EMS Ambulance 4 Jan 2023
Repatriation Stories: a fall in Spain – and an unexpected diagnosis
Going to hospital abroad is often more complicated than it might be back home – and not just due to the language barriers. If the doctors turn out to be unapproachable, or there’s a misunderstanding about the wider effects of the illness, the whole process can become extremely stressful.
That was the situation facing one of our recent customers, a lady from the Netherlands who got into difficulties following an accident in Spain.
A nasty fall
Mr and Mrs Janssen* – a couple in their eighties – live in the Netherlands but often spend their winters in Spain’s Costa Blanca, where they have a second home. Recently, however, Mrs Janssen had been experiencing some issues with her health. She’d been diagnosed with the bone-weakening condition osteoporosis, which left her vulnerable to breaks and fractures. So when Mrs Janssen tripped and hurt herself badly in Spain, the couple immediately rushed to the local hospital for emergency treatment.
Making it onto the ward didn’t turn out to be the solve-all the Janssens had hoped for, however. Alongside the difficulties in communicating with the local nurses, they were finding it almost impossible to get proper consultation time with the doctors. After waiting four days without success, Mr Janssen decided enough was enough and contacted EMS Ambulance. He told us he was becoming worried for his wife and wanted to get her back to the Netherlands for specialist rehabilitation.
A turn for the worse
When Mr Janssen called our repatriation expert, we discussed the situation and agreed that a long-distance road ambulance would be a good option for the transport. As we talked, however, we began to realise Mrs Janssen’s condition was more complicated than it had first appeared. Since the accident, Mr Janssen explained, his wife had been feeling increasingly confused and disoriented. Concerned about the potential implications, we decided to rethink the transport.
Back to the Netherlands
Having discussed the case with our medical specialists, EMS advised Mr Janssen to change his plans and get his wife to a hospital immediately. He agreed and, within a couple of hours, we had dispatched one of our ground ambulances to collect Mrs Janssen from her bed in Spain. Twenty-four hours later, we had completed the overland trip through Spain and France to the couple’s local hospital in Holland. A nurse stayed with her through the journey to deliver round-the-clock care, since Mr Janssen wasn’t able to accompany her at the time.
A new diagnosis
Back home in Holland, Mrs Janssen underwent a range of new tests. This time, one of the tests found she was suffering from hyponatremia, where the concentration of sodium in the blood falls to an abnormally low level. Common in older people, the condition can have a significant impact on a patient’s state of mind. “Signs and symptoms of hyponatremia can include altered personality, lethargy and confusion,” explains the Mayo Clinic. “Severe hyponatremia can cause seizures, coma and even death.” Combined with the stress accident, it seemed likely that Mrs Janssen’s low blood sodium was causing her disorientation. Happily, the Dutch medical team were able to give her IV treatment to restore her sodium levels and bring her back to full health. A few days later, she was fit enough to travel on to a new clinic for proper rehab and multidisciplinary care.
* Names withheld.
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