18 February 2013
Our teams do some traveling, collecting samples to build our reference databases. Like any travelers, we’re concerned about what to pack for circumstances that may become trying, and we do a lot of planning for bringing back what we collect. Logistics is obviously a big part of our work. One somewhat surprising aspect of this is planning for health emergencies. “Well, I’d better take along redundant packs of my prescriptions…and at least an outline of my medical records, and, oh yes, I’ll probably need shots of some kind ...and, um…”
The issue is bigger than it seems at first glance, and we’ve learned a lot more than we expected when we began this activity. For one thing, you don’t have to be roaming a jungle, desert, or a tundra to encounter problems. You may be in a teeming city somewhere (including the U.S.) where you don’t speak the language, can’t make sense of the phone book, have no contacts, and one of your team has a small bite of some sort that is spreading and throbbing at midnight. Do you just tell the victim to tough it out, and hope for the best? Maybe, but what is it, and how bad is it? Life threatening? Have a disabling ear infection? A maddening rash? A scary fever?
Given forethought and adequate budget (health is very high on the priority list), support is available 24/7. A few companies specialize in providing medical help to clients, anywhere in the world. We’ve worked with a couple of very impressive suppliers of such services , and are glad of it. They prepare us, equip us, and track us. In addition to expertise in emergency medicine, they have an astonishing amount of information and vast networks of contacts. They know who has what skills, and how to reach those experts when the chips are down. They know what medications can be found, where, which hospitals have appropriate equipment, annd what transportation is available. They consult on your situation with local people, have your encrypted records ready to hand, and can see you through whatever emergency arises with reassuring bedside manner.
We’ve developed a warm relationship with some of these folks, notably Dr. Chris Sidford, founder of Black Bag (http://emergencyblackbag.com/). It was he who worked with us remotely when one of our team became violently and frighteningly nauseated on a long jungle/mountain drive in a hazardous area. Dr. Chris saw us through, as hoped. You may find the Black Bag website helpfully informative if you are planning travel to areas where you have no medical contacts.