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Rescue Round The Globe

A new company is offering a service it says will rescue you anytime, anywhere.

It’s not hard to picture the nightmare scenario: You are 4,000 feet by foot, 20 miles by horse, two hours by boat, and 12 hours by jet from home--and nearly that far from rudimentary medical care. And something breaks: A boulder. A leg. An appendix.

Very rarely is there a Life Flight helicopter ambulance or a volunteer search and rescue squad nearby. More often, at least in hunting scenarios, it’s just you and your guide, far back in the backcountry. That’s when it’s nice to have a membership with Global Rescue LLC.

Global Rescue might just be the emergency medical services company that adventurous travelers have been looking for. The service doesn’t just fly you from an approved medical facility to home, but from the scene of your accident to home, with appropriate stops for emergency care between.

This is an important distinction. Well-known and well-respected insurance providers like MedJet Assist can save you tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars by flying your incapacitated body from a primitive medical facility to the advanced one of your choosing, but first you have to get your carcass out of the woods. And, as we all know or can imagine, that’s the tough part.

Consider the tale of a hiker injured in a remote river canyon in Peru in 2006. While hiking a narrow trail at 8,500 feet, the adventurer, part of a team, fell fifty feet. The tour physician diagnosed lacerations and abrasions to extremities, thorax, and head, and recommended evacuation. The expedition leader contacted the victim’s insurance provider and MedJet Assist via satellite phone, but neither could help until the patient had reached a medical facility. The nearest clinic was a five-hour mule ride away, a ride the victim was in no condition to make. The next call went to Global Rescue, which identified its assets in the region and placed them on standby alert to perform search, rescue, and evacuation, according to Global Rescue’s Operations Manager and Chief Flight Paramedic Tom Stark.

“We instructed the tour leader to identify a landing zone large enough for a helicopter and to build a signal fire so we could locate them. Once the patient was extracted, we had a medically configured turboprop airplane rendezvous with the helicopter at the nearest available airstrip and fly him to Lima.”

Following treatment, the patient was stabilized and evacuated via jet to his home city in the USA.

Now, that’s an effective rescue insurance program.

“Our motto is to be able to rescue anyone, anytime, anywhere,” said Nic McKinley, a team leader with one of Global Rescue’s Tactical Medical Rescue Units. McKinley explained that during the rescue of the Peru hiker, his team prepared a backup plan to extract the patient even if a helicopter couldn’t reach him. “We had a team prepped and ready to perform a fixed-wing insertion and ground egress if helicopter access wasn’t viable, which is often the case in very rough terrain.”

All of this expertise and organization stems in large part from the “can do” philosophy of founder Daniel Richards and the experience and attitudes of the personnel Global Rescue hires to conduct its missions--trained military specialists from the U.S. Navy Seals, Air Force Pararescue units, Marine Force Reconnaissance, and Army Special Forces. These men and women haven’t merely studied theoretical rescue: They’ve trained on the real deal. In addition to this advanced experience in risky rescue from land, sea, and air, Global Rescue has access to superb medical advisors at John Hopkins whose specialists advise Global Rescue’s medical director during actual rescue operations.

Global Rescue has access to 180 medically equipped aircraft in forty countries, but it doesn’t extract injured travelers only. It recently extricated fourteen healthy people from the war zone in Lebanon, transported a member by private jet from New York to Houston for back surgery, advised a member trekking in India on health issues, and repatriated the mortal remains of a member who died while on vacation in the Galapagos. While I have not personally had occasion to test its services, Global Rescue appears to be one-stop shopping for travel rescue/transport insurance.

The following information is from the Global Rescue Web site:

“If you're a member and are injured or become ill while traveling, we can advise you by applying the expertise of some of the world's finest physicians. If you're hospitalized and want to be evacuated, our best-in-class air service providers will transport you. If you need to relay messages to family, we'll keep them informed. If you need to find a local healthcare provider, we'll locate one for you. If you need the resources of a security team or operations center staffed around the clock with the finest personnel available, we will provide it for you. If you're sick or injured away from home, we can help. These are just a few of the services that Global Rescue provides to members in need.

“Although Global Rescue endeavors to assist members in the most dire circumstances, there are situations which may prevent Global Rescue from providing air evacuation services. Armed conflict or the threat of armed conflict where aircraft or their crews may be at risk (generally as determined by the U.S. State Department) will prevent us from arranging transport for a member. Members who contract certain infectious diseases or who are prohibited from entering the United States also cannot be transported. Global Rescue will do whatever is necessary, on a remote basis, to assist these members in need. Ultimate discretion regarding the evacuation or transport resides with Global Rescue.”

Individual memberships start at $329 a year, family at $579 a year, and short-term memberships of seven, fourteen, and thirty days begin at $119. Considering that chartered flights from Africa to the USA run around $100,000 and evacuation aircraft up to $7,000 per hour, this is an inexpensive service. You might not want to leave home without it.

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