Follow our flight nurse as he gets patient George O. from a hospital in Zurich, Switzerland to his home in Chicago, Illinois.
On June 10, 2018, George O. and his wife Jane boarded a plane for Zurich, Switzerland from their home in Chicago, Illinois to begin a two-week excursion through Europe in celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary. Like so many medical transport patients, they had no idea they would soon be in need of a flight nurse.
The couple was so excited to embark on their trip. They had everything planned in advance: a boat trip on the Limmat River, taking a tram up Mount Pilatus, and a walk along the cool summer streets of Zurich, visiting outdoor cafes and eating local food from the street vendors.
During the flight, George realized he wasn’t feeling well, but thought nothing of it at the time. With the stress of flying, eating airline food, and the cramped seating experience of economy-class seating, he knew some physical discomfort during his trip would not be out of the ordinary. When they arrived in Switzerland, George reassured Jane that it would likely pass, and the couple opted to take it easy for the first two days.
But by the third day, George only felt worse. Despite the mild Swiss summer, he struggled with constant chills. His rising fever worried Jane, who suggested they visit a local hospital just in case there was something more to his illness. After all, they had traveler’s insurance that would cover the expense of a hospital visit, so it was best not to take the unnecessary risk.
You should always consider traveler’s insurance before you take a trip overseas – you never know what might happen. If you don’t use it, you may be out a few hundred dollars but if you need it, you could save thousands.
At the hospital, George was diagnosed with a liver abscess, which they began to treat immediately with drainage and IV antibiotics. Fortunately, George responded better to treatment than expected and after 3 days of antibiotics, hydration and other care, George was told he’d be discharged the next day.
He was still too sick and weak to continue the rest of the trip with his wife, but he wasn’t sick enough to remain in the hospital. The doctors advised the couple that it was possible that George would suffer health complications during air travel back home. If they were really concerned, they might want to use an air ambulance service or at least a medical escort to help him get through the flight in comfort.
Through their travel insurance company, they were put in touch with Sky Nurses to get George home safely to Chicago without any further incident that might jeopardize his health.
From that first call, a Sky Nurses logistics coordinator was assigned to the case. Sky Nurses contacted the case managers and doctors at the hospital where George was admitted to assess what kind of care he would require during the trip back home and to ensure that he was “fit to fly.” After confirming that George was a good candidate for commercial air travel and didn’t require the more extensive services of an air ambulance, the logistics coordinator spoke with the patient and his wife to confirm their travel dates and flight routing, and whether they might have any additional travel needs.
The flight nurse assigned to the case was Wyatt A. Wyatt’s background includes serving in the U.S. Army as a field medic in Afghanistan and working as an Emergency Medical Technician in Detroit.
Wyatt arrived at the hospital in Zurich on June 21, 2018 at 2:20 p.m. (local time). At the time, George was nowhere to be found. (It turns out he was feeling better and in the cafeteria with Jane!) After meeting with George’s doctor and performing his own assessment of George’s condition, Wyatt concluded that George was well enough to fly home on the flight his insurance company had scheduled for him early the next morning. Wyatt advised the logistics coordinator at Sky Nurses that George’s condition was good and that the rest of the trip home would continue as scheduled.
At 9:40 a.m. the next morning, Wyatt confirmed with the Sky Nurses logistics team (Sky Nurses medical management and logistics department are available 24/7) that George’s vital signs were good and that he, George, and Jane were headed to the hospital via the driver arranged by Sky Nurses.
At 10:30 a.m. they arrived at the Kloten Airport in Zurich, Wyatt procured a wheelchair and got the three travelers checked-in, through customs and border security and safely to the gate. Another set of pre-flight vital signs were taken and transmitted to the case manager and Wyatt administered the morning medications prescribed by George’s doctor in Zurich.
Getting through security with a bag of medications can be stressful and time-consuming if you’re travelling alone; it’s much speedier with a certified medical escort.
George and Jane appreciated that their check-in at the airport was a breeze, but they had time to kill as their flight, like so many flights, was delayed.
At 5:18 p.m. (local time), they arrived at their stop-over in Reykjavik, Iceland… and had missed their connecting flight to Chicago!
Almost all long distance air travel these days requires a connecting flight. Missing your connection is hassle enough when you’re well and travelling for business or pleasure, but it can be a real nightmare when you’re ill or injured and just want to get home or have to get to a hospital for continued care.
Wyatt quickly got a hold of the logistics team at Sky Nurses who worked with their airline partners to book the next available flight to Chicago.
At 7:22 p.m., the tickets were issued. As you can imagine, this was no easy task considering there were hundreds of other passengers trying to do the same.
Access to the Global Distribution System (which allows Sky Nurses logistics coordinators to purchase tickets directly from carriers) along with the special relationships Sky Nurses has with many commercial airline carriers, often gives Sky Nurses’ patients and customers preference in seat reservation, fees, etc. And when that’s not enough, a passenger with medical needs accompanied by a long-distance medical escort standing at the ticket counter pleading for mercy often does the trick in getting that next available flight.
While the search for the quickest route home was being conducted, Wyatt had administered additional required medications, checked the passenger’s vitals and general status (George was doing well!), and worked on a Plan B in case there were no flights available until the next morning. Plan B was to get hotel accommodations nearby where George and Jane could get some rest and Wyatt could continue to administer medications and monitor George’s health.
If a flight nurse had not been with them, it is likely Jane would have taken George to a local emergency room rather than a hotel. Not only would that have been considerably more expensive and more stressful, but we all know that the less time spent in a germ-infested ER, the better off we are.
At 8:50 p.m., Wyatt, George and Jane boarded the new flight headed home to Chicago.
At 10:47 p.m. (local time) they landed at O’Hare International Airport I Chicago. Wyatt escorted both through customs and security and to the ground transportation that had been pre-arranged and then re-arranged through Sky Nurses logistics coordinators.
On June 23 at 12:46 a.m., after a long day of travelling for anyone, the party arrived at George and Jane’s residence in Huntley, Illinois. There, Wyatt briefed Jane on what she should do to continue caring for George. Wyatt performed one final evaluation of his patient to find George was still doing well. After transmitting one last set of vitals and an assessment to the Sky Nurses staff on duty, Wyatt discharged George into the care his wife.
Even though their trip did not go as planned, their overseas ordeal was over and both George and Jane were now safely at home.
The above story was compiled from the intake files and stream of constant communications the case managers at Sky Nurses receive from the flight nurses, clinicians and air medical escorts throughout the repatriation trip with our patient. When you travel with a flight nurse from Sky Nurses, you’re travelling with an entire team of medical professionals and travel agents.
We take privacy very seriously. All names have been changed to protect patient and clinician privacy.