Every year, Chet and Lynette Newmann travel from San Antonio to their daughter’s home in Palm Springs.
Every year, Chet and Lynette Newmann travel from San Antonio to their daughter’s home in Palm Springs. In February, while enroute to the California desert on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, the unexpected occurred. “We were in the middle of nowhere,” recalls Lynette. “Chet picked up our heavy suitcase to swing it up to the top berth, and we both heard a horrible popping noise.” That “pop” was a disc in Chet’s back. “He screamed, dropped the suitcase, and fell to the floor,” said Lynette. “It was horrible. I was scared to death, thinking he was having a heart attack right in front of me.” She called the porter, who quickly determined there were no doctors on board; he said the next stop was a town that was about an hour way. “That was the longest hour of my life,” remembers Chet. “The pain was excruciating.”
When the train pulled into the station, Lynette was relieved to see a waiting ambulance, but her heart sank as they drove to the local hospital. “It’s a lovely town, but so small! I worried they wouldn’t be able to adequately care for Chet.” Her worst fears were realized when X-rays showed Chet had a badly damaged disc and needed surgery, which the hospital wasn’t equipped to perform. The doctor suggested they contact their insurance to arrange for an air ambulance to transport Chet to an appropriate facility.
But Lynette knew her policy didn’t cover air ambulance service, and that’s why she had purchased an Air Rescue Card before leaving home. She called the number on her Air Rescue Card; the Emergency Call Center medical staff conferred with the attending physician in Arizona, and quickly arranged for a medical flight to the San Antonio hospital closest to their home.
On the road to recovery after his surgery, Chet said he learned two important lessons on that trip. “Always travel with an Air Rescue Card, and always listen to your wife when she tells you to lift with your legs and not your back!”
In 40 years of travel, Howard and Libby Evans had never been to Mexico. So when their local senior center put together a mid-winter cruise to Cabo San Lucas…
In 40 years of travel, Howard and Libby Evans had never been to Mexico. So when their local senior center put together a mid-winter cruise to Cabo San Lucas, they jumped at the opportunity. They thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing voyage, and looked forward to several days in the sun.
On the day before their arrival in Cabo, Howard suddenly became dizzy and disoriented, with shortness of breath and an erratic heartbeat. Libby immediately called for help. “The response was impressive,” she said. “The ship’s medical crew appeared almost immediately and treated Howard in the onboard medical facility.”
After several tests, the ship’s physician determined that Howard was suffering from tachyarrhythmia, an abnormally rapid heartbeat. He gave Howard medication to slow his heartbeat, but recommended transfer to a hospital as soon as the ship docked.
The next day, instead of a sandy beach, Howard and Libby found themselves in a crowded Cabo hospital with a physician who said Howard needed immediate surgery to install a pacemaker. The couple was stunned and confused. This had all happened so quickly, and they didn’t feel comfortable having such serious procedure so far from home. “We didn’t know what to do,” said Libby.“ We wanted to go home, but the local doctor cautioned Howard about risking a commercial flight.” Not knowing where to turn, Libby called the senior center travel agent to ask what could be done. “She told me that our travel package included the Air Rescue Card, which would provide a flight home at absolutely no cost to us!” said Libby. After conferring with Howard’s treating physician in Cabo and ensuring that Howard’s condition was stable enough for him to be transported, the Air Rescue Card medical staff arranged to fly the couple to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, not far from their home.
The following morning, Mayo Clinic doctors discovered a more serious problem with Howard’s heart, but treated it successfully. “Imagine!” said Libby. “Something I didn’t even know we had was so helpful. I don’t know how we could have afforded a medical flight home without the Air Rescue Card. We learned our lesson on that trip: whenever we travel, the Air Rescue Card goes with us.”
During a rock-climbing expedition in remote Ecuador, Julie Trainor accidentally sliced her index finger with a camp knife.
During a rock-climbing expedition in remote Ecuador, Julie Trainor accidentally sliced her index finger with a camp knife. “It was a clean cut, but deep,” said Julie. “I washed and bandaged it, but the next morning it was swollen, red, and throbbing.”
Realizing infection had set in, Julie and her partner broke camp and hiked seven miles to the nearest village. A woman sweeping her dirt walkway took one look at Julie’s finger and pointed to a small building with a cross on it. It was a simple first-aid station, which Julie was relieved to see, until she realized no one spoke English. “I knew just enough Spanish to wish someone good morning, ask for a hotel room, and order bottled water. That’s it. I assumed that English, even a little English, was spoken just about everywhere, but that wasn’t the case in this village,” she said.
Julie knew she needed antibiotics, but she was terrified of being given penicillin. “I’m highly allergic. My face and lips become swollen and breathing becomes difficult.” “The village was small and so remote,” said Julie. “I figured if they had any antibiotic, it would probably be penicillin. It was a scary situation,” she said. “I knew I needed antibiotics but I was so afraid they were going to give me penicillin, I refused to let them give me anything at all.”
Julie used a satellite phone to contact the Air Rescue Card Call Center and explain the situation. In just a few minutes, a Spanish-speaking translator explained the predicament to the first-aid attendant and identified what other treatments were available. “The villager held out two hands; one had a smelly green paste, the other had six small pills. The Air Rescue Card help desk was able to identify the pills, and verify with one of their medical staff that they were safe for me to take,” said Julie. The antibiotics did the trick, although Julie wisely cut her trip short. “I never thought I’d really need my Air Rescue Card,” she said, “but it saved me from potentially having a terrible reaction to penicillin, having my infection get worse… or using that green goo.”
After attending a four-day conference of insurance agents in the Caribbean, Bradley Merchester and two friends were looking forward to seeing the islands from the air.
After attending a four-day conference of insurance agents in the Caribbean, Bradley Merchester and two friends were looking forward to seeing the islands from the air. “I remember that morning was spectacular, with the bluest sky I had ever seen,” Bradley said.
Shortly after the tour helicopter took off, something went terribly wrong. “We weren’t up to our cruising altitude when the chopper started wobbling in the air,” Bradley remembered. He heard the pilot say over the radio that he was having trouble with the hydraulics. “When I heard that, my heart sank and I felt fear like never before.” The pilot struggled to turn the chopper around and land, but couldn’t quite make it. The chopper crashed to the ground. Bradley’s friends sustained badly broken legs; Bradley’s back was broken in three places. Surgeons immediately operated to stabilize his back, but told him he needed the services of an orthopedic surgeon.
Back home in San Diego, Bradley’s wife Pam immediately called the Air Rescue Card emergency number and explained the situation. While the Emergency Call Center contacted the island hospital, Pam contacted their physician for a referral to a local orthopedic surgeon. In a few short hours, Bradley was in an air ambulance accompanied by medical personnel, on his way to the San Diego Medical Center at the University of California, where surgeons performed a lengthy operation to repair his fractures and stabilize his spine. Recuperating at home, Bradley was thankful his wife had insisted on the Air Rescue Card. “You never think something like this will happen to you,” he said. “I flew back home with onboard medical professionals and had the very best care. It was a different story for my friends. Neither of them had an Air Rescue Card, and neither could afford the cost of an air ambulance home.”
Hal and Bunny Grant consider nothing better than traveling the country in their 40’ motorhome.
Hal and Bunny Grant consider nothing better than traveling the country in their 40’ motorhome. Since retiring in 2004, the couple has driven their luxury home on wheels from coast to coast.
The Grants were sampling local wines at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival when Hal felt a sharp pain in his chest and had trouble breathing. As he slumped to the ground, Bunny called for help. Hal was rushed to a local hospital where he was quickly diagnosed as suffering from a heart attack. He was treated and stabilized, but doctors told him he needed an immediate bypass operation. “The care in Scottsdale was exemplary,” said Bunny, “but we wanted to get him to a hospital at home to continue his care and recovery.” The Arizona physicians said Hal could be moved to another facility, but only by air ambulance. But when Bunny contacted their health insurance company, she was told that their policy did not include a medical flight; Hal and Bunny would have to pay for the $43,000 flight themselves. “We don’t have that kind of money,” said Bunny. The hope we felt when we thought Hal could be flown home was shot down in a single second.”
Replacing her insurance card into her wallet, Bunny saw the Air Rescue Card she had purchased earlier that year when they had traveled to England. “I had forgotten that we got it for a different trip, but luckily our membership was still valid. The Emergency Call Center arranged that afternoon for Hal to be flown home on a chartered jet with a medical team. I was able to accompany him, and the Call Center even arranged for our motorhome to be returned to Minneapolis. Thanks to the Air Rescue Card, our story had a happy ending.”
Ryan Loren has a passion for surfing. Growing up in Austin, Texas, he didn’t have much opportunity to hit the waves, but summers spent in Southern California…
Ryan Loren has a passion for surfing. Growing up in Austin, Texas, he didn’t have much opportunity to hit the waves, but summers spent in Southern California gave him plenty of opportunity to learn to love the sport. “Catching a wave is frightening and thrilling at the same time,” he said.
Ryan’s last surfing adventure, however, was a bit too thrilling. Before pursuing a business degree after high school graduation, he planned to hit the waves off the San Clemente, California coast. “It was a perfect July day,” Loren recalled. “Not a cloud in the sky, the ocean was an incredible blue, and the waves were good.” He was enjoying the day until another surfer appeared from nowhere and slammed into Ryan. “Before I knew what was happening, I was underwater, dizzy, out of control, and with a terrible pain in my head.” Fortunately, other surfers quickly swam to Loren and pulled him ashore. “I remember very little about that day, but I do recall one of my rescuers saying, “Man, your ear is half gone.”
Emergency room doctors quickly assessed Ryan’s injuries: a fractured neck vertebra, partial severance of his left ear, facial lacerations, and a concussion. The doctors told Ryan he had likely been hit by the fin on his surfboard. “They told me it was pretty common, getting whacked by your own fin, and that I was lucky to be alive.” Stabilized and on pain medication, Ryan now faced the decision of how to get home. Confined to bed for several weeks, a commercial flight was out of the question. The only option was a private medical flight. That meant $35,000 that Loren didn’t have. His parents came up with half the amount. “My friends and family had to raise the rest,” Loren said. “I feel horrible for costing them so much money. I found out later that I would have had a free medical flight home if I would have had a $75 Air Rescue Card.”
Sisters Judy and Chris Spalding enjoy hiking together, but they don’t always agree. “I’m more likely to take risks…
Sisters Judy and Chris Spalding enjoy hiking together, but they don’t always agree. “I’m more likely to take risks with my hobbies and investments, although I’m not always right,” said Chris.
The two were hiking along the Halini Pali trail, a steep seven-mile path that drops 2,000 vertical feet down the side of Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island. “It’s challenging. Although Judy wanted something easier, it was exactly what I wanted,” said Chris. The two started down the trail of lava rock and loose sand, following the many switchbacks leading to the coast below. “We’re experienced hikers,” said Chris. “We wore hiking boots, big-brimmed hats, carried plenty of water and generally looked where we planted our feet.” The problem came when Chris forgot for just one moment to double-check her foothold. “I remember Judy saying how fabulous the view was, when I made a beginner’s mistake. I turned my body to look toward the coast before I set my footing, and I lost my balance.” She tumbled down the slope, badly twisting her ankle and scraping the right side of her body from ear to shin. “I was grabbing at anything, trying to stop myself from falling. Afterward, my fingers were bloody from scraping the lava.”
Fortunately, Chris came to a stop before she fell farther down the hillside. But she couldn’t stand on her ankle and her shoulder was painful. After a lot of discussion and disagreement—“I’m embarrassed to say we even argued about what we should do,” said Chris—Judy hiked back and drove for help. Later that afternoon, Chris was diagnosed with badly torn ligaments in her foot, a dislocated shoulder, and lacerations. It could have been a lot worse, but now the sisters faced the dilemma of getting Chris home.
“We had planned to return home in five days,” said Chris. “There was no way I could fly in coach seats and first-class seats weren’t available.” Before their vacation, the girls had disagreed about getting air evacuation insurance. “It seemed like such a remote possibility,” said Chris. “Judy had purchased an Air Rescue Card, but I didn’t. It was ironic: if I had that card in Hawaii or if she was the one who fell, we could have been home a lot faster. I guess in this instance, Judy was right.”