After a plane crash in Myanmar, the long road to recovery

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October 15, 2015

Categories: Member Testimonials,

(Courtesy of Fox News)

On Christmas Day 2012, Allan Lokos and his wife, Susanna Weiss, boarded a plane in Myanmar headed to Inle Lake, a popular tourist destination in the heart of the Shan Plateau and home to the Shwe Indein Pagoda – a white-washed stupa that enshrines a Buddha image and is surrounded by hundreds of ancient stupas.   The couple, who run a meditation center in New York City, were drawn to the region for its many temples and monasteries. 

Their lives changed forever when something went wrong during their approach for landing. The plane crashed short of the runway, broke into pieces and burst into flames.  Miraculously, Allan and Susanna somehow survived the impact and managed to pull themselves out of the wreckage through the fire and debris.  Both were badly injured, Allan critically.  Local rescue teams arrived shortly after the crash and rushed them and other survivors to a nearby clinic.

Susanna suffered broken vertebrae, and feared for Allan’s survival.  “I was told by the doctors that Allan was not going to make it,” she recalled. 

 

 

 

Allan’s injuries were life-threatening. He was in critical condition, with severe burns over 33% of his body including his head, face, neck, and hands. Not surprisingly, his injuries were well beyond the capabilities of the local clinic in rural Myanmar. 

Global Rescue was contacted by the couple’s tour operator and immediately coordinated the dispatch of an aircraft to transport Allan and Susanna to Bangkok, Thailand, for treatment at one of the best hospitals in the region.Global Rescue paramedic personnel deployed from the company’s Bangkok Operations Center met the couple at the hospital, where Allan was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

Once the extent of Allan’s injuries became clear, Global Rescue’s medical team consulted with Johns Hopkins Medicine specialists and determined that, given the severity of his burns, a transfer to the top burn center in Asia, located in Singapore, would give Allan the best possible chances in his fight for survival.

What followed was an evacuation by private, medically equipped ICU aircraft while Allan drifted in and out of consciousness.  While his memories of the flight and his admittance to the Singapore burn unit are spotty due to the trauma and treatment, which included several skin graft surgeries, Allan later recalled the comfort of seeing Global Rescue personnel outside his hospital room around the clock.

Global Rescue’s medical team and partners at Johns Hopkins remained in close contact with the Singapore physicians, overseeing Allan’s additional skin graft surgeries.

Knowing that Allan could decline rapidly from the severity of his burns, Susanna faced another extremely difficult choice: whether to move Allan home to the U.S. or keep him in Singapore for long-term treatment. She knew that with burns, in particular, the danger of infection is the biggest risk.  “I’ve kept him alive so far with the choices I’ve made,” Susanna pondered.  She decided to move forward with his transport home.

 

 

(Courtesy of Allan Lokos)

Global Rescue transported Allan by ICU equipped air ambulance back to his home country hospital in New York City during a brief window when he was deemed stable enough to survive the journey.  Allan was stable throughout and the aircraft landed in New York without incident.  While their travels had finally had ended, both Allan and Susanna knew a long road to recovery awaited.

Susanna, now fitted with an orthopedic back brace, faced her own troubling medical issues, compounded by the psychological trauma of the crash and the physical toll of dealing with Allan’s care.  “I hardly had a life during that time,” she said. “All I would do is go back and forth to my apartment late at night, kind of fall asleep, and go back early in the morning to the hospital.”  She is still recovering from her injuries.

Two months after being admitted to a hospital in New York, Allan was released. Despite the homecoming, he was despondent. “That’s when you would think that finally things are going to return to some kind of normality, and it was anything but. I remember constantly thinking that I wanted my life back,” said Allan. “It was, for both of us, the most depressing time of our lives.  I came home 25 pounds lighter off of an in-shape frame. I was incredibly weak. I had no use of my hands at that time. There was literally nothing I could do for myself; I was totally dependent.”

Allan is the founder and guiding teacher of The Community Meditation Center in New York City.  He had practiced meditation for many years, studying with such renowned teachers as Thich Nhat Hanh, and ultimately visited Myanmar to enhance his spiritual practice and teaching.

Susanna partially credits Allan’s recuperation during this difficult period to his writing his book, Through the Flames: Overcoming Disaster through Compassion, Patience, and Determination. “Like the trauma therapy saved me, his writing saved him. He’s a teacher at heart, so he felt he would have something to offer.  That was his salvation,” Susanna said.

Allan’s spiritual training was instrumental in his physical and mental recovery. “The mental recovery was more difficult because that’s when things were really awful,” he noted. “On the physical side, literally from the moments right after the crash and then for the next two months, much of the time I was drugged, in shock, and not cognizant at all of things that were happening.  I have memories of very unpleasant procedures but physical pain is temporal. It can be very difficult but then it fades.” He noted, “I never have dealt with questions like ‘why me?’ or ‘why did this happen to me?’ and I think that was and continues to be a major part of why I’ve healed as well as I have.”

Despite their ordeal, Allan and Susanna have no reservations about traveling again. “I don’t think that we should alter our lives because of fear. I think we should be aware of what we’re doing, but I wouldn’t back away from something I wanted to do just out of fear,” said Allan.

Susanna said, “I don’t deny that the crash happened and that it has its effects, but I also don’t want that to determine how I live my life.” 

In fact, Allan and Susanna traveled to Africa in 2015, their first trip outside the United States since the plane crash.  

Susanna concluded: “At a time when I couldn’t handle anything else, there was nothing like the military calm of Global Rescue’s personnel. How could I have handled our evacuation? Even if I weren’t taking care of Allan all the time, I wouldn’t know how to do that. What was done was so competent, so steady.   I am grateful that they were there for us.”  

 

 

 

(Courtesy of Fox News)

 


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