Frequently life will introduce you to unexpected revelations. Live long enough and you will discover something for which you never gave more than a passing thought. Then circumstances bring it into your sphere of focus and the knowledge becomes an eye-opening experience.
Get to know someone who regularly saves lives and you will learn about triumph in the face of tragedy, about miracles born from desperation and light extracted from darkness.
There is no doubt – everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is the Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (87): On a Wing and a Prayer
You don’t really think much about it until it happens, someone is injured far from home, or far from where they need to be to get the best care they possibly can. All of a sudden the questions become obvious in the most critical of situations: how do you get them where they need to go? How can that person get the proper care? How can it be done quickly, efficiently and safely.
In many cases these days you take to the air.
Such was the case when Jennifer Granek suffered a traumatic brain injury while on vacation in Costa Rica. Not only were dollars raised quickly for medical care and transport, but the story gained worldwide attention through the virtual web of social media and a the blog on Huffington Post, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-brodinsky/its-just-about-helping-an_b_8279302.html). This is one of the e-mails I received in response to Jen’s story from Dr. Mark Merlin:
Dr. Merlin left his phone number in the e-mail so I called and spoke to him about his service. The details of what an emergency air transport company could accomplish were fascinating and I sent his information to the Granek family. In the end they were not the company who brought Jen home, but nonetheless, I decided it worthy of gathering more information from Dr. Merlin to share with the world, (after all this is what this blog is all about), to understand how the system works and how other people in similar situations might gain knowledge which could help save a life.
Dr. Merlin says the most important thing he wants people to understand is they, (Jet911, http://jet911.com/), have the ability to transport the most critical patients, in situations you wouldn’t believe, for example with their chests wide open, to get them to the facility they need to go and get the care they need. “We can fly any patient, anywhere, anytime”, says Mark. The limitations on transport are not a plane, or a pilot… it’s on the other side, the other people providing care.”
Dr. Merlin says the greatest challenge is when doctors in other countries don’t understand, or are unfamiliar with the scope of what an emergency flight team like Jet911 can accomplish in terms of critical-care transport. He says, “we try to emphasize to families that while their loved ones might be getting care right where they are, even good care, you want to be in the United States, because we have the best tertiary care in the world, meaning all these doctors who specialize in different areas. They have been practicing and practicing and practicing, some as long as 20 years or more, to be the best at what they do. Other countries don’t really have that.”
Jet911 uses large fixed wing aircraft to get the job done with the ability to carry the patient, a complete medical team and as many as 15 family members. Because they own and operate their own aircraft they have complete control over the situation and can fly as far as 6,000 miles without stopping, with their largest planes.
But this is not a commercial for Jet911. It’s about understanding how the system works in this world we currently live. What is fascinating and important is this – because if you are ever in a situation where critical air transport is needed – just as in any area of life – applied knowledge is crucial. If you search the internet looking for a flight service to get your loved one to where they need to go, either from inside the United States, or from beyond its borders — you will see some great websites and beautiful pictures of nice planes, good-looking flight attendants and fantastic medical teams.
But as Dr. Merlin explains, welcome to the internet.
“There are lots of brokers, guys who look for these types of cases, (the families of critically ill or injured patients trying to get them home or to the appropriate medical facility), and while their websites look fantastic, they are actually operating out of a small office, or even out of their cars, simply calling around to arrange flights and creating their own margins for profit. Most people don’t know this. Even insurance companies might use these brokers, or simply google and come up with a flight company.” It doesn’t mean these are necessarily bad – but when your family member’s life might hang in the balance, it’s information you might just need to know.
The other lesson Dr. Merlin wants people to know is this: make the call within 24 hours. If someone you love is injured, or sick, if you contact the insurance company immediately you have a much better shot of getting the insurer to pay. If you wait a few days, or even a few weeks, the insurance company can easily make the argument the person is getting the care they need right where they are, so they are not picking up the bill for air transport.
That’s the other challenge, it’s not free. While 20 years ago Jet911 started off doing charity cases – angel flights – like flying kids with cancer and their friends to different parts of the world, they received so many requests for medical flights by people who have the means to pay, they decided to expand their business.
Understand this – and this is an important piece of the puzzle to know – not only is it a business for these flight companies, it can be BIG business for the foreign country where the patient is receiving care. Part of the cost for a medical emergency transport team, especially a fixed-wing flight company like Jet911, is that they have to pay landing fees in foreign countries, or islands, in order to get the patient home. Dr. Merlin says while some countries charge $2,000 to $3,000 for a plane to land at a private airport, some countries take complete advantage of the system, charging as much as $30,000 to $50,000 to allow a plane to land! Between that fee and jet fuel, you can understand why the costs for air transport can be so significant.
Yet sometimes the care needed is so critical, the line between life and death so fine, that somehow, someway, families need to find a way to get their loved one to the best care they can.
A couple of examples of recent flights for Jet911:
Medical Escort from China to US
52 year old male was in a serious motor vehicle accident in China. Patient sustained a shattered pelvis, amongst other injuries. A decision was made not to do surgery in China and to transfer patient back to the USA for treatment. A medical team was immediately dispatched to China while red tape was navigated . Patient was flown back on commercial airliner via stretcher transport.
Or this one:
Air Ambulance from Ohio to New York with same day surgery
9:00 AM, patient sustains a fractured pelvis while visiting family in Ohio.
10:15 AM- Patient’s family contacts Jet911 requesting an expedited transport to NYC.
11:45 AM- ground ambulance crew picks up patient at hospital and transfers patient to airport.
12:45 PM- patient is flown back via private medical jet to NYC.
3:00 PM- patient is in surgery
The benefit of going from here-to-there by air when someone needs care the most can be significant in saving a life or even in the speed of recovery. And there’s one other piece of advice Dr. Merlin wants to share: “If I could tell people one thing – it is get travelers insurance when you travel. For a few hundred dollars, if that, most companies will pay the entire bill if you get hurt and have to get home from another country.”
Dr. Merlin lives the truth he desires to teach. His resume is detailed and distinguished: Associate Professor, Rutgers School of Public Health/Medical School, Vice-Chair Emergency Medicine and EMS Fellowship Director, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center/Barnabas Health, Chief Medical Officer, MONOC, Chief Medical Officer, Jet911.
One of the men who runs Jet911, Eli Rowe, is a pilot and a philanthropist. He owns the all of the aircraft for Jet911 and Dr. Merlin says Eli’s goal is to have a big impact to give people the best care in the industry.
It’s all about finding a way to get the most critical patients to where they need to go – on a wing and a prayer.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, SpeechWriter, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors
Author: The #1 Amazon Best Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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