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2nd Air Medical & Rescue China Congress 2013

by Lux Joseph 30. May 2013

Last year I had the opportunity to visit China for the very first time. From the moment I found out that I would be traveling to Beijing I started planning a visit to the Great Wall of China. I simply could not leave China without visiting the iconic wall and crossing one of the Seven Wonders of the World off my bucket list. When the day finally came I was more than ready. Armed with my Nikon, I headed for the Great Wall running on pure excitement and adrenaline. When I finally arrived at the Badaling section of the Great Wall, my excitement immediately turned to confusion, and then sheer terror. With all the facts that our tour guide had been spitting out at me, she failed to mention that the Great Wall is basically all stairs! Steep, thigh high, narrow steps, and a cliff off to one side. I stood there in my boot cut jeans, collared shirt, and dress shoes staring up at the death trap as hundreds of people walked around me in their hiking attire, with a single thought racing through my mind…”I’m going to fall!” Thankfully, I didn’t fall, but with hundreds of people climbing the stairs and a seemingly infinite amount of uneven steps, the possibility was very real. It wasn’t until this year during my second visit to China that I realized just how much I underestimated how dangerous the situation actually was.

Earlier this month, CME had the pleasure of attending the 2nd Air Medical & Rescue China Congress 2013 in Shanghai, China. The AMRCC is a conference and exhibition to promote the development of the air medical and rescue in China. I was surprised to discover that the aeromedical system in China is virtually nonexistent and had I actually experienced an accident while visiting the Great Wall, I most likely would have been waiting hours before help arrived. This is simply unacceptable. Chinese citizens suffer through these conditions on a daily basis. One speaker demonstrated the lack in response time to assist those in need of medical attention by sharing a story of a seventeen year old boy who was hurt in a motor vehicle accident. Although he was only five minutes from the hospital, it took the ambulance forty five minutes because of traffic, causing the boy to die. If helicopter EMS was available, the boy would have survived. To put things into perspective, the USA has a population of 300 million and over 12,000 helicopters readily available for air medical repatriation. Though the population of China is 4 times greater than the USA at 1.3 billion people, China only has roughly 200 helicopters. With those helicopters, China has a limited number of personnel that are qualified in aviation and air medicine. Helicopters in China make up less than 1% of helicopters in the world. These conditions set China’s aeromedical system about 50 years behind that of the USA. With a population of 1.3 billion, China should have closer to 50,000 helicopters to adequately assist individuals requiring air medical transportation.

Although more and more players are becoming involved in the AMRCC and their cause, support from the central government of China is necessary for a successful implementation of an air medical program. Unfortunately the Chinese government does not have an agency or unit that specifically focuses on emergency rescue. These deficiencies are what continue to set China behind other countries. Leaders within the industry and key individuals focused on the improvement of air rescue are taking the right steps to establish a model similar to the FBO in the United States, but there is no telling when this may be accomplished. I think what saddens me most about the conference is that everyone there seemed to have the right mindset, but as one delegate so eloquently put it, “Everyone in this room has the right idea, but it’s going to take a group of individuals to step forward and fund the cause if it is ever going to move forward, and I don’t think any of those people are here today.” One speaker went as far as to open his presentation by explaining that he would be using the same PowerPoint presentation that he used in 2011 during the first AMRCC conference because the same challenges and issues that existed 2 years ago are still present today. No one can deny that this is something that China needs desperately but the question still remains, who is going to pay? Although the ambition and drive is strong, there is currently little to no resources backing this project. Along with everyone present at the conference, I have high hopes for the development of a strong aeromedical system within China, but sadly I don’t see that happening for a very long time.

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.

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