The return to travel world has had the “ups” of more countries welcoming visitors, fewer COVID protocols and fewer hospitalizations and the “downs” of the BA.5 variant, airline disruptions and the rising cost of travel. Travelers weighing the ups and downs are overwhelmingly moving ahead and forging plans to overcome travel barriers. According to the recent Global Rescue Traveler Sentiment and Safety Survey, 68% of respondents have already traveled internationally since the pandemic. The balance of trip takers expects to travel abroad by the end of the year (16%) or in the first three months of 2023 (9%).
The biggest international travel fear is testing positive for COVID and being stranded away from home. The good news is this fear is declining. A third of respondents (33%) listed COVID as the most concerning but it represents a 37% decrease from early 2022.
Further, travel fears aren’t leading to travel cancelations. Despite reports of the latest COVID-19 variant, BA.5, generating waves of reinfections and single-digit increases in U.S. hospitalizations, nearly 80% of respondents say the threat of a new COVID variant is unlikely to make them cancel or postpone international travel this year.
Global Rescue continues to answer the needs of travelers at home and abroad without any disruption of service. In a typical 30-day period, Global Rescue executes hundreds of operations in dozens of countries and principalities. Below are highlights from some of our most recent operations in various locations.
COVID Positive on Broad Peak
A German mountaineering member needed a helicopter field rescue from Broad Peak, the 12th highest mountain in the world, located in the Karakoram range on the border of Pakistan and China. During an ascent from 13,800 feet/4,200 meters to 16,400 feet/5,000 meters, the member declared he was weakening, but pushed forward, according to the expedition leader.
Unfortunately, his condition worsened. By the middle of the trek, he felt frail and could not walk. He was placed on a donkey until they reached the Broad Peak base camp at 16,404 feet/5,000 meters. By then, the member had a severe cough, a fever of 102.56° F/39.2° C, an oxygen saturation level of 75% and was unable to fully sleep or eat well. He tested positive for COVID-19 using an antigen kit.
The expedition leader contacted Global Rescue and an airborne medical evacuation was initiated. The member was transported to a hospital in Skardu, where he was evaluated and diagnosed with Acute Mountain Sickness and given antibiotics, IV fluids, nebulization and medication for the fluid in his lungs while at the hospital. He was re-tested for COVID using a PCR test, which was negative, unlike the result given to him at more than 16,000 feet/5,000 meters on Broad Peak Mountain where the temperatures dip well below freezing (1° F/-17° C) and even lower with the wind chill factor (-15° F/-26° C). The member recovered and was released from the hospital.
Mountain Slip and Fall
A 49-year-old United Kingdom member slipped, fell and injured his right shoulder on his way to Broad Peak base camp in Pakistan. Experiencing swelling, pain and limited range of motion, the member showed signs of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) upon arrival at base camp. Symptoms included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath and headache. He followed medical advice and slowly descended to a lower elevation. Unfortunately, his symptoms did not improve. Global Rescue conferred with physicians and agreed an emergency medical evacuation was needed. The member was safely evacuated and arrived at a hospital in Skardu where his condition improved following a day of recovery. After evaluation, the member was discharged and continues to recuperate.
Cardiac Incident in the Great Bear Rainforest
Bella Coola is located in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest on the central coast of Canada’s British Columbia. It is a popular summer destination for fishing, hiking, river drifting, wildlife watching and much more. Unfortunately, a 56-year-old U.S. member arrived at the Bella Coola lodge suffering chest pains. The member was quickly evacuated by helicopter for a 45-minute transport to a nearby hospital.
Global Rescue medical operations personnel monitored developments and conferred with hospital staff and the attending medical team. While many advanced capabilities were available at the facility, services like coronary interventions were not available and coronary angiogram, PCI and open-heart surgery were only available at a hospital 12 hours away by ambulance.
Global Rescue physicians and hospital doctors agreed medical transport to a medical facility with higher levels of care was warranted due to unstable ACS symptoms and limited medical capabilities locally. The member was immediately transported by fixed wing air ambulance to a center of excellence in Seattle and directly admitted to the catheterization lab in the Interventional Cardiac Recovery Unit. The member underwent an angiogram and was treated for his condition.
Bad Break in Tanzania
A 71-year-old U.S. member slipped on steps and fell while in Tanzania with her husband. A local doctor provided Ibuprofen and an injectable painkiller but the injury to the member's knee appeared to worsen. She and her husband flew out of Serengeti and checked in at a hospital in Arusha where X-rays and CT scans were taken. The attending doctor provided a working diagnosis of a left proximal tibia fracture and placed the member's knee in an immobilizer. Global Rescue physicians concurred with the medical report and recommendation for commercial transport with a business class upgrade to permit the patient to elevate her leg and allow for full extension with a knee brace. Wheelchair assistance throughout the transport was provided and ground transportation was arranged. Unfortunately, the member's pain and weakness didn't abate during the flight and she was immediately brought to a hospital in Texas via ambulance where the member was admitted for scheduled surgery.
Airborne Evacuation from Canada
A U.S. member fell and hit her head while in her cabin in Manitoba, Canada. She sustained a laceration on her lip, swelling on the side of her face and slurred speech. Although the member was alert and conscious, Global Rescue was contacted and it was determined that the nearest medical facility was 230 miles away and accessible only by charter plane. Medical operations physicians recommended emergent neuroimaging and a non-medical charter evacuation. The member was successfully transported to a medical facility capable of a higher level of care where she was diagnosed with an orbital fracture, hyponatremia, facial swelling and laceration secondary to the fall. She was treated and released within a day.
Septuagenarian Exhaustion on K2
Although the summit of Mount Everest is at a higher altitude, K2 – the second highest summit in the world – is considered a more difficult and dangerous climb, due in part to its more inclement weather. A 74-year-old U.S. member on K2 this summer complained of severe body weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, reduced appetite and an inability to continue his descent while at Khorburtse Camp (12,467 feet/3,800 meters). The member had been immobile for three days and was not fit for a three-day horseback ride for the descent. Global Rescue was contacted and, after reviewing the case, a helicopter evacuation was recommended. The member was successfully evacuated to a hospital in Skardu where he was evaluated, treated and discharged with a medical escort to assist the member’s return to the U.S.
Mononucleosis In Zimbabwe
A U.S. member with his family in a remote area of Zimbabwe contacted Global Rescue reporting that his daughter had been experiencing cold-like symptoms including severe nasal congestion, fever, sore throat and difficulty swallowing for several days. The conditions continued to worsen despite antibiotics. Global Rescue medical operations physicians recommended a medical evacuation due to the remote location and no medical facilities available in Zimbabwe. The member’s daughter was safely evacuated to an appropriate medical facility in Johannesburg, South Africa, and admitted. She was examined and diagnosed with infectious mononucleosis with secondary infection. The member was discharged after five days and cleared for a commercial flight with assistance from her father. The member safely arrived at her home in the U.S. where she continued her recovery.
Bad Infection on K2
An abrasion on the right hip of a member from the Cayman Islands hobbled his ability to walk while at Baltoro Glacier, located below the La Concordia camp on K2. The member ultimately collapsed whereupon expedition leaders and medical staff noticed the injury had become infected and the skin ruptured with foul-smelling discharge. The group attempted to bring the member to safety by horse but the injury prevented his ability to safely sit on horseback due to the rough, steep terrain. Global Rescue physicians recommended an airborne medical evacuation to reduce the risk of sepsis. The member was successfully transported to a hospital in Skardu where he was admitted for two days to the Intensive Care Unit. The member was subsequently discharged with antibiotics and was able to arrange his care and recovery moving forward.
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