International and domestic travel for business and leisure has been dramatically reduced since the pandemic with many borders closed or restricted. One outcome has been a significant rise in outdoor activity worldwide as beginners, experts and everyone in between are increasingly taking part in outside recreational pastimes.
COVID-19 opened the door for people to explore and appreciate the great outdoors, but with an increase in outdoor activities there is a parallel expectation of the need for more rescue services.
The pandemic has changed the way most people and businesses operate, but not for Global Rescue personnel, who continue to manage medical, security and travel operations worldwide.
In a typical month, Global Rescue performs hundreds of operations in dozens of countries. Below are highlights from some of our most recent operations in various locations.
AMA DABLAM, Nepal
Frostbite symptoms are a serious risk for high-altitude climbers. Numb, swollen hands make holding onto ropes and tools difficult to impossible. That’s what happened to a member attempting to summit Ama Dablam (22,349 feet/ 6,812 meters), a mountain in the eastern Himalayan range of Nepal. He decided not to proceed and began trekking down. Unfortunately, while rappelling down to camp, he lost his balance, hit the wall and fell 20 feet (6 meters) on his back. The Sherpa helped get him to Camp 2. Unable to walk following the fall or move his swollen fingers, further descent down the technically challenging section of the mountain was not possible. Global Rescue was contacted and immediately arranged for a helicopter long line rescue, a rapid rescue response used in remote, high angle terrain. High winds prevented the initial rescue effort, but the second attempt succeeded. The injured climber was recovered and transported to a hospital where he received treatment for his injuries and ultimately discharged after a few days.
A 54-year-old Portuguese construction executive was working in Kampala when he started experiencing severe abdominal pain. Global Rescue medical operations received an alert about the member and immediately established contact with the him and the hospital staff where he had been admitted. It was quickly determined that a 1 cm stone had dislodged from the man’s kidney and an abdominal aneurism was discovered with 3 cm potential blockage of a vein due to a blood clot. Global Rescue operations medical experts remained in continual contact with the Member, routinely reviewed his medical records, and consulted with the hospital physicians and nurses attending him. Soon, the kidney stones passed, providing tremendous relief for the Member. Further tests and exams were recommended and conducted – each result showed no problems. Global Rescue operations team maintained regular contact with the Member throughout his entire hospital stay, during his discharge, and remained in touch until he arrived at his home country and reported all was well.
WYOMING, United States
The Wind River Range in Wyoming is a popular destination, attracting trekkers to the remote wilderness and its beautiful exposed granite in the higher elevations. That’s where a member, who specializes in natural resources law, joined a seven-day expedition using llamas to carry food and gear. Unfortunately, the attorney never expected to be nudged off a tight path by an unruly 400-pound llama. The fall resulted in a broken wrist, ending her trek prematurely. Global Rescue was notified by two-way satellite phone and, with nightfall looming, arranged for a helicopter evacuation. Landing zones were scarce in the remote area forcing the pilot to land the chopper about a mile from the camp. Two rescue workers hiked in to recover the injured attorney and fly her to the Lander hospital where she was admitted, treated and discharged the next day.
SHIMSHAL VALLEY, Pakistan
When a doctor from Berlin was climbing in the Shimshal Valley of Pakistan and slipped, he fell more than 250 feet (80 meters) and sustained numerous life-threatening injuries. Four members of the expedition group helped bring the injured physician to base camp. Global Rescue’s medical operations team immediately assessed the situation and arranged for a helicopter evacuation to a hospital. Luckily, X-rays of the injured doctor’s lumbar spine, hand, pelvis and leg revealed no fractures. After several days of medical monitoring and recovery, the doctor was fit-to-fly and returned safely to his home in Germany.
MONTANA, United States
At 12,807 feet (3,903 meters), Granite Peak, known for its unpredictable weather, is Montana’s highest mountain and the second most difficult highpoint in the United States. It’s where an avid climbing member attempted to ascend by way of the notch couloir. He made it to the saddle and was moving via the ridge to the summit when a rock fell naturally nearby, causing a small rockslide and taking the biologist down. One of the rocks crushed his foot. He alerted his climbing companions and notified Global Rescue. Ordinarily, the first call from Global Rescue operations specialists would have been to the Beartooth Ranger Station, but it was closed due to COVID-19 pandemic protocols. Global Rescue operations worked as an information conduit, alerting local emergency resources and coordinating rescue efforts between agencies and the injured party.
High mountain climbing is challenging, especially when it comes to balancing the desire to summit against the dangerous symptoms of high-altitude sickness. When a member was unable to continue the trek to Lobuche Peak, he returned to base camp and took oxygen after recording a dangerously low oxygen saturation level half the normal level. Global Rescue arranged a helicopter transport to Grande International Hospital in Kathmandu. The member’s condition improved during the next few days and was ultimately discharged from the medical facility.
Trekking the world’s deadliest volcano is quite the adventure, especially if you’re a history buff and love hiking. That was the plan for one member who set out on a multi-day hike to the top of Mt. Tambora (2,850 meters/9,350 feet), an active stratovolcano. During her descent down an extremely steep section, she stepped into a hidden hole, slipped and broke her ankle. Unable to walk, she shimmied another kilometer to an area and got a message to Global Rescue. The dense tree cover made a helicopter rescue unrealistic so rescuers used bamboo poles and sarongs (looped scarves) to create a mobile hammock to carry the injured member five kilometers to base camp where an ambulance transported her to a medical facility.
UTAH, United States
A member sustained a sternal, lumbar burst, thoracic compression and transverse process of lumbar vertebra fractures during a paragliding accident in Provo, Utah. Following her surgery, Global Rescue performed medical assessments and daily condition updates to monitor progress in advance of her discharge and transport to her home of record in Seattle, Washington.
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