Scott Sirles in Kamchatka before his trip was cut short by a dog bite
Global Rescue member Scott Sirles traveled to a remote region of Russia in search of one thing: The perfect fly fishing spot fully stocked with king salmon and rainbow trout.
“I was going to Kamchatka to go fly fishing in the Ozernaya River. It was a beautiful setting,” said Sirles. “Everything was wonderful -- absolutely superb fishing, almost a fish every cast. There were no roads within 200 kilometers of us. The only way to get to it is to helicopter in. It’s truly wilderness.”
Accompanying Sirles and his group was a Russian Laika, a breed of hunting dog used to scare off any grizzly bears that could wander too close to the camp.
One morning as Sirles went to breakfast, he noticed the camp dog sitting in front of the building. “I reached over and scratched its ears and he was fine,” said Sirles. “He had a bunch of mosquitoes on the top of his nose. I thought I’d do him a favor and brush those mosquitoes off. Well, as soon as I did that, the dog latched on to my wrist!”
The dog’s bite left an inch long and ¾ inch deep gash in Sirles’ wrist, damaging one tendon but luckily missing any arteries.
Two doctors in the fishing camp used an iodine-based solution to clean out the wound before wrapping Sirles’ hand in gauze. They later treated him with antibiotics when his wound became red and swollen after another day of fishing.
Two days after the incident, Sirles woke to find his entire forearm red and swollen. “I wasn’t really terrified. I’ve had incidents in the past where I ran a stick right through my hand when I was hunting years ago. My hand got infected and I walked into the hospital with the streaks going all the way up my arm. They put a few bags of antibiotics in an IV and sent me on my way. This time, I’m thinking to myself that I’m out here in the middle of nowhere and need to get some bags of antibiotics. I knew if I stayed here, it was going to get worse. I might lose my arm, or it might kill me if the infection gets to my heart. I didn’t have any other choice. I had to call Global Rescue and get evacuated out. So that’s what we proceeded to do.” Using a satellite phone, Sirles called Global Rescue.
Global Rescue’s Operations team spoke with Sirles about his condition, then quickly arranged for his evacuation to Petropvalovsk-Kamchatsky -- the nearest city with a suitable hospital. The Operations team obtained Sirles’ medical reports while he was examined at the hospital, and maintained constant contact with the hospital’s doctors to ensure that Sirles received proper care.
Sirles had developed a serious infection. “If not for Global Rescue, I might have had a much worse infection or lost an arm,” he said.
After conferring with Global Rescue medical personnel, doctors at the hospital sedated Sirles and operated on his hand to fully clean out the infection.
Following a brief hospital stay, Sirles flew back to his home in Oklahoma, where he made a full recovery. He is back to work and to traveling. “Everybody was super at Global Rescue. They were always contacting me when they said they would and did everything they could,” said Sirles. “The cost of the extraction would have been almost prohibitive without the coverage. I wouldn’t go anywhere remote again without Global Rescue.”
Most travelers conduct extensive research before embarking on trips, seeking out the best rates for hotels and airfare, and planning excursions. Travel risk, however, is one factor often overlooked.
When determining travel risk for a particular country, many turn to the website travel.state.gov, maintained by the U.S. Department of State. The site offers a quick initial snapshot to help evaluate travel to less than favorable areas of the world. While travel.state.gov is a good resource for travelers, understanding what is meant by the various types of alerts and warnings is essential. To make a fully informed decision, travelers should also refer to other public and private sources of travel information. (Read about Global Rescue’s GRIDSM travel intelligence system and our new mobile app below.)
Understanding State Dept. Warnings
The Department of State groups information in two major categories, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts.
Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department wishes to advise travelers to consider very carefully whether they should travel to the country at all. These warnings are issued for reasons including: government instability, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, and the frequency of terrorist attacks. While some of these warnings have been in effect for years, we are told the regions are continuously reevaluated.
Travel Alerts are issued for short-term events which may occur or have already occurred. For example, an election season that may trigger strikes, demonstrations or disturbances will be noted. Health events, such as a disease outbreak, also fall into this category. The risk of a probable terrorist attack may lead to the State Department’s assigning a country a Travel Alert.
Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts are valuable initial indicators that countries under consideration by travelers may need additional research prior to travel. When reviewing a Travel Warning or Alert, read carefully and become familiar with key words and phrases to develop a solid working knowledge of the site. Note words and phrases including: recommends, strongly recommends, avoid travel, warns against travel and current security, ongoing security event and situations. These words and phrases are used together in combination to indicate an overall severity of the situation in that particular country.
It is also very important to note how the Department of State advises government workers. When evaluating travel to a less than desirable area, notice how government workers are advised to proceed. If they are advised not to go, or to proceed only if advised or if conducting an official duty, then it is a very clear indicator that travel there as an individual is ill-advised. In most cases when government workers are advised not to travel, it is because it would be very difficult to support them in some type of security situation since the U.S. Embassy in the country is already operating at a diminished capacity due to that situation.
To keep Global Rescue members informed about global events and travel risks, we developed a travel intelligence system called GRID. A unique online resource, GRID is supported by our intelligence analysts and offers up-to-the-minute information on medical and security events around the world. Members can read detailed destination reports, including such information as country risk ratings and security risk overviews. Access to GRID is a benefit available to all Global Rescue members.
We also recommend that members download the new Global Rescue app. It puts critical medical, security and other essential travel information at your fingertips. In an emergency, the app puts Global Rescue members in immediate contact with the medical teams and military special operations veterans who staff our global operations centers. The Global Rescue app is designed for iOS (iOS 5 and above), Android (4.4 and above) and BlackBerry (10.2 and above) platforms. The app is now available on the App Store, Google Play, and Blackberry App World.
For more information on the Global Rescue app or our services, call 617-459-4200 or visit www.globalrescue.com.
Stay informed and travel safely!
Don Causey with peacock bass taken on fly in the Amazon
by Don Causey, editor of the Angling Report and senior consultant to Global Rescue
If you know much about international fishing, you’ve almost certainly heard of peacock bass, those wonderful yellow, green, and red fish in the Amazon that are highly prized for the way they attack large topwater lures. What you may not have heard about is the huge upsurge of interest in these fish among fly fishermen. Yes, fly fishermen.
Seems traditional anglers with spinning and baitcasting tackle, who have long dominated this kind of fishing, are having to share the water more and more with fly fishermen these days, who gladly eschew the noisy pleasure of top water strikes for the quieter pleasure of fooling peacocks on subsurface streamers. To be sure, almost all of the new fly fishermen who are going to the Amazon these days bring top water poppers, and they have at least some success with them. But the main pleasure they seek is the quieter one of casting skillfully to shorelines and connecting with very large fish that test the outer limits of what can be done with a long rod.
The new interest in fly fishing for peacock bass has brought with it an upsurge of interest in clear-water rivers, where individual fish can be sighted and specifically cast to. New kinds of skiffs are being introduced with poling platforms like those used to pursue bonefish in the Caribbean. One company, River Plate Anglers, is even experimenting with the use of tunnel boats that can run in extremely shallow water and thus get back into remote headwaters areas where the typically tannin-stained, slow-moving Amazon begins to take on the character of a trout stream with crystal clear water flowing around boulders. Indeed, some anglers who have successfully sightcast to big peacocks in environments like this say the excitement equals or excels that they have felt chasing trevally on the flats of Christmas Island or King Salmon in Alaska.
The move to fly fishing in The Amazon actually started nearly a decade ago with the establishment of a single fly fishing-only lodge in the Amazon called Agua Boa. Situated on a clear-water river (the Agua Boa), it quickly gained a following among fly fishermen. Most years, it was fully booked. Somewhat strangely, this clear indication of fly fishing interest in peacock bass fishing was not followed up on by other operators, who continued to cater almost exclusively to traditional anglers.
It’s unclear who, or what, caused the recent upsurge of interest in fly fishing but it developed quickly once the trend started. J.W. Smith of Rod and Gun Resources in Texas certainly played an important role. He is the principal agent for River Plate Anglers, by far the largest outfitter of peacock bass trips in the Amazon. Smith comes from a fly fishing background, and he seems to have been the first to notice the number of inquiries he was getting from fly fishermen. At any rate, he is now booking scores of fly fishermen into the Amazon, some of them on fly-only trips, some on mixed trips (fly and traditional anglers together, but never in the same fishing skiff together). Smith now has a web site dedicated to this fishing, www.southamerican-flyfishing.com.
Shore lunch Amazon style – peacock bass baked on a stick
The next big jump in fly fishing interest came about when an Argentinean Company called Untamed Angling gained the exclusive right last year to fish a highly coveted peacock bass river, The Marié. Extremely remote and difficult to reach, The Marié has the largest peacock bass in the entire Amazon Basin. A company that handles only fly fishermen, Untamed Angling brought in state of the art equipment and boats and linked up with one of the most important fly fishing agents, The Fly Shop in Redding California. The Marié is so remote the only way to reach it was by float plane from Manaus last year. The flight in and out was four hours each way, an incredible amount of time to be in a small float plane. This year, a new way into the river has been found, but it still takes a long time to get there.
As widely expected, that first year on The Marié was a huge success. The very first group in, using only flies and fly rod poppers, caught a half dozen fish weighing more than 14 pounds. Subsequent groups caught more fish that big. A 14-pounder, in case you don’t know, is a huge peacock bass by anyone’s measure, no matter what kind of tackle you take it on. Caught on fly tackle, a fish like that is a trophy of a lifetime. Not surprisingly, Untamed Angling’s entire season on The Marié this year is completely booked.
The latest development in Amazon fly fishing is another brand-new trip Untamed Angling has launched this year. It’s into the Xingu Basin, home to a famed warrior tribe. No modern fishermen have ever fished this area. Remarkably, it is an area that contains peacock bass, but a lot of other species, too, some of which have not really been pursued before by sport anglers of any sort, much less fly fishermen. The first anglers are on their way into this area as this written.
One of the interesting wrinkles in all this is some recent change in legislation in Brazil, which made it legal for companies to enter into agreements with Indians in the Amazon. Before, Indians in the Amazon had the legal status of children, and there was no way to craft a fully legal agreement to fish their waters. Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Untamed Angling (a fly fishing-only company!), this impediment to developing new sportfisheries has been eliminated. River Plate and other companies are rapidly stepping up their plans to develop new rivers. The catch and release (non-consumptive) philosophy of fly fishermen has been one of the keys to unlocking this new potential.
There is much else that could be pointed out about the exciting new wave of fly fishing in the Amazon, but one more point will have to suffice. Turns out that some of the tribes in the Amazon have a fly fishing tradition that precedes by millennia the current wave of interest in the Amazon by international fly anglers. Seems they learned long ago that peacock bass could be induced to hit a minnow-shaped “fly” created from dry leaves or from a multi-hued flower sewn to a primitive hook. The Indians on The Marié, it turns out, were as surprised to see modern flies as the first modern anglers were to see the Indians’ flies!
Peacock bass flies
Lieutenant Colonel Rick Steiner is a retired US Army Special Forces commander with 19 years of military experience. For the past 10 years, Steiner has relied on Global Rescue to be his “back up team” whenever he heads out on his hunting or fishing expeditions. “I’ve been to Afghanistan, Somalia, Uganda, Cameroon, Tanzania, and British Columbia, so having a rescue organization standing behind me that has the capability to come get me anywhere I might be is not a ‘nice to have’ -- it’s an absolute necessity,” said Steiner.
Steiner’s hunts take him to very remote areas. “All of the photos here are taken in the Sangha River area of southeast Cameroon, south of Lobeke National Park,” said Steiner. “On the other side of the river is the Central African Republic. We hunted the entire region as my outfitter there, Faro Lobeke Safaris, has over 500,000 hectares in two hunting blocks.
“The entire area is triple canopy jungle with a few villages and logging camps. There are no paved roads --only logging trails maintained by the logging companies. Local fauna includes lowland gorillas, forest elephant and buffalo, bongo antelope, forest sitatunga, various duikers, leopards, a wide variety of monkeys, chimpanzees, and assorted snakes and insects. Daytime highs in May are around 100 degrees F, with 85% humidity, and it rains about every other night. The local people are baka tribesmen, also known as pygmies,” noted Steiner.
“It's a very tough place to hunt. I've taken just about every species available on two separate hunts there. You can only see 20 yards or less in the jungle, and you’re wet all the time -- sweat, rain, or a combination. But it's incredibly rewarding to hunt the place. Needless to say, there are a lot of hazards -- food, water, the gorillas, elephant, buffalo, snakes, car accidents -- so it's very important to be good at personal health management, risk management, and also to have a good medevac plan.”
This past spring, Steiner turned to Global Rescue for assistance when he was feeling feverish while traveling. “I called to get advice on dosages for medicine I was taking. What I got from Global Rescue was a level of follow up and service that approached family practice doctor level of engagement. Totally great.”
Steiner concludes: “Global Rescue is the only service provider of its type that has earned my confidence. I simply won’t go on a hunting or fishing expedition without the peace of mind that comes from having a Global Rescue membership.”
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
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.