What is a medical evacuation and why would I need it?

A medical evacuation occurs when one becomes ill or injured and needs to be taken to a medical facility, or when the current facility they are harbored does not have the resources and the patient needs to be taken to a better equipped facility.

Often times facilities in parts of Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America have limited resources to treat patients. The uneducated traveler would think of this as treatment for chemotherapy or brain or heart surgery. Most travelers are surprised to learn that often times it is very basic surgeries that cannot be performed at the facility.

For example, we had a 12 year old boy on a missionary in Africa with his parents. He fell from a roof while he was working with his father. The boy was knocked unconscious and also broke both his legs.  The local hospital did have a CAT Scan and was able to confirm that his head injury would be fine. However, his severely broken legs required specialty hardware that was not available. The hardware was very expensive and not feasible to keep a stockpile of that hardware on site. At this point our client had to be evacuated to another country where we were able to locate a surgeon and the hardware. The evacuation flight was $24,000. A large cash deposit was required. After a 2.5 hour flight the child went into surgery and his legs were both saved. Had the boy been a local a local African child, his open right leg fracture would most likely had been amputated.  In many country’s it is common practice to amputate the infected limb in order to stop the spreading infection.  Without the correct hardware, the facility had no possible way properly re-attach the bone.

Americans often forget how advanced US medicine is and how readily we all have access to care. While medical evacuation is rare, it often not only saves limbs, but also lives.