Virtual Surgery On The High Seas

Russian sailor Victor Yazikov knows wind and water, but words on a screen were foreign to him. Until they saved his life, reports CBS News Correspondent Diana Olick.

Viktor was on the first leg of a solo around the world race, which began in South Carolina in September. The race requires each sailor be equipped with a satellite-linked laptop connected to the Internet.

Viktor quickly learned how valuable email at sea could be. He had injured his elbow, and the wound had become dangerously infected.

"The infection would have ruptured internally and spread through the tissue planes of his forearm which would have been a disaster."

Boston doctor Daniel Carlin was luckily on call, and online when Viktor emailed, 400 miles off the coast of South Africa.

An infectious disease specialist, Carlin was running a "virtual" emergency room for the racers.

"Well, what followed was a 14-point email from me where I described in detail what I want him to do in very simple language," remembers Carlin. "He would have to do it on the ship, by himself, with my instructions with a scalpel."

"The ability to communicate with doctor, it helped very much without any doubt," says Viktor. "I know this modern technology it will save lots of trouble."

Viktor was able to drain the wound, stop the bleeding, and get to Cape Town ahead of some other racers.

"Dr. Carlin, I am grateful so much, you are like my brother," says Viktor.

He will set sail again soon on his boat named Winds of Change. A single sailor, Viktor now knows that he is far from alone.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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