, African Rescue: A Cautionary Med-Evac Story, Salmon Club Iceland

This story is why every traveling angler, whether fishing deep in the wilderness of the United States or wading on the banks of a river in the Central African Republic needs to have a medevac plan and insurance policy like those available at Global Rescue.

Our story today comes from the team at @OceanActiveFly who recently shared a series of Instagram posts highlighting a successful medical evacuation from the Central African Republic.

The accident in question was your typical wading slip and fall, but with a little more intensive head injury, something that could happen to anyone clamoring over wet river rocks while fishing. Luckily for the angler involved, everything turned out fine, and they’ve successfully recovered, but that success was truly due to having a well-prepared medical evacuation plan and insurance. Check the story out in the series of Instagram posts below!

Part One: In the Field

From @OceanActiveFly:

“With any remote wild trip there is always a risk of injury, accident, and getting sick, guess this is part of doing trips that take you out of your comfort zone! I have done hundreds of trips some of the extreme and exploratory with minimal injuries to date. With our charter operation in Oman, we have had a couple of accidents that have been serious but we have managed to sort them out.

But this time in one of the remotest parts of Africa the accident happened and happened to me and such a simple way. [On the] second to last day, after climbing over rocks in rivers for 6 days, we landed the helicopter on a sandbank, we had to move the small rib up some rapids, which we did quickly, then we were walking down a small island in the middle of the river to get our gear, I stepped onto a dry rock at a slight incline and both my feet went flying, boots lost total grip, I went up and the air, landed on my back and head whiplashed onto the bare rock, all I heard was a loud crack and smelt blood or adrenalin and almost lost consciousness, I slid down the rock into a small pool, my head against the rock and blood flowing down my head cheeks and into the water, all I could feel was blood flowing from the top of my head, around my ears and into the pool, the blood was crimson bright red in the water.

I knew I was in trouble and was trying to keep conscious. The guys I was with obviously got a fright but straight away started helping me and checked the cut but with so much blood was tough, after spraying antiseptic into the cut, I tried to sit up. Finally, I got into a sitting position but knew I was still in trouble. Luckily we had the helicopter and decided we needed to get medical attention.

We flew back to the camp and luckily there was a Vet in camp helping with game capture of Lord Derby Eland. We decided to stitch the wound, but unfortunately, there was no anesthetic so the pain from the cut and stitching was real. I took some painkillers, relaxed for a while, and decided the best approach was to keep active and went back out fishing. But this was only the start of what turned out to be a huge evacuation!”

Part Two: The Evacuation

From @OceanActiveFly:

“While I was out fishing I knew something was wrong, I had drunk about 3L of water and not peed, I was feeling really tired and feeling sick. We called off the fishing and headed back to camp.

I took it easy and realized this might be more serious, I had dinner and then into bed at about 21.30pm, I set an alarm for every 2 hours just to check if I was still alright… I was starting to get worried and a lot of thoughts of head trauma stories, swelling on the brain, etc started to play on my mind.

At about 23.00pm before my alarm I woke up feeling something dripping out my ear, I woke up groggy and confused, I was sweating and my pillow was wet, so was not sure if the fluid was coming out my ear. Everything in the camp was quiet and only bush noises, a very lonely place to be worried about what had just happened. I figured I was still alive and conscious, I turned over and lay down putting my alarm for 01.30am.

At about 01:15 AM I woke up with a big ant dropping on me from the tent roof, I got a fright and dusted off the ant, I then looked at my pillow and there was a yellow fluid on my pillow with pink flecks, I knew this was not good having fluid coming out both ears. I thought it might be Cerebrospinal Fluid and again thought of stories of infection, meningitis, stroke, etc…

I got up and knew I had to get to a medical facility, I woke up the crew at 01:30 AM, and we started making calls on the satellite phone. We called @global_rescue with my policy number and started explaining where we were, and what the problem was, we called doctors the crew knew to get an understanding of what was happening and then started calling contacts in Kenya to medivac. We then called good friend @jtklugphotography as we knew he had been in a similar situation. All I can say is I’m very thankful, for the contacts and friends we have. After a lag of getting hold of people, and explaining what had happened bear in mind this whole evacuation was from scratch, it started to gain momentum, and Global Rescue and Steve Parkinson from Phoenix Air out of Kenya took over coordinating with the crew on the ground, there was a plan….”

Part Three: Arrival in Kenya

From @OceanActiveFly:

“To say this was a logistical feat of huge proportions by the crew on the ground with me would be a huge understatement, I’ll forever be indebted to the guys.

Around midmorning the plan started to roll, we flew the helicopter to the local town, and we landed. The guys had to arrange to divert a UN Charter flight from a neighboring village that was dropping supplies. We could not fly in the Air Ambulance Jet due to a rough airstrip. Once the UN flight was confirmed through many Sat Phone calls and messages, turns out I needed medical clearance to board the flight, we managed to get the local doctor to check me out and approve me to fly. The medical certificate was sent to the UN for clearance with about 3 minutes to spare, I boarded the flight to Bangui, nervous about the pressure changes, and the pilots agreed to fly low and ascend slowly.

The Phoenix Air flight had landed in Bangui, Steve Parkinson and @global_rescue keeping Mich and the family updated, which was a huge help and comfort. They had managed to get clearance to fly over the DRC and we were cleared to fly to Kenya.

After a few strange noises coming from my ears on the flight and battling to clear my ears, we landed in Bangui safe and sound, and then amazingly everything was organized, customs, immigration, etc… I was helped from the UN Flight straight onto the Phoenix Air Ambulance, immediately an expert medical team checked me out, put drips, vitals and I started to feel safe. On the flight, I was monitored and I knew if now something happened I was in good hands.

4 hours later we landed in Nairobi and all paperwork and customs were handled, I was escorted to an ambulance and then to Aga Khan Hospital. Once there I was admitted and CAT Scans and X-rays were done. Within 24 hours I had gone from being in one of the remotest parts of Africa to have full medical help. After a few hours, I had the initial feedback that I was going to live but more tests were needed and would be kept for an MRI and observation.

Relief!! But the feeling of helplessness and uncertainty and stress is something I’ll never forget, a big lesson learned!”

Part Four: Conclusions and Lessons

From @OceanActiveFly:

“After a few days in hospital in Nairobi having MRI, CAT Scans, X-rays, and meds, the Neurosurgeon was happy that I was in the clear and there was no major damage! This was a huge relief! I’m back in Dubai and back to fishing and carrying on as normal.

The aim of these posts was to tell the story that happened to me, it was something so simple and so quick that could have been a lot worse. I have done hundreds of trips and explorations in remote areas and never had a major issue but now that this happened my whole outlook has changed. The stress and worst case scenario for family, clients, and operators were huge, but also shows how planning is crucial and having the best medivac cover and insurance, reputable and good operators and World-Class guides all come into play, and without these, I might have been in a far worse position.

My suggestion to people doing extreme trips or to remote places is to plan properly, make sure you have great medivac cover, and great travel insurance, go with a good operator that knows the systems and has contacts where you are fishing, and lastly, make sure you communicate with your medivac insurance before you go and tell them where you going. You can’t expect them to know where you are and help straight away. If you have an emergency time is crucial and if you have worked with your medivac and you have someone at home with all the group information that can help is a huge plus.

I’m biased but @global_rescue was incredible and covered all of the medivac logistics, @jtklugphotography for being a great friend and getting things rolling. Steve Parkinson from Phoenix Air in Kenya is an amazing person and operator of a World-Class Air ambulance in remote parts of Africa. Then to the guys, I was on the ground with, you are a special group of operators and people. I felt safe every step of the way and the reason we are booked to come back next year again!

On the lighter side, when I arrived at the hospital they put on a wrist band that said Fall Risk, I thought that might have been helpful a few days earlier… Then lastly the guys named the rapids where I fell Nick Falls. Always a bit of humor…”

Moral of the story: Being prepared for anything while in the field is absolutely imperative, and will likely save your life someday. Build a plan, pack emergency gear, and get coverage from a medevac insurance agency like Global Rescue…

Featured image and Instagram posts from Ocean Active Fly.


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