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International S.O.S……………

April 2, 2009

Does that sound like I am calling out for help? Really I am not – but here is something you should know if you are an ex-pat living in a third world country or if you plan to visit an impoverished area.

There is an organization called International SOS and if you are ever traveling in a foreign and/or remote area, you will want to remember they exist.

Here is their web address

Who are they, you ask. Well this is what they say about themselves….

With over 20 years of experience, we help organizations ensure the health and security of their travelers and employees around the world. We are the only assistance company with the global presence our clients demand.

Working in some of the most inhospitable places on earth, we offer international standards of medical care where it is not available or where cultural and language barriers exist.

Huh, you say.

What this means is that if you are traveling to a village (or even a large city)  in India (or China or Afghanistan or anywhere) and you get sick and that village/city does not have appropriate facilities and/or doctors to treat you, International SOS will step in to help you. That is very. good. to. know.

Many companies offer their employees memberships to International SOS as part of their compensation plan. But even if you are not a member – remember their name.  It it my understanding that they can still be very helpful.

In Delhi, they are located near the Apollo hospital.

Remember that the availability of effective medical resources is never a given – I had always taken this for granted in the U.S. – but no more.

I went to a presentation at my children’s school and  a representative from International SOS gave a talk on medical expectations in Delhi and India.

Here were some of his cautions….

Blood transfusions should only be accepted as a last resort – only when they are life-saving. Blood is not monitored that well here and some people are paid for their “donations”.

Apollo, Max, and Fortus are the only hospitals he really recommended.

He highly recommended getting rabies vaccines. When we were leaving the U.S. the rabies vaccine was not available as a preventive measure, only as a treatment once someone has been bitten by a rabid animal. But apparently it is available here in India. So we are going to get them here.

He also cautioned to get vaccines and prescriptions from the hospital pharmacies. It seems there is quite the pharmaceutical black market here and much of the medicine can be counterfeit. That makes it not only potentially ineffective, but quite possibly dangerous. And he cautioned us to ask the nurses to open any vaccine viles in front of you so that you know it has not been opened before. Whenever possible, get vaccines while you are on home leave.

Taking an ambulance to the hospital in an emergency might sound like a good idea – but they are not reliable and often do not have the medical equipment that would make it worth waiting for one. The presenter recommended practicing getting to the hospital before an emergency happens so you know what to do. He said it is particularly important to do a dry run at night.

In an emergency, he recommended calling the the hospital and asking how long it would take to get an ambulance to you. He said that they should be able to give you an idea of how long it would be. However, getting yourself there might be the best option and just might save valuable time.

He also said that calling International SOS might be a good idea – they have a staff there who can make multiple calls at once, which can reach out to multiple resources at once. If I remember correctly, they will stay on the phone with you until you have gotten help. Consider calling them from your mobile phone so you can remain on the phone if you change locations.

He highly recommended using bug spray that has a 35% concentration of Deet. It has been hard for me to find bug spray here – which is shocking- but I guess if it was more available, there would not be such a problem with Dengue fever and Malaria – bring a stock pile with you.

Road accidents present the greatest health risk in Delhi. Be very careful crossing the street and when riding on the roads.

He said it is important to get a general practice physician when you arrive. If you are with an embassy or international school, they can probably give you a list of doctors that have been recommended. International SOS also has a list of doctors they recommend.

Anyway, you know what is next – I am not a doctor and I do not play one on the internet. I will however pretend to have lawyer skills. This is information I received in a medical presentation and I am relaying it to the best of my memory – don’t quote me on any of it – do with it what you will. Obviously, you will have to determine for yourself what makes the most sense for you in a given situation.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2009 3:02 pm

    @Can I Remain – I don’t think it’s totally free.Atleast not in West Bengal.But the charges are nominal.But the number of horror stories we get in the news about government hospitals,I’d pay more and go to a private one if I could afford it.Healthcare in the south is supposed to be fabulous,as is their record with literacy.

    Ok,read up on Deet.The army invented it,to help their soldiers in jungle warfare.NICE!

  2. April 4, 2009 6:01 am

    ok for mosquitoes a quick tip… u get the body sprays and creams from odomos/good night…. for kids on most of the leading stores u get chicco baby insect repellent and the anti mosquito machines also work well

    PS: disappointed though is india really a third world country

  3. April 4, 2009 1:29 am

    Naomi – yeah!

    Deep – what Sands said 😎

    Sands – I brought lots with me – so we are in good shape

    Tottsmom – put your bug spray and deodorant on if you end up moving here – hee hee

    Can I Remain – actually I have heard that the nurses are unmatched here – they are supposed to fabulous and very attentive and caring – it is nice that treatment is available to everyone – America has a long way to go in that regard – and I am praying for the same – that we never (again) find ourselves at a hospital, here or in the U.S.

  4. CanIRemainUnknownPl permalink
    April 3, 2009 3:09 pm

    Yes India has its challenges in the health care field, but if you reach the right place you will get medical care which is comparable to anywhere else in the world. do you know anybody can walk into a govt. hospital and can get medical treatment for free? not just emergency but any care is FREE… (no BOTOX though)
    The guy was right about the ambulance, I would say talk to Apollo, MAX or the nearest health care center that you trust they generally have a fleet of ambulance that are much better equipped than the govt. run ones. I believe Apollo has an air ambulance too. Also since you or your family might not be able to drive its a good idea to have an emergency contact who lives close by (other than your driver).
    As kids we used to use odomos as mosquito repellent, I am sure if you ask around you will know the current availability.
    Blood transfusion is again murky unless you are at a reputable facility. Apollo or MAX are general hospitals there are very good specialty hospitals like Escorts heart Institute or Batra hospital etc.
    well in all I hope wish and pray you never would need any of this stuff ‘Merray dost’. 🙂

  5. Tottsmom permalink
    April 3, 2009 2:05 pm

    Humidity and Bugs…two reasons to Love Las Vegas because we have neither. 🙂

  6. April 3, 2009 2:00 pm

    @Deep- Baygon and Hit are not meant to be used on a human’s body. Bug Sprays that are available in US, you spray them on your exposed body and then bugs stay away from you.

  7. April 3, 2009 9:59 am

    It’s a far better idea to use a mosquito net if you want to avoid malaria or dengue. Those are very commonly available too.

  8. April 3, 2009 9:58 am

    bug spray has been difficult to find? Really? What about Baygon and Hit? Available very commonly, and they are both pretty effective. They have special varieties for different kinds of insects.

  9. April 3, 2009 8:20 am

    As usual, you are so helpful … thank you for sharing this!! Have printed and added it to my DBB (Delhi Bound Binder) !

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