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!

1 comment:

  1. WOW, that is all I have to say to how good He is, how much Joe has been through, how much you have been through and how you both have dealt with it all. Praise God!