Friday, January 31, 2014

Air Ambulance!

In my last post, I talked about Joe's health problems this month.  Joe's company followed the protocol of the American embassy in Muscat and the decision was made to take Joe to London for continued treatment.  But how?  By air ambulance!  A doctor and nurse arrived at the hospital.  They accompanied Joe, who was taken by ambulance from the Royal Hospital to the Muscat airport.  When the ambulance got to the gate of the tarmac, it had to sit and wait.  The driver who drove the ambulance to the airport was not allowed to drive the ambulance in the airport.  I had to go inside with an escort, to have my passport stamped.

The air ambulance was a Lear Jet 45.  The pilot was very proud of his jet.  He asked me if I had ever flown in a Lear jet before.  Let's just say, I was in no condition to be impressed.  He told us that most US air ambulances were only Lear Jet 35's, which were smaller.  I can't imagine a smaller plane!  We had a pilot, co-pilot (pictured above), a doctor, and a nurse.    The name of their company was Luxembourg Air Rescue.  They mainly transport patients who have emergencies during travel to other countries and bring them home.  Right before coming to Oman, they had been to Nigeria.

It was quite an undertaking to arrange an air ambulance. I was in constant communication with ISOS, the firm that handles medical transport.  A plane and crew had to be found, they needed to get to Oman, they needed to rest, arrangements had to be made for Joe in a London hospital,  and so on.  I had some time to chat with the crew after they made Joe comfortable and while we were waiting on paperwork from the Muscat airport. I was told that there was a 40% chance of dense fog in London and we may have to land in Manchester, England.  But they were hoping for the best.  The plan was to stop in Van, Turkey, and Budapest for refueling.  Now, you can fly direct from Muscat to London in about 7 hours.  The jet could go faster, but needed to refuel twice.

Joe was strapped into a stretcher on one side of the plane.  There was room for two stretchers on one side, and four seats on the other.  There was probably no more than 18 inches, if that much, of aisle in between.  You couldn't even stand up.  It was very tight quarters.  Just for the record, Joe told me to take pictures.  He told me, "I know you want some for your blog."  :)  What a trooper!

From the back of the plane, looking forward.  That is the back of the head of the doctor and to his right is where Joe was most of the time.

Maybe a little better shot.  So, off we flew to Van, our first refueling stop.  It went off just fine.  When we landed in 'Budapest', I learned we were not in Budapest after all.  The airports there were shut down due to weather.  As were all the airports in London!!  So, what to do?  We all went inside the lounge of the small airport in Slovakia.  We sat around a table and discussed the options.  We could land in Manchester, but there may not be a hospital bed available for Joe.  Now, the very last thing Joe wanted to do, was to be admitted to another hospital.  Another option was to land in Manchester, and go right away by land ambulance to London.  But weather was iffy.   We had left Oman at 7:00 pm, and it was early morning for us.  The pilot suggested taking us to Germany.  We had come all this way, had everything set in London, and didn't want to change now. We sat around what seemed like forever, for all the options to be weighed, our wishes made known, and for ISOS to work out the details.  

We landed in Manchester in the wee hours.  We went by ambulance to a public hospital, where Joe was given a bed in a ward.  Our air ambulance team left, their job done.  They had taken very good care of us and regretted not being able to take us to our final destination.  I was shown to a day room, where I tried to communicate to all my friends and family who were wondering if we had made it to London okay.  That next day was spent trying to get Joe's pain under control and trying to find out when the ambulance was coming to take us to London.  It was quite the day! Shortly after Joe was settled in his bed, the nurse started to bathe the patient next to Joe, separated by a curtain.  The conversation went something like this.

Patient:  Don't get too close to my private parts!
Nurse:  I am not interested in your private parts.
Patient:  Been a long time for you, eh?

As soon as I was allowed on the ward, I was able to sit by Joe's bed.  The nurses brought both of us breakfast.  We both asked for cornflakes.  The difference between the hospital in Oman and the one in Manchester?  Oman serves their cornflakes with hot milk and Manchester with cold milk!  Out of the four hospitals we spent time in, these nurses were the kindest and hardest-working nurses we had seen.  Even if they did think Joe looked like David Beckham and bickered over who would give him his meds!  :)

At long last, the land ambulance was arranged, and we spent the next three hours in a very fast journey to London.  It did cross my mind to wonder how many ambulances have been involved in traffic accidents.  

About 30 hours after leaving Oman, Joe was in his hospital room in London!  While I thought the Manchester hospital ward felt like a British sitcom, Wellington hospital felt more like a sic-fi movie!

After a total of two weeks in one air ambulance, three land ambulances, and four hospitals, Joe is out of the hospital and recuperating here in London.  We are waiting for a follow up appointment with the neurologist and the okay to fly home to Oman.  Oh, how we miss our kids, our great friends, the sunshine, and the warm weather in Muscat.  Joe is doing much better.  God is good!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Joe's Hospital Stay in Muscat

Life, no matter where you live, sometimes takes unexpected turns.  Life took quite a turn a few weeks ago, when I took my husband, Joe, to the emergency room in Muscat!  It all began with a terrible headache that just wouldn't go away.  I wasn't really sure just where to go or where to take him.  I called my friend Mary, and her physician husband, Mohan, met us at Muscat's Royal Hospital.  Side note: if you need to get someone to an emergency room in Muscat and can take them there, do it.  Or call a good friend, as I did.  Don't wait for an ambulance to come to you!  Joe saw a doctor right away.  You know how doctors look at your eyes with a flashlight?  This doctor used his iPhone!  A CT scan showed a brain hemorrhage, and so began our journey.

While the Royal Hospital is a very good hospital, it does not offer the chance for neuro surgery, as we thought Joe might require.  He was transferred to Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, in an ambulance.  Side note:  if you do get an ambulance, make sure the ambulance driver knows which hospital to take you to.  Once there, Joe needed an angiogram.  He was wheeled down to radiology, but they were not ready for him. Where was he placed?  In the women's waiting area.  An older Omani woman came up to Joe and covered up his arms!  I guess he was flashing too much skin in his hospital gown.

I was a bit too busy and distracted to take a lot of pictures.  Actually, SQUH has a beautiful courtyard, but did I get a picture of it?  No.  But I did get a blurry picture of my lunch tray.  Yes, they always brought a meal for me and I have to say, the food was really good. Plenty salty.  I guess Omanis have no fear of sodium.  Just don't expect a fork with your meal.  I never saw one!

I can't remember the last time I saw a pay phone.

Here is a sign I have never seen in a hospital!

Joe didn't watch any TV for the first few days, but when he did try, there were not a lot of choices.  One option was the camel beauty pageant.

Or a mosque prayer meeting.

Joe was battling debilitating headaches.  Every sound was amplified in his head.  The door to his room was really squeaky.  I could have hunted someone down and waited until they got around to fixing the door.  Or I could bring PAM from home.  Squeaks gone in 15 seconds!

My friend, Debi, came to see me in the hospital.  I was telling her about how I fixed Joe's door.  She pulled out her bag and showed me what she had brought!  Great minds think alike!!  :)

It took about a week before Joe really felt like eating.  What was Joe's request?  A McDonald's Happy Meal!  It hit the spot!

Joe spent over a week in two hospitals in Muscat.  Even though I had been in Oman just over a year, we had so many amazing friends who jumped in and helped get us through this time.  Friends drove us to the hospital, stayed with me during tests, took care of my kids, brought us meals, helped me pack, and on and on.  Joe's boss, Jenny, just happened to be in town from the US, and handled a lot of the red tape for me.  She and Joe's employers have been awesome!  The package above came from my amazing friend, Jennifer.  Besides the Bible verse, the container held yummy oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies.

Ultimately, it was decided that Joe should continue treatment in London.  How do you get a person to another country when they are too ill to fly commercial!  Air Ambulance!  Next post.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hong Kong!

I have had this blog post mostly ready to go for weeks.  Unfortunately, life sent a road block these last two weeks.  More on that later.  For now, back to Hong Kong.

Like I said in my last post, we stayed in the Shangri La- Kowloon.  I loved the rugs in the elevator.  I imagine there are people traveling to Hong Kong from all over the world, and from all time zones.  I am going to say, I found the rugs helpful!  By the way, Hong Kong is about 10 flying hours from Oman, and a four-hour time difference.

Hotel lobby

Here is the fruit plate in our room.  I never did find out what the middle fruit is.

Beautiful tea service in our room.

The view of Victoria Harbor from one of the hotel windows.

I have no idea what I did to my phone when I took this picture, but I liked it.

We loved walking along the harbor in the evening.  That is Hong Kong island in the across the harbor.

My favorite picture of the whole trip!  I plan on having this enlarged and framed.

This was a business meeting for Joe, so he was actually tied up most of the time.  A friend and I went walking around the neighborhoods in Kowloon.  I totally appreciated the reminders of where to look for coming cars.

Lots of wonderful antiques and art all around.

This is a jewelry store window!!!  Proudly displayed were these suckling pig necklaces!  How would you like to unwrap this gift?

Crispy ducks for sale.

I could have done a whole blog post on all the interesting foods for sale.  Hong Kong reminded me a lot of China Town in New York City.  :) Oh, one of the best lines I heard was when we were riding in a bus with a tour guide.  He pointed to a neighborhood and said that area was known as Caucasian Town!!  Lots of expats lived there.  I cracked up!

The Ladies market.  Yes, that was the name.

My favorite was the Jade market.  No surprise there.

So many beautiful things!

We had one tour arranged for the wives.  It was to Ngong Ping, to see the Tian Tan Buddha.  This large bronze statue was completed in 1993.  It is located near the Po Lin Monastery and symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and religion.

You get to the Buddha by taking a tram, on a 25-minute ride over water and mountains.

Ours had a glass bottom!

270 or so steps to the top.  Wow, I have climbed lots of steps to lots of tall places this year.

I have seen lots of incense burners in my time, but none this big.

Friday was our last day.  Great first trip to Hong Kong!