How can you REALLY prepare for a medical emergency?
Well, in some cases, you can’t…mostly because you may be unaware of how you contracted an illness or how dangerous it may be, but also because the nature of the illness may cloud your good judgment and decision-making. What follows is an example that could have ended badly.
A husband-and-wife acquaintance of ours, both well-traveled and who considered themselves to be healthy, undertook a vacation in Europe. They made themselves aware of the prevailing health and other risks and ensured they were up to date with the recommended vaccinations – but did not include the latest Flu shot.
Their recent medical difficulties began during a short visit to Barcelona, Spain. They had not envisaged that they could or would succumb to any illness. But even if they had, they were assured they could turn to Spain’s excellent health system.
On their first evening in Barcelona, his wife experienced chills, then sweating and heavy coughing, together with a complete loss of appetite and the onset of lethargy. This continued for several days.
During this, the husband experienced several unexplained falls due to a loss of balance – what was believed to be due to general travel fatigue and a heavy backpack. Fortunately, others around rushed him back to his feet and he suffered only minor bruising. But the falls didn’t seem to be out of the ordinary, just put down to fatigue and dehydration.
But with a rapid onset of symptoms – sweating, coughing and, and more falls, and their misplaced belief that if only they could get back to the US immediately, “everything would back to normal” – actions that were later described as exhibiting signs of “denial”, “confusion” and “delusional behavior”.
His wife also continued to be unwell and feverish. But even after an ambulance ride to a state hospital where doctors identified the husband’s low blood pressure and severe dehydration – but thankfully no indication of a stroke – their diagnosis was likely a viral infection that could not be treated at that facility. Instead, this hospital recommended an immediate transfer to a nearby private facility and made the appropriate arrangements. The latter had a special wing for international travelers and an isolation ward.
At the new hospital, they were diagnosed with respiratory tract infection and influenza A that could, if left unchecked, have more serious consequences.
Even then, both travelers asked physicians how long they needed to stay in the hospital, since they still believed that returning to the U.S. would resolve their medical issues. They asked whether they could “voluntarily discharge” themselves and were told that this was possible but that they must understand that “You are seriously ill and don’t know it.” So, their next five days were spent in isolation, with around-the-clock medical attention. Husband and wife were confined to separate rooms, with rigid controls on their movement and interactions.
After five days they were discharged, provided with expansive status and treatment reports, and told that they must discuss these with their doctors back in the U.S. They did so and were told that in the absence of their needed treatment, the illness could have progressed to organ failure, and possibly could have proved fatal.
Here are some health-related risk recommendations that may be helpful to travelers based on these experiences:
- Be Aware of Potential Risks: When traveling, it’s crucial to know that serious illnesses can arise without obvious causes. Even for fit and healthy individuals, certain infections or conditions may cloud judgment and decision-making abilities. Stay informed about the prevailing health risks in your destination, fill out page three of your passport, and consider vaccinations recommended for the region.Be aware that under certain circumstances you may experience a serious illness, the cause of which may not be obvious. The dangers may only sometimes be apparent.
- Communication with Medical Professionals: In situations where language barriers may exist, it is helpful to identify means of requesting the presence of an English-speaking medical representative. This liaison can facilitate communication, help you understand the medical situation, and ensure effective collaboration with healthcare professionals. [Note: Since the Spanish Healthcare System is highly regarded, our purpose for doing so wasn’t to second-guess the healthcare professionals who were taking care of us, but to liaise with them and to help us understand what was taking place.] Furthermore, ensure that rapid and effective communications such as FoneTrac are in place to alert family members/others of your medical condition.
- Travel Essentials: Carrying essential travel items, such as a first aid kit, medications, and copies of important medical documents, is vital. Familiarize yourself with local emergency numbers and healthcare facilities in your destination. Remember to pack any necessary prescription medications in your carry-on luggage.
- Travel Security Services: Partnering with a top global security consulting firm can significantly enhance business travel security. These firms offer comprehensive risk assessments, travel security training, and emergency response services tailored to the needs of corporate travelers who may, in this example, encounter health issues abroad. Consider engaging their expertise to ensure the safety of your employees throughout their journeys.
- Recognize Impaired Judgement: In some instances, the severity of an illness may not be apparent due to impaired judgment and decision-making abilities. Symptoms that seem ordinary or typical may indicate a potentially life-threatening condition. It is essential to recognize these signs early and seek prompt medical attention, even if your instinct is to return home immediately. Realize that in some circumstances you may not be aware that your illness has the potential to become life-threatening because your judgment and decision-making may be impaired, in which case the one decision best made is to count on professionals.
Preparing for medical emergencies while traveling is crucial to ensure your well-being and safety. By following the recommended travel safety measures and employing the services of a trusted international security firm, you can mitigate potential risks.
Stay informed about the health risks in your destination, maintain effective communication channels, and be attentive to any signs of impaired decision-making while traveling overseas this summer.
Contact our travel safety expert team today for a risk-related questionnaire and expert guidance tailored to your company’s risk assessment and security needs. Together, we can help you navigate the complex world of corporate travel security and employee travel safety.
Web. https://www.globalsecur.com and https://www.theimg.com
Tel. (877) 887-9914 or (352) 458-5500
IMG GlobalSecur, Inc.
Christopher Hagon is a former police superintendent with London’s Metropolitan Police. and a personal protection officer to senior members of Britain’s Royal Family. Other past assignments include Director of Corporate Security for Miami-based Ryder System. In 1995, Hagon co-founded Incident Management Group, Inc., a consultancy that provides a wide spectrum of proactive and response services to corporate America. The company’s focus includes security program development, supply chain security consulting, forensic psychological services, emergency response, crisis management and worldwide travel security for organizations and individuals using our GlobalSecur® and FoneTrac® Travel Safety Programs.