What repatriation means for a patient’s family – a way home!

When someone is hospitalised abroad due to a medical emergency, it can be a traumatic experience for the patient. But often those around them suffer as well. Beyond having their holiday brought to an abrupt end, family and friends travelling with the patient, suddenly find themselves in a high stress situation. They have to deal with language barriers and culture shock, as well as having to make last minute arrangements to extend their stay or amend their flights; not to mention their worry over their loved one. A medical repatriation can be life saving for the patient, but it often comes as a rescue for the family as well.

Flying on life support

What a medical emergency abroad means for a patient’s family

What was supposed to be a time of fun and relaxation, has turned into a nightmare. A loved one has been injured or has fallen ill and has ended up in a foreign hospital. Worry and anxiety are often made worse for the family by communication barriers and cross cultural differences. Standards of hygiene and care can vary from country to country, and different hospitals can have wildly different policies.

“My sister was hospitalised in South Africa and ended up in the ICU. Access to the ICU was virtually unrestricted during visiting hours, and sometimes whole groups or even choirs would come in and stand and sing around people’s beds. The singing actually reassured my sister, but we were all bewildered at the idea of all these people coming in and out without washing their hands or paying any attention at all really to hygiene or infection risks around all those extremely vulnerable patients like my sister.”

Whereas holidays abroad are often carefully planned, emergency hospitalisations never are. The patient’s family often have many practical problems that have to be addressed on the spot. Flights home might have to be cancelled or amended, hotel stays may have to be extended or cut short. Even small problems, like getting to the hospital every day, acquiring foreign sims cards and where/how to eat affordably and do your laundry, take up a lot of head space; not to mention the financial implications of all those things.

Often both the patient and their family want to get home as soon as possible. But how do you even begin to think about transporting a seriously ill patient? Many people who find themselves in these situations have never even thought about medical repatriation and what’s involved. Insurance companies are often less than helpful and can add to people’s stress by being slow to respond and reluctant to help.

What repatriation means for a patient’s family

Bringing a patient back to a hospital in their home country often solves many problems and worries for the family. The patient is back in familiar surroundings with doctors who can understand them and who they can communicate with. Both the patient and the family know much better what to expect, how the system works and what channels of help they can access.

In addition, the patient is much closer to family and friends. Family members are back in the safety of their own homes and familiar routines. Surrounded by their support network, they are able to recharge much better between hospital visits.

“When my daughter was in hospital abroad, I couldn’t cry. The situation was so terrible and so frightening. I had to be strong for her. When the medical team arrived and picked her up from the hospital to take her to the airport, I watched them load her into the ambulance. As they drove away I finally burst into tears. She was going home and I just knew that everything would be ok.”


If you find yourself in a medical emergency situation abroad and are wondering how to get home, don’t hesitate to contact us – even just to talk through the possibilities. We are here to help! You can reach us anytime on any day of the week by phone or email. Alternatively just fill out our free quotation form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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