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Adventures in Kuwait

by Aleia 6. December 2012

When you first heard that you were being offered a trip to Kuwait, what was your first thought?  Were you anxious?

I received the text from Blake and first thought it was a joke. There was brewing unrest in Bahrain and I figured travel was going to shut down soon. Once I figured out he was serious I became very excited. I mean, who'd have thought I'd ever step foot into the Persian Gulf. I was anxious initially, but that went away soon. I know the CME team would never knowingly send someone into danger.

Had you ever traveled in the Middle East prior to that trip? 

It was my first time traveling further East than Frankfurt. 

Did you have any expectations before you went?  If so, was Kuwait as you expected?  How so?  If not, in which ways?

My biggest concern was communicating with the hospital and the locals. The language is nothing like the English alphabet, so I couldn't ever begin to try translating.  The amount of "Americanization" was astounding. There was a fast food restaurant, Starbucks, or Chili's on almost every block. I was dealing with a patient who had lived in Kuwait off and on since 2003 and knew the area well. Being that the US military has a strong presence in Kuwait, I didn't fear too much. That being said, I didn't venture down any alleyways or off the beaten path. 

What was your favorite part? 

My favorite part was experiencing the culture in a country where it's the norm. The food was good, when they say “spicy”  they mean it.  And when it rained (for 5 minutes) it rained mud. The silt in the air is so fine that the moisture coming down pulls it from the sky. 

Any tips for people traveling to Kuwait?

Do a little research (if you can) about the part of town you will be in.  Be sure to plan more time than usual for check-in. The doors are almost 3/4 mile from the check in counters. When traveling with a patient it will be necessary to get on one of the golf carts. 

The currency exchange rate is crazy. It was 4 dollars to 1 Kuwait dinar. Be prepared and make your money exchange in the US whenever possible. 

Also, plan extra time for any car rides. The traffic engineering has some opportunities for improvement and the locals don't pay much attention to signage. 

How did you feel security was there?  Was it tighter than in the US or Europe, or did you feel that it was less intensive?

Security going into the country was more stringent than leaving. As I departed through Kuwait, security was nothing more than sending everything through a couple of x-ray machines. Shoes, laptops, medications, etc. all stay in their cases. It was explained to me that the guards are only looking for large amounts of liquids.  It's definitely the least stringent process I've been through yet. 

On a side note - the locals are obsessed with body building. If you travel near a gym be on the lookout for used needles on the ground. Steroids are used openly and freely. In fact, many parking lots around the gyms have signs asking to pick up used syringes and medical paraphernalia. 


 

 

Travels to India: Through the Eyes of a Medical Escort

by Blake 27. November 2012

As I depart New Delhi Airport on my British Air flight to London, it’s a little bittersweet. Oddly enough I am departing on the exact day my five-year multi-entry visa expires. I have been traveling to India over the past five years as a critical care flight paramedic, bringing patients either back home to India, or from India back to North America.

Over many years I have had the opportunity of transporting patients on Commercial aircraft all around the globe.  My company, Commercial Medical Escorts was started 6 years ago.  About a year into business we had a request to transport a patient from Chicago to Ahmadabad, India. With much excitement I quickly flew to Houston, Texas and obtained a five-year multi-entry visa to India, that was Nov 26th 2007.

As the business grew over the years my presence became needed in the office to oversee operations. During the same time period I also had two amazing daughters (age 4 and 7) with my beautiful wife.  We have since built an amazing team of nurses, and physicians to transport our patients, as well as a great office staff and my frequent flying came to a quick halt. 

Although being home with the family and having full control of the daily operations of my company is priceless and necessary, my love for flying and treating patients remained. I always had that five year multi-entry visa to India in my back pocket, and used it as an excuse to quickly get on an aircraft each time we had a patient transport to or from India! Nowadays it is not so easy to obtain a visa to India, yet alone a five-year visa, so sadly I don’t think I will be returning anytime soon. We now have other nurses with entry visas to India who are fully capable of completing the transports.

As I reflect on my multiple visits to India the memories are priceless and will last forever. India is a country like no other, with culture, and people like no other. I have traveled to cities such as Bombay, New Delhi, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Amritsar, Kolkata, among others. Each city visited was a different patient transported; each patient transported was an opportunity to meet new and amazing people. The patient’s and families from India have always been warm, welcoming, and humbled by the services we provided to them.  Because of the welcoming and open hearts of these people, I have traveled to India with a patient and stayed to visit with families of past patient’s I transported.

Having connected with the families has allowed me to see India like it should be seen, through the eyes of the locals. I have been welcomed to a traditional Indian wedding in Ahmadabad with over 300 guests, amazing food, and everyone dressed in their best traditional Indian clothing. One of the family members invited me to visit his local business, which happened to be a huge factory that makes textiles and ships it all over the world. And every patient I transported to India has invited me into their home for a traditional Indian meal.

Unfortunately the country is widely impoverished; and this fact is widely apparent throughout India. Being with the locals I have ventured to many areas of India that most foreigners would not typically go. The slums of India can bring a tear to anyone’s eyes. To see children use the streets they play in as their bathroom is heartbreaking.  Many families in India live with the bare minimum and make due, many times still with a smile on their face, but also many praying and hoping for a better life that is almost impossible to obtain. I have had opportunities to interact with children and parents from the slums who have never seen a foreigner, many just stared, but I also had the chance to play street games with the kids, these also are memories I will never forget.

I will one day renew my visa to India and visit the friends and places I know, but also explore parts of India I haven’t yet seen. Being able to share the experience with my family will be priceless. I leave India with another patient safely delivered, and the opportunity to once again meet another warm and welcoming family.

Meet Charles Dugan

by Aleia 20. November 2012

 (RN Charles Dugan on one of his many travels.)

 

These days I call Fort Lauderdale home. I spent three years working in New York City as a new graduate nurse before coming back to the land of sun and surf.  I grew up in Aurora, Colorado, which is a suburb of Denver.  After high school I started college for chemical engineering, but after two years discovered it wasn't for me. I joined the Navy the summer of 1994.  It was kind of serendipitous as it was my break into healthcare and emergency medicine. During my one tour in San Diego I worked as a paramedic, which continued after my honorable discharge.  Due to a national paramedic shortage, I was able to travel across the country for contract positions. 

Nursing was an obvious "next step" in my career after 14 years as a paramedic, although I toyed with the idea of going on to medical school. I found, though, that doctors dealt less with the actual patient experience than nurses, focusing more on research and disease process. I enjoy the interpersonal interaction of nursing, not to mention the multitude of opportunities for growth and experience it affords to me.

Flight nursing has been an interest of mine going back to my Navy days.  Currently I am a board certified emergency nurse, trauma instructor, and pediatric emergency nurse instructor.  Between flights I continue to work on my Masters in Nursing (with a focus on nursing education) and preparation to sit for the certified flight nurse boards.  My passion, ambition, and "street" experience  have  prepared me for my work with Commercial Medical Escorts.  While the details are planned out by our fantastic staff, there is always the chance for last minute changes in patient conditions, family situations, and travel arrangements. It's not uncommon to "go McGyver" when this happens on a trip, adapting and overcoming the most unexpected event.

 Travel tips: pack lightly and really try to do a little homework about the weather before traveling.  Of the places I've been fortunate enough to see so far, I'd rank Florence, Italy as my favorite for historical value, but Barcelona, Spain as one of the most enchanting cities.  Both are surrounded by mountains and have rich architecture.

The best part of the job for me is getting to spend some quality time with the patient, and if possible, their companions. I have the chance to get the "back story" of what happened to cause their medical need, learn more about them individually, educate them regarding their medical condition,  and really cater my nursing care to meet any unique needs. Traveling internationally has given     me a new perspective and appreciation of different cultures, and I'm a better clinician because of this. 

Typically my trips have lasted three to four days. The first day I spend traveling to my destination and preparing my paperwork. If I get the chance, I try to establish a rapport with someone at the sending facility and get the most current medical information available.  Lastly, I try to make patient contact on the phone before arriving. I've found so many of my patients appreciate hearing my voice, not to mention it gives them a sense "something" is happening.  Communication is key, as is honesty about the process. I let each of the patients, and any respective companions, know we plan for the best, but are prepared for the worst. In other words, there may be a "hiccup" or two during the trip, but everything done is for the patient's safety, comfort, and care.  Travel days can be short or long, and they can involve a small amount or a good deal of care. It all really boils down to doing a thorough pre-flight assessment.  And, if all else fails, the CME team is ready to help in a pinch, day or night.


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