A Life-threatening Stroke in South Africa

On safari in the Eastern Cape Karoo region of South Africa in January 2016, Global Rescue members Missy and Geoffrey Corn were having the time of their lives. It was their fourth trip to Africa and the couple was looking forward to creating memories of a lifetime. Little did they know that Missy was about to suffer a potentially life-threatening stroke on the first day of their trip, thousands of miles from home.

Global Rescue received a call from the outfitter for the Corns’ trip. The caller urgently stated that Missy was suffering from signs of a stroke — facial drooping, left arm and leg weakness, confusion and speech difficulty.

With time of the essence, Missy was immediately transported to the hospital via ambulance after an evaluation by a local physician.

Preparing For The Worst

Global Rescue Operations personnel immediately contacted the hospital, liaising with Missy’s physician there to discuss treatment. The company deployed one of its physicians and a critical care paramedic to Port Elizabeth to Missy’s bedside to oversee her care and later evaluate her stability for a flight back to a hospital close to home.

Upon arrival at the hospital, Missy underwent radiological studies showing an ischemic stroke and large arterial clot in the right brachial artery.  She was admitted to the intensive care unit for care and observation. Subsequent radiology revealed progression to a hemorrhagic stroke but no other new brain injury.

While in South Africa, Global Rescue’s medical personnel helped to obtain Missy’s medical records for Global Rescue doctors to review.  Through a consultation with Johns Hopkins Medicine, with which Global Rescue has an exclusive relationship, physicians there agreed with the Global Rescue medical team’s assessment and guidance on continuing medical care.

The Global Rescue team evaluated transport options. Determining Missy’s case to be critical, the team initiated an air ambulance to conduct medical repatriation back to her home hospital.

An Unexpected Delay

Then, a further complication: radiological studies of Missy’s lungs showed the presence of multiple pulmonary emboli, including the main pulmonary artery. The critical nature of her condition required cancelling the air ambulance evacuation based on the possibility of it proving fatal (the jet had traveled from Europe and was refueling in Namibia at the time the mission was scrubbed).  With the presence of new clotting, an anticoagulation medication was needed. Yet, due to the previous discovery of bleeding in Missy’s brain, this medication could potentially cause further bleeding and also prove fatal.

With no other option, anticoagulation was initiated and Missy was transferred to the ICU for close observation.

After spending the weekend in the ICU and developing no new issues with the medication, Missy was transferred to the general ward. Over the next two weeks, she worked with physical therapy and our deployed personnel as she prepared for her return to the U.S.

Based on improvement in her condition and the physician’s recommendations, Missy was finally determined to be fit to withstand the long flight home after [another week] of rehab and stabilizing care. Global Rescue medical personnel identified a comprehensive stroke center in the Denver area, the closest suitable facility to the Corns’ residence.

Missy was discharged from the hospital to the care of Global Rescue paramedics, who accompanied her from the South African hospital to the facility in Denver, Colorado.

A Personal Touch

Missy praised the Global Rescue paramedic who was at her bedside for weeks in South Africa.

“He knew everything that was going on medically with me and would explain it to me,” she said. “When I ended up back in the ICU, he came every day and kept track of me. He talked to my sisters and knew everything about my care and my doctor. When I didn’t know what was going on, he just handled it. Then when my husband left and I was there by myself, it was even more important to have him there.

She continued, “Anything I needed, he got it for me. He smuggled in blueberries because I was losing weight and couldn’t eat the food in the hospital.  I broke out in a horrendous rash from the soap they washed me with, and he went and got me little bars of soap so I wouldn’t break out. He held my hand when I needed it.

“He was amazing, all that he did for me.  If it weren’t for Global Rescue, I probably wouldn’t be here,” said Missy, emotionally.

Recovering Back Home

Upon arrival at the Denver hospital, Missy was transferred to the neurological unit for evaluation.

After a successful transport home accompanied by two members of Global Rescue’s transport team, Missy was able to continue her recovery. Following an evaluation in Denver, she was transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation facility in Kansas. In March, she was discharged to her home.

“I’m working therapy five days a week and I can walk without a cane now,” said Missy. “The fine motor skills in my left hand are coming back slowly. It’s not where I need to be yet, but I’m trying to get back into my daily routine.”

Missy is on track for a good recovery. In fact, she and her husband already have plans to return to South Africa in September if she is well enough. Once again, they will head out on safari.

“I tell all my friends and family that if they’re doing any travel, I recommend Global Rescue highly,” said Missy. “We purchased annual Global Rescue memberships this year and it was worth every penny.”


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