Dr. John Schmeelk, a university teacher, suffered a life threatening cardiac condition while living in Qatar. Global Rescue medical teams were soon on the ground, overseeing his initial treatment and orchestrating his subsequent evacuation by air ambulance to Israel for a life saving procedure.
In his letter Dr. Schmeelk recounts his experience and explains how Global Rescue provided so much more than evacuation services:
January 21, 2013
Dear Global Rescue:
Now that I am safely back in the United States and on my way to recovery, I want everyone at Global Rescue to know how very grateful my wife, Jean, and I are for the wonderful, literally life-saving care that you provided not only for me but for her as well.
During the early hours of Friday, March 16, I was admitted into Qatar’s national hospital’s state-of-the-art heart pavilion that had just opened in October 2011. My defibrillator/pacemaker had shocked me twice in two days, and this was just the beginning of increasingly more shocks as my arrhythmia worsened. Very soon after my Human Resources Director put Global Rescue on alert that I might need to be evacuated to the US, Jean and I met David, a Global Rescue Medical Specialist, at my hospital bedside. He immediately began inquiring of the nurses and doctors about the details of my condition and my medications, and he began instructing Jean about taking carefully detailed notes, asking questions, and getting names of everyone who gave us information. He also encouraged her to go home and rest while he stayed with me. We had thought of Global Rescue as an evacuation service, but we were to learn that they are so much more.
On March 23, before I was stable enough to be evacuated, David was recalled to the US to handle another case. His replacement, a paramedic named Andrew, arrived on March 26 and continued the same extensive and informative care that David had performed. He monitored nurses’ care, explained what they were doing, occasionally assisted me himself, and asked both the nurses and my doctors questions that Jean and I did not know to ask. When we realized that I needed a heart ablation that the hospital could not perform if faulty nodes existed inside the heart tissue, Global Rescue immediately began contacting nearby hospitals trying to locate one that would be able to give the degree of care I needed. (I could not be directly evacuated to the US because I was not stable enough to endure the long commercial flight, and the medivac plane required refueling every three hours, making a long, trans-Atlantic flight even longer and more difficult.)
Once an appropriate hospital was located in Tel Aviv, Israel, Global Rescue arranged the medivac aircraft and doctor that would take me there, and they booked a commercial flight for Jean. When complications delayed our leaving the airport, Global Rescue in Boston stayed in touch with Jean via cell phone during her layover and arranged a hotel room for her to spend the night so she could arrive at the hospital about the same time that I did. Once on our way, Andrew accompanied me in the medivac closely monitoring my condition along with the evacuation doctor during the entire flight. The next day, he would leave me briefly to meet Jean when she arrived at the Tel Aviv airport. I learned later that Global Rescue’s “point man” on the ground in Tel Aviv arranged for a gentleman from the Israeli State Department to meet Jean at the door of the airplane when she landed and to escort her through Passport Control, ensuring that she moved quickly through the process and forestalling any language problems. This is but one example of the multitude of ways in which he proactively cared for both of us during the month of April while we were in Tel Aviv. In addition, he arranged resort accommodations for Jean within walking distance of the hospital at a greatly reduced rate, gave her several brief tours of the city, frequently talked with my doctors and relayed their information to Jean and me, to name just a few of his many ways of caring for us.
One of the most touching acts performed by Global Rescue was personally escorting Jean to Jerusalem to the Wailing Wall so she could post a prayer for my recovery before my first ablation. Such thoughtfulness and care were far beyond the call of duty, but very deeply appreciated by both of us.
We remained in Global Rescue’s care about six weeks, until they were able to deliver us personally to my cardiologist’s office in New York and hear that both my cardiologist and the ICD team were satisfied with my condition.
This past holiday season, my wife and I were able to celebrate more joyfully than ever before this year because we both know that these were holidays I might very well not have lived to see. We send our deepest thanks to each of you—and we know there were many more “behind the scenes” whom we did not meet—at Global Rescue who participated in my evacuation.
With deepest respect and gratitude,
Dr. John Schmeelk
While in Germany vacationing with his family, a member was attempting to board a train when he fell into the gap between the train and the platform, severely lacerating his leg. Soon after the incident, his son contacted Global Rescue.
After the initial call, local medics arrived on the scene and transported the member to a nearby hospital, where physicians attempted to control the bleeding and performed an x-ray. On first review, local medical staff in Germany felt that the situation was stable and that there was no evidence of any fractures or injury beyond the laceration.
After reviewing the injury with local doctors, it was decided that the best course of action would be for the member to remain in Germany for a further 5 days to determine whether the leg was stable for transport and if a skin graft would be required. The member could then be transported to his home hospital in Houston for further treatment.
Global Rescue took steps to ensure the member remained comfortable in hospital and contacted his wife, who helped obtain the release of relevant medical records. These allowed Global Rescue medical teams to better understand whether appropriate care was being received and what the next steps should be in the treatment process.
As a result of the extended stay and to monitor the patient during the onward transportation, Global Rescue deployed medical personnel to Germany who met the injured member and his wife at the hospital, arranged his discharge, and oversaw his transport.
Once on the ground in Houston, Global Rescue arranged ground transportation for the member from the airport to ER at the receiving hospital.
After an ER evaluation and diagnostics, it was determined that the member’s injury was healing well and the situation did not require further hospital admission.
While vacationing in Greece, a US citizen experienced an unprovoked seizure that lasted for nearly thirty minutes. Hospitalized locally, she was placed into a medically induced coma. Shocked by this sudden episode, the patient’s sister contacted Global Rescue.
At the request of family members, Global Rescue organized the patient’s transportation from the Greek hospital to the US in order to ensure that the patient was receiving the highest level of care possible. Global Rescue coordinated communication between the hospital in Greece, the patient’s family, and specialists at a leading US hospital. Doctors were advised to prepare a place for the patient, who would be transferred from the Greek hospital as soon as her condition was diagnosed as ‘safe for travel.’ The patient was cleared for travel aboard a medically equipped jet, and family members made plans to arrive at the receiving hospital immediately following the patient’s admission.
The patient was flown from the hospital in Greece directly to Boston. After coordinating with the flight crew, Global Rescue assured family members that the patient’s vital signs remained stable throughout the transport process and that the flight went without incident. The patient was met by two Global Rescue paramedics at the airport, who provided direct care during the ambulance transport to the hospital. All important medical information was relayed to staff members at the receiving hospital, who were fully prepared to receive the patient and begin medical procedures upon arrival.
The patient continues to make a recovery and family members thanked Global Rescue for their work and support throughout this difficult event.
Global Rescue was recently contacted by a member who had suffered a suspected stroke while skiing in Chambery, France. He was immediately transported to a local hospital where he was admitted. To ensure the patient received the best possible treatment, the decision was made to immediately deploy a Global Rescue paramedic to the patient’s bedside. Once on the ground, the paramedic was able to work with local doctors and communicate test results to Global Rescue’s waiting medical team and specialists at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Given the severity of the injury, it was decided that the best course of action was to transport the member to Geneva, where he would be able to receive improved diagnostics and treatment, prior to transporting him home. After receiving stabilizing care in Switzerland, the member was judged well enough to be transported back to his home hospital in Scotland. Due to his condition he was unable to travel by air so Global Rescue’s deployed paramedic escorted him by train to his home in Scotland. The member and his family arrived safely in Edinburgh and were promptly seen by the Head of Neurology.
An employee of a large engineering firm was working on assignment in Kuwait City when he experienced shortness of breath, general weakness and significant weight loss.
The man’s condition deteriorated dramatically after he was admitted to a local hospital. He was suffering from an elevated heart rate and pneumonia. The diagnosis was an abnormal level of thyroid hormone in the blood stream, a condition that is often fatal if not treated quickly.
Immediately after the diagnosis was rendered, the engineering firm that employed the patient contacted Global Rescue, which immediately dispatched a critical care paramedic to his bedside.
After the paramedic informed Global Rescue’s medical team about the care the engineer was receiving, Global Rescue and Johns Hopkins physicians determined that the Kuwaiti facility was unable to effectively treat the case. The Kuwaiti staff had administered high doses of calcium channel blockers to slow down his heart rate, but slowed it to such a degree that his circulatory system nearly collapsed. Consequently, the staff turned to a medication that accelerated his heart rate. As the patient continued to deteriorate, Global Rescue prepared an immediate evacuation to the nearest Center of Excellence, located in Istanbul, since it was unlikely the patient would survive the long flight home to the United States.
He was transported to Turkey aboard a medically equipped aircraft and admitted to the hospital’s critical care unit.
Once admitted, Global Rescue arranged to have him evaluated by a renowned American cardiologist. In addition, the CEO of the Turkish hospital,at Global Rescue’s request, visited the patient and to ensure that he would benefit from the most qualified oversight that the Hopkins-affiliated institution had to offer.
The patient underwent a transoesophygeal cardioversion, an invasive but very effective way to restore a heart rhythm, and his thyroid condition was brought under control with medication. Once he was stable enough to fly, Global Rescue transported the patient back to his home in Arizona,where he is recovering as an outpatient in his home hospital.
In early September, 2009, Global Rescue received a call from the father of a 22-year-old American woman who was trapped in the house of a local family in Kampala, Uganda, where she worked with a non-profit organization. As he spoke, ethnic rioting was unfolding on the road below his daughter’s window. He asked that she be extracted from the house and evacuated back to the United States if the unrest continued and her life was endangered.
Global Rescue dispatched to Kampala a former Navy SEAL with operational experience in East Africa, to lead an indigenous team of security experts and put an extraction plan into place to evacuate her if necessary. The teams entry into Kampala was timed for the early morning hours when the streets were calm.
Kampala’s rioting was a response to the government’s refusal to allow the tribal king of Buganda entry to visit an area north of the city. Stores were looted, cars burned, and at least 24 people were gunned down by police. Some foreigners had already been evacuated from downtown locations.
The team’s first task was to positively identify the location of the young American’s room on the edge of town, evaluate its security, and reconnoiter the routes in and out. With the aid of local translators and security operatives, the team successfully negotiated the checkpoints on the main road that led past the American Recreation Area – a narrow street that previously had been completely obstructed by roadblocks and rioters – and mapped out a secondary route that led from the rear of the house to an area not far away that could serve as a helicopter landing zone.
The team then placed its helicopter pilot on standby. He had been conducting evacuations already from the roof of a downtown hotel. Together they established a plan to airlift the member if necessary to Entebbe International Airport or, alternatively, to a safe haven if the airport were closed.
Ultimately the king decided to call off his visit, the riots soon subsided, and the young woman and her family decided that her environment was safe enough to continue to work in Uganda.