powys.
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The experienced caver had fallen 50ft before he became trapped for 54 hours with chest injuries and a broken tibia, fibula, and jaw.
“We both got the same call out text on Saturday afternoon,” Rebecca said.
“The initial call-out said there was a casualty involved. A lot of call-outs we get are for people who are lost or who are late back so being one of the team doctors I don’t normally have a big role to play.
“I knew that I was going to be the first medically-trained person to the casualty and we only had limited information as to what had happened at that point. So it’s a bit daunting not knowing quite what I was going to find or be dealing with when I got in there.”
Two first-aiders were with George when Rebecca entered the cave systems however she was the first doctor to reach him.
“He was able to speak throughout the rescue but he had multiple injuries and quite significant injuries.”
This eight-hour shift would also be the first time she was away from her 17-week-old baby.
“I’m used to managing emergencies in my day job and I’m practised at it, focusing on the task at hand.
“But it’s quite a long time to be away from the baby and to be somewhere where there’s no contact – or very little contact – all of which is for rescue-related things.
“His daddy did a fantastic job of looking after him while I was gone and I think that it was worth doing that in order to help in this situation.”
Dr Specht, of Whitchurch, Cardiff, spent eight hours underground from Saturday evening until about 2am on Sunday.
Husband Morgan arrived on the scene in a camper van with their children Milo and Franklin.
The couple then switched so caving instructor Morgan could help with the rescue.
He said: “She appeared back through the van door at 2am then we swapped.”
Rebecca explained: “His expertise is slightly different because whereas my background is medical his background is as a caving instructor so his expertise is more to do with helping set up ropes for rigging in order to be able to haul the stretcher up and manoeuvre the stretcher for the evacuation.”
Morgan added: “I got kitted up and went down for 12 hours. I was working to help move the stretcher. We moved it around 500m.”
The doctor was keen to stress it was a team effort that saved the fallen caver: “We have an excellent team with the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue and later there were also lots of other teams and voluntary organisations that joined us to help with the rescue.
“In particular I was really grateful to have to experience advanced first-aiders from our team who were already there when I arrived so they’d been with the casualty working on things and they were a great support to me whilst I was underground.”
Rebecca stuck around throughout the rescue and was there to see George brought to the surface.
“I was at the cave entrance ready to receive him with some of the other team doctors and the specialist paramedics to make sure that he had all the relevant paperwork and things to pass the road ambulance in order to transfer him to hospital.
“It’s been a bit of a crazy week to catch up on in terms of catching up on sleep and all the normal household things with having two children here.”
It took 300 volunteers 54 hours to rescue Mr Linnane, from Bristol.
Dr Specht added: “I was there when he came out of the cave so it was a fantastic feeling.
“I felt quite emotional after two and a half days and a real relief to get him out.”
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