Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 10, 2015
If you haven’t heard of chikungunya yet, you will soon. The mosquito-transmitted disease chikungunya has made quite a few headlines recently:
--A woman in the U.S. lost vision in one eye after contracting the disease in the Caribbean.
--Mexico reported more than 3,000 cases across 16 states.
--The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the first locally acquired case of chikungunya in Spain.
--Nicaragua reported its first death from the disease.
What is chikungunya and can it be prevented?
Chikungunya is a painful but largely non-lethal disease that causes severe joint pain and fever. The disease is often mistaken for dengue fever, which mirrors both its symptoms and geographic distribution. Like dengue, chikungunya is spread by the Aedes family of mosquito. The disease is rarely lethal except in vulnerable populations such as the elderly, young, and immunocompromised.
For someone bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms typically start within 4-8 days. Older patients can also be misdiagnosed as having arthritis due to joint pain being the most prominent symptom. Most patients will feel better within a week of symptoms starting. While most people recover fully from the virus, some do have lasting joint pain for months or even years after infection.
Chikungunya originated in East Africa and has spread throughout the continent and to South and Southeast Asia. In the past year, the virus has spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean and into Latin America. Isolated cases of the virus have also been reported in Europe and North America after travelers returned from endemic areas. In recent months, there has been an uptick in cases in southern states, including Florida. As of February 2015, there were at least 1.24 million cases of chikungunya in the Americas.
While progress is being made, there is currently no vaccine or cure for chikungunya. Treatments for the disease focus on decreasing symptoms with fluids and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain.
The best way to prevent infection? Avoid mosquito bites altogether, since mosquitoes are the primary means of transmission.
To help avoid mosquito bites:
--Make sure that any open doors or windows have fully intact screens.
--Use bug spray. When going outside, wear bug repellent such as DEET or Permethrin.
--Wear long sleeves and pants to make it difficult for mosquitoes to bite you.
--Reduce the breeding grounds of mosquitoes in and near your home by getting rid of any standing water in areas like pools, gutters, or flower pots.
--If you become infected, continue to avoid contact with mosquitoes to reduce the spread of the disease.
While the headlines about chikungunya will likely continue, following these precautionary steps can help ensure that you don’t become infected.
For more information, review the CDC Fact Sheet. Contact Global Rescue Operations with any questions at 617-459-4200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s devastating earthquake in Nepal understandably has raised concerns for people planning to travel to the region. The tragedy – and the possibility of another quake – is on the minds of those thinking of heading to Nepal for the fall trekking season.
Global Rescue Operations personnel regularly field a variety of questions from our members, including the recent inquiry below about upcoming travel to Nepal. Our team responded with advice which may be of interest to other like-minded Global Rescue members.
Q. I'm planning to travel to Nepal and have a few questions about earthquake safety. There have been several articles about another large earthquake hitting western Nepal. I will be in Kathmandu soon and then planning a trek to the Annapurna Base Camp. The area has been cleared as "safe" for trekking, but I'm worried about another earthquake.
Do you have information or advice about earthquake safety and the situation in Nepal? I don't want to cancel my plans, but I also want to stay safe.
A. Earthquakes cannot be predicted with certainty by modern day science. Four quakes above magnitude 6 have occurred in the region in the past century, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The next quake is impossible to predict.
Global Rescue suggests the following for travel to Nepal:
--Take with you any equipment you may need to survive should you not be able to depend on local resources in the event of infrastructure collapse during a disaster (e.g., water purification, fire ignition devices, flashlights, etc.).
--If you are staying in hotels, try to stay in lower rise buildings and close to the bottom floor. Evaluate the outside of the building for structural damage that may have occurred from the last quake to determine the risk of collapse should there be another quake. The number one hazard in an earthquake is falling debris and collapsing buildings.
--You should shelter in-place under a piece of sturdy furniture in the event of an earthquake, according to current protective measures.
--Always have a go-bag packed with essential survival equipment in case you need to leave in a hurry.
--Be sure that you have a method of two-way communication (e.g., satellite phone, satellite hotspot such as Iridium GO, etc.) in the event of an emergency. These types of devices are also good in a large disaster as you will not be able to depend on the local communication infrastructure.
Wherever you travel, the Global Rescue Mobile App can help you stay safe, informed and connected. Free for Global Rescue members, the app provides critical medical, security and other essential travel intelligence. In an emergency, the app puts Global Rescue members in immediate contact with our medical and security teams. The Global Rescue Mobile App is now available on the App Store, Google Play, and BlackBerry App World.
Before you head off on your travels, consider a Global Rescue security membership, which includes security evacuation in the event of a crisis such as an earthquake. For more information, contact Global Rescue Member Services at email@example.com or 617-459-4200.
With increased security threats around the world, many parents of study abroad students may be concerned about their child’s safety. Cities typically considered “safe” are now under greater scrutiny. While studying abroad, the unexpected can occur, just as it can at home. Unfamiliar surroundings can magnify the distress and confusion.
To stay safe while traveling abroad, students must take time in advance to be as prepared as possible, ensure a reliable means of communicating in an emergency, and be proactive in keeping informed and maintaining awareness at all times.
Before departure, parents and students should study the areas where the student will be traveling. Learn a basic layout of the area and the major landmarks. Your student should enroll in the State Department’s STEP program to receive alerts on developing situations.
Global Rescue members can use GRIDSM, our travel intelligence system, to obtain detailed Destination Reports to help assess safety. We offer detailed information on over 200 countries, including health and security risk assessments, entry and exit requirements, exchange rates, important phone numbers, weather conditions and other essential information.
Strongly consider adding a Global Rescue security membership. By upgrading a medical-only membership to a medical and security membership, members have access to advice from our in-house security teams, which includes former military Special Forces personnel. In the event of threats to your student’s safety which could result in bodily harm, or if there is a government order to evacuate, Global Rescue will extract the student to safety.
Parents should ensure that their own passports are up-to-date and that any necessary visas are secured. In the event of an emergency, it is wise to be prepared to travel on short notice.
Be sure your student has the ability to call for help, knows how to call for help, and knows where to go for help. Outside of the U.S., dialing “911” does not work. It is critical to know what number to call for emergency medical services, and know how to dial that local number based on international calling configurations. Students should keep emergency contact information with them at all times. Students who are members of Global Rescue are able to access our operations centers for medical and security support 24/7/365.
Consider purchasing a cheap local prepaid phone which includes international capabilities. With this type of phone, you know that you have something in place as back up.
If your student is bringing his or her own phone, be sure that it works locally. Contact your provider in advance to verify areas of coverage. Upon arrival, test the phone: call, text, and email home. It is imperative to do this before any emergency situation.
Consider bringing an extra battery or portable charger for the phone or, with a smart phone, buying a battery phone case that will extend the phone’s battery life to avoid being caught with no way to communicate in an emergency.
The Global Rescue mobile app offers emergency notification, a one-touch emergency button that instantly alerts Global Rescue’s operations teams that a traveler is in distress. The app offers status and location updates which allow the traveler to indicate that he or she is okay by “checking-in” using a smartphone, and to transmit GPS coordinates to the Global Rescue operations teams and anyone else designated.
Imagine that your student is in Guatemala when an earthquake occurs. Reducing reaction time can make all the difference. With GPS, it could be as little as a few minutes before you have your child’s location details and can send help. Without GPS and without any other means of communication, reaction time could stretch to hours or days until a specific location can be determined.
Finally, consider purchasing or renting a satellite phone. For most any scenario – a storm, natural disaster, or a government shut-down of cell networks – your student will be prepared. Cellular networks may be the first to crash and/or become overloaded in an emergency or disaster situation. In these situations, satellite networks are much more reliable.
Students traveling abroad should exercise caution when sharing personal details. Discussing plans could lead to becoming a target for criminals. Advise students to trust their instincts and leave as soon as possible if they begin to feel uneasy in a situation. Avoid large crowds or environments that could quickly turn violent, such as political protests. If a student notices someone following them, stay on a well-traveled street and find the nearest safe place within reach. Criminals seek out weak targets so it is best to prevent the appearance of vulnerablity.
Whether it is a natural disaster, political instability, or a personal injury, Global Rescue is experienced in responding to crises. In 2011, Egypt’s civil unrest prompted corporations and colleges to turn to Global Rescue and its highly trained former special operations personnel to evacuate students there.
If you have concerns about your student’s safety or if a crisis does occur, contact Global Rescue immediately at 617-459-4200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a July 6th USA Today article, travel columnist Everett Potter explored common myths about medical evacuations. Is medical evacuation really just another name for travel insurance? Do credit cards offer the same type of coverage as medical evacuation? In Potter’s latest column, Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards debunks these myths with the real facts about medical evacuations. Read the article, here.
Dr. Loren Greenway
Dr. Loren Greenway, CEO of the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS), leads the world’s foremost organization devoted to wilderness medical issues. The WMS has selected Global Rescue as its official medical and security provider for the past five years. Its members travel the globe exploring health challenges in remote and sometimes dangerous or extreme locations.
We spoke with Dr. Greenway about the latest developments at WMS, backcountry preparedness, and the partnership with Global Rescue.
What’s new with the Wilderness Medical Society?
WMS plans to launch a marine medicine diploma, covering environmental issues, diving issues, marine conservation issues and animal issues. So now alongside the mountain medicine diploma offered by WMS, there will be a diploma in marine medicine that’s never been seen before.
How did the marine diploma come to fruition?
Historically, our society has been mountain-centric. However there are many people who care about diving and marine science, desert medicine, jungle medicine, and all kinds of other things, and not so much about mountains. What we’re trying to do is add a multidimensional focus to wilderness medicine, so that when people hear the term ‘wilderness medicine’ they don’t automatically think only of climbing mountains.
Do you recommend that anyone heading into the backcountry take a course first?
From my perspective, everyone who goes into the wilderness should take a wilderness first aid course. They’re not that expensive. The Red Cross offers them. These courses stress the idea that you’re not going to be able to call 911 and expect someone to come and get you in a few minutes. That’s not the way it works in the real world. Trip leaders should have at least a wilderness first responder course, maybe a wilderness EMT, and they ought to have a lot more training than the ‘average Joe’ just hiking around in the backcountry. We’ve seen an increase in incidents that would be pretty preventable if people just had a little more savvy about themselves and the backcountry.
What kind of preventable incidents?
People twisting, spraining, cutting -- mostly camp safety stuff. We do a lot of adventure travel and we always kind of start out with the ‘don’t be stupid’ kind of talks. Those seem to be really helpful.
Are you seeing an increase the use of satellite phones?
We have had long debates about whether or not we ought to provide sat phone coverage for all of our adventure trips, because in fact we can get cell coverage just about anywhere now. Sat phones are nice but they’re relatively expensive, and in many situations you can get good reception. However, it can’t be stressed enough that a good method of communication is really important.
Aside from phones, I always take with me and recommend that people have some kind of GPS locator that has the ability to communicate more than just where you are. If you’re stuck, you can say, “I’m stuck but I’m ok, I’m not going to die” or “I need help right away.” There are a handful of companies that provide that service. It’s mandatory for trip leaders but everybody else ought to have it too.
How would you describe the benefits of WMS membership to someone who is considering joining?
The benefit of membership in the Wilderness Medical Society is that we’re a not for profit, membership- based organization. We care more about safety, science, and our members than we care about making money. What that means is that not all trekking and expedition companies are equal. Some are a lot better than others and some care more about taking care of clients than others do. We put ourselves in the group that cares more about the client, the experience, and the science that we can generate than we care about making money off people.
WMS is now in its fifth year of the partnership with Global Rescue. How has this partnership benefited WMS?
The relationship that we have experienced over the last five years has been really positive for the Wilderness Medical Society in our adventures. We’ve tested Global Rescue’s services in the past in many different situations and it has worked out really well. I’ve heard some horror stories from people who thought that they had good evacuation coverage and it just didn’t come to pass when it was actually needed.
Global Rescue will be at the Wilderness Medicine Conference and WMS Annual Meeting in Breckenridge, Colorado, July 10-15, 2015.
Brittany and Noah Myers, on top of Gokyo Ri the day before the Nepal earthquake
Brittany Myers and her husband, Noah, of New York City had just embarked on what was to be the trip of a lifetime. Married earlier this year, they delayed their honeymoon with plans to take a longer trip. Both are avid climbers and trekkers, so the ideal honeymoon destination was Nepal, where neither had been.
In late April 2015, when they had finally begun their trip, they were deep in the Gokyo Valley when the unthinkable happened. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal. Brittany and Noah were without a guide, intending to trek through Nepal completely on their own. Global Rescue provided much-needed support in the aftermath of the earthquake.
“When the wind blows in the Himalayas, it makes a lot of noise, so at first it didn’t really seem like anything,” Brittany said, reflecting on her experience. “It became loud very quickly and suddenly everyone was panicked.” Fortunately for Brittany and Noah, the earthquake was not particularly damaging where they were. They were unharmed. However, it had become difficult to gather accurate information about which parts of the country were affected, and other equally pressing concerns.
Immediately after the earthquake, rumors swirled. Without access to credible information, Brittany and Noah struggled with what to do next. The couple decided to retreat from the Gokyo Valley, and head to the more densely populated Khumbu Valley, where it would be more likely to find other trekkers and climbers with information. After a two-day walk, they arrived Dingboche, where there was the only working landline and satellite wifi service through the entire Everest region. Here they were finally able to reach home. Brittany reached her parents to let them know that she was okay. Brittany’s mother took it one step further. Remembering that her daughter was a member of the American Alpine Club, and that the AAC offered its members Global Rescue services, Brittany’s mother called Global Rescue to let them know her daughter’s location.
Global Rescue established communication with Brittany and provided timely and reliable information regarding the status of Lukla airport, among other updates. This information helped Brittany and Noah reach a decision about whether or not it was better to get out of the country as fast as possible, or to wait until the backlog at the airport had cleared. “We decided to extend our stay mostly because Lukla was in really bad shape,” said Brittany. “We extended our time and luckily, when we arrived in Lukla, it was relatively calm and we were able to leave easily.”
“The information from Global Rescue was essential. More than that, however, was the peace of mind Global Rescue provided when a medical issue arose.” In the last few days of the trip, Brittany became very sick. “It was the most awful I ever remember feeling,” Brittany recalled. “A Global Rescue team member who was communicating with me said there were paramedics in Lukla. I strangely felt much better the next morning and didn’t need the paramedics, but it was really helpful to know that I could reach out to them if I needed to.”
Despite their interrupted honeymoon in Nepal, Brittany has no reservations about returning in the near future. The couple is already planning their next trip for April 2016, one year after the earthquake. Back in the U.S., Brittany remains involved with the Nepal humanitarian effort. While in Nepal, she and her husband made contact with other trekkers and climbers who had already started to help with relief. Brittany and Noah assisted while there and continue to spread the word about aid donations and keeping the needs of Nepal in the spotlight.
Asked about Global Rescue membership for future travels, Brittany responded: “Absolutely. It was great to know that your team had more information than my family, and if I’d had major issues, your services would have been a great help too. Global Rescue was really on top of it and helped to calm my mind.”
Trekkers en route to Thame to meet with locals and coordinate delivery of roofing materials. Landslides are visible on side of the river.
Marte Muelrath, Global Rescue Senior Specialist Paramedic Andrew Fraser (center) and Don Muelrath
When Don and Marte Muelrath decided to book a fishing trip off the coast of Northwestern Australia, they knew they were headed to a beautiful but remote environment. After flying from the U.S. to Perth, the Muelraths boarded an aircraft that flew them to the tiny town of Exmouth, located on a narrow spit of land that juts out into the Indian Ocean.
The marine wildlife and fishing in this part of the world are outstanding and both Don and Marte were looking forward to an enjoyable trip.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. While en route to Australia, Marte began to experience belly pain that got progressively worse. They arrived in Exmouth in the evening after nearly a full day of travel and Marte’s discomfort had worsened to the point where they sought a referral to the nearest clinic to have her examined by a doctor.
As soon as they arrived at the small hospital and had access to communications, Don contacted Global Rescue for help.
“Not sure what is happening or what to do,” Don wrote. “We are about 22 hours of flight time from home. We live in Napa, California, and fly into San Francisco.”
As is often the case, local resources were limited. Marte had X-rays and an ultrasound but no MRI was available. The local physician diagnosed a potentially serious abdominal condition, but admitted that his diagnosis and ability to provide treatment were constrained by the lack of equipment. As this was occurring, Marte’s pain continued to worsen.
After receiving contact from Don, Global Rescue Medical Operations personnel, supported by Johns Hopkins Medicine, engaged immediately with the attending physician. It was obvious that Marte required further imaging, diagnostics and treatment beyond what the small hospital could offer.
After reviewing the records received from the hospital, Global Rescue’s medical team deployed a private, medically equipped aircraft to immediately transport Marte from Exmouth to Perth, where a medical center of excellence could provide further testing and treatment. Senior Specialist Paramedic Andrew Fraser was also deployed from Global Rescue’s Bangkok Operations Center to ensure that the best possible care was delivered and that information was being transmitted in a timely manner.
At the hospital in Perth, Marte’s diagnosis was confirmed and she was provided with the lifesaving treatment she needed.
“Global Rescue’s paramedic was incredible,” commented Don. “His knowledge, level of attention, and ability to get things done made our unfortunate experience ‘endurable.’ He was with us daily for the eight days my wife was recovering in an Australian hospital.”
Marte was stable enough to travel after a little more than a week in the hospital. Once she was ready to be discharged, Global Rescue’s Senior Specialist accompanied the Muelraths as they departed on the flight home. Upon arrival in Napa, California, Marte was admitted to a local hospital for further treatment.
Don, a fishing travel agent who runs Fly Fishing Adventures, noted that he is telling his clients about Global Rescue. “I’ve added the following to all our invoices for fishing trips: 'Global Rescue has provided a very meaningful and beneficial service for us both personally as well as for many clients and we strongly recommend their evacuation services.'”
“We had heard a lot of good things about Global Rescue, but our personal experiences with you were more than we could have wished for!”
Last year, we posted a warning about MERS-CoV, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. This year, the list of countries affected by MERS has expanded significantly to include South Korea and China. As of June 12, 126 confirmed cases have been reported in South Korea, with 13 deaths. Approximately 3,680 other people are in quarantine in Korea and being monitored after contact with MERS-CoV patients.
According to data from the WHO on 11 June, 1,227 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV have been reported worldwide, including at least 449 deaths, since September 2012. Thus far, MERS is most prevalent in Saudi Arabia, which has recorded over 1000 cases and 450 deaths. Meanwhile, the UAE has recorded 75 MERS-CoV cases, five of which were diagnosed in 2015. The UAE has the third largest number of cases in the world after Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
Before heading to regions affected by MERS, review risks, prevention and treatment.
The primary source of transmission is from infected animals to people working closely with the animals, with limited human-to-human transmission. Camels are suspected to be the main animal source of infection but this has yet to be confirmed by health authorities and investigations regarding the source are ongoing. The incubation period is 2-14 days.
Who is at risk:
--Older individuals (>65 years of age)
--Individuals with chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, nervous system disorders, diabetes)
--Individuals with immunodeficiency (congenital or acquired)
--Patients with malignancy
--Patients with a terminal illness
Signs and symptoms:
--Shortness of breath
--May have gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.
It should be noted that not all infected individuals will exhibit symptoms. Those who have traveled to affected regions should be cautious, regardless of their activities or outward symptoms.
There is no specific treatment for MERS-CoV infection. The current treatment regimen involves supportive care to alleviate symptoms and provide support to vital organ functions.
1. Observe good personal hygiene at all times.
2. Practice frequent hand-washing (before handling food or eating, after going to the toilet or when hands are soiled). Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
3. Avoid close contact with persons suffering from acute respiratory infections.
4. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
6. Get vaccinated against influenza and meningitis. While there is NO vaccination against MERS-CoV, vaccinations against influenza and pneumococcal infection can help prevent these common infections that have symptoms similar to MERS-CoV.
9. If you are traveling to the affected regions and have pre-existing chronic conditions, consult your doctor prior to your travels for medical travel advice.
10. Should you become unwell with fever and cough during or after your recent travel (within two weeks) to affected regions, wear a mask and seek medical attention immediately.
See additional recommendations and guidance on CDC’s MERS website: http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/hcp.html
Contact Global Rescue Operations at 617-459-4200 or email@example.com with questions regarding MERS.
(Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
As students travel abroad in increasing numbers, academic institutions are struggling to develop the strategies and resources needed to address developing risks. Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that two Jewish groups were sued by the parents of four Los Angeles high school students after their children contracted Leishmaniasis, a disease that causes painful skin ulcers. The parents state that the trip leaders took no precautions to protect or inform the students of the possibility of contracting the disease despite having “previous problems” with sand flies on past trips. The parents state that the school failed in its “duty of care” obligations to the students. Duty of care is a legal concept that requires organizations such as tour operators and academic institutions to disclose the risks of travel to travelers and provide suitable medical and security resources as necessary.
Another more severe example occurred in 2007 when a teenager on a school trip to China contracted an insect-borne illness while hiking. The illness permanently damaged the teenager’s fine motor skills and ability to speak. A court case later awarded the teenager $41.7 million because the school failed its duty to disclose potential hazards and duty of care once the illness occurred. Trip leaders did not warn the students that they would be in an area with insect-borne diseases, took no steps to reduce the likelihood of contracting the disease, and failed to recognize and treat the disease once it started. If a proper risk management system had been in place, all three failures could have been avoided.
Tour operators and academic institutions around the world must develop plans to keep their travelers and students safe. The U.S., U.K. and EU have all developed legal frameworks that require organizations to have risk assessment and crisis management plans in place. These duty of care laws can have severe consequences for organizations that do not have proper protocols. Many organizations have developed uncoordinated solutions that look good on paper, but fail to provide sufficient support to their travelers in times of crisis.
We developed the Global Rescue Travel Risk and Crisis Management (TRCM) program specifically to help tour operators and academic institutions fulfill their duty of care obligations. Our TRCM program provides critical pre-planning and assistance, ensuring the highest likelihood of preventing emergencies and having positive outcomes in an emergency. With Global Rescue’s TRCM program, tour operators and academic institutions can be proactive and prepare for potential threats to travelers rather than just react to an emergency and face the consequences.
To learn more about the Global Rescue Travel Risk and Crisis Management Program, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-459-4200.
Angie Heister and her husband, Robert
In Part I of Angie Heister’s story, she described the horrific attack by a Cape buffalo in Zimbabwe four years ago. Global Rescue conducted a medical evacuation and deployed our paramedics to her bedside.
In Part II, Angie is back home in Dallas after Global Rescue evacuated her from Johannesburg. She shares her struggles with transitioning to her new life, along with the satisfaction of mentoring others and of traveling again.
“We were back in Dallas on the way to Baylor and the Global Rescue paramedic told the driver to slow down on the turns since I didn’t have good balance. He was watching out for things like that. He took the best care ever, ever, ever.”
After approximately six weeks in rehab, Angie was discharged to go home in August 2011.
“The first six months were pure hell,” said Angie. “You have to learn to take care of your bladder and your bowels, and trying to transfer and not fall, just so much. We had to have our bathroom remodeled because I couldn’t get in the shower. I had hired a caregiver to stay with me. At first I had to have 24- hour support, so it was the caregiver, my daughter, and my husband. Gradually I got stronger and started with two hours all by myself. It was May 2012 before we let the caregiver go and I was truly ok just to be by myself in the house.
“To put it in perspective, I was a software consultant before the accident. I traveled a lot. I was executive platinum and traveled 100,000 flight miles a year. I was at home two weekends a month usually. I went from that lifestyle to a complete shut-in except for weekends. It was a shock. It just turned my life upside down."
Four years after that fateful day, Angie maintains a positive outlook on life, despite remaining paralyzed from the accident. Her determination brought her to where she is today, enjoying traveling and her independence while helping others cope with the transition to life in a wheelchair.
“I took classes so I could drive again in October 2012, and bought a van that is modified with a ramp and hand controls. It was months before I dared to get on the highway. It was like learning to drive again but I was terrified. Now I drive to a lot of places every day by myself, even the highway. It’s no big deal but it really took a long time to get back to that. Now I’m perfectly good: I go places by myself all the time. If my husband is out of town, I’m ok in the house by myself, even during the night.
Importance of mentoring
“I had incredible support early on. There was a lady named Lynn I had worked with and when I was lying in the hospital in Africa, I remembered her coming to work in a wheelchair. There wasn’t anything special about it. To me, she’s superwoman. She has been in a wheelchair for 30 years and is so strong and independent. She won a silver medal on horseback at the Paralympics in Australia. Lynn would come over and show me things. For example, I was having trouble getting up a little one-inch step from the garage into the house. Now it’s no big deal, but at the time I didn’t have the balance or the strength, so she showed me a different way to do it. She told me that there were things like this they’ll never show you in rehab. You’re only going to learn this from other people in chairs. She was so right.
“I'm actually mentoring some ladies now. Statistically, people who end up with spinal cord injuries are usually young males between 15 and 30 years old, basically risk takers. A 50-year-old grandmother is not your usual spinal cord injury patient. So, occasionally when they have ladies who have gone through some car wrecks or other accidents, (Baylor) has called me. I try to help these ladies and tell them that when I came home from the hospital, I couldn’t do such-and-such either, but I do it all the time now. I try to give them that encouragement and tell them to keep working at it.
“Lynn told me it would take two years to adjust, but I think it’s more like three. Most days now it’s no big deal, but occasionally I have a bad day or something happens that I can’t do and it’s so frustrating. The whole family has adjusted. They say it’s not just the individual who goes through this; it’s your whole family because everybody has to adjust. It took a long time to get there and it took a lot of work and a lot of support from family.
“We’ve started traveling,” continued Angie. “It took about a year but we’ve gone to Los Angeles several times to see family. My husband and I took a vacation and traveled to New England in September. We’ve been to Vegas a few times, and to Florida and North Carolina. We travel a lot so that’s good.
“During one of our trips, we spent an evening with one of the Global Rescue paramedics who deployed to help us. It was wonderful to see him. What does this tell you about the people at Global Rescue when, so many years later, we’re still staying in touch?”
“As I look back, I’m so thankful that we had a Global Rescue membership before we traveled,” said Angie. “My husband had been to Africa twice before and had had such a wonderful time. He loved it and wanted to share that with me. I was going with him on this trip. I’m the non-adventurous type and I insisted that we get it. He had seen Global Rescue at one of the safari conventions and was familiar with it so we bought the memberships. It never occurred to me I would be the one who would need it. I was always thinking, ‘It’s going to be my husband. What if something happens in the middle of the hunt or if he gets hurt by an animal?’ Never in a thousand years did it ever occur to me that I would be the one that needed the help from Global Rescue. I’m guessing it would have cost somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000 to get me home had we not been Global Rescue members.
“Any time my friends are traveling anywhere, I tell them they must get a Global Rescue membership. People don’t understand that travel insurance is so different than having Global Rescue personnel come to you and personally take care of you and bring you home. I can’t imagine my husband being able to get me home alone and having no one else to help me make the flight home. It’s just not the same when you’re in that kind of situation. You really need what Global Rescue provides. You need somebody there who has access to resources and experience and knows what to do, because you’re just lost and in shock and you just don’t know what’s going on. You’re so short sighted, just trying to get through the next day. You think, am I going to be breathing again tomorrow? You’re not in any kind of shape to be making arrangements to fly home.”
Angie’s advice for travelers:
--If you’re traveling to an area that’s not very well developed, do some research to get an idea of what hospitals and services are in the area. Is it like the U.S. where you get treated and then pay or do you have to pay before they admit you?
--Check whether your health insurance works in places you are traveling to and determine if you should purchase a special health insurance policy.
--Carry a satellite phone and extra batteries.
--Have a Global Rescue membership.
“I’m one of your best salespeople,” said Angie. “Anytime anyone is traveling, I tell them, ‘You’ve got to get Global Rescue.’ I can’t even imagine what would have happened had we not had Global Rescue. I would have ended up in Zambia in a less-than-stellar hospital. I might not even have lived had I not gotten to a tier-one trauma center. I would have gotten an infection in that wound. The fact that I never got an infection is a miracle and I know it’s because I got to a good hospital. As you probably know, I think very highly of Global Rescue.”