Ripcord client evacuated from Africa with broken bones after fall from elephant

Posted on Posted in Medical Evacuation, Rescue

“I don’t think there could be a company that is more caring”

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John and son before the fall

John Dury’s African safari didn’t go the way he had planned it. After puncturing his kneecap on a giant cactus, and a fall from an elephant the next day that broke his collarbone and his ribs in eight places, puncturing his lung, he was glad to have a policy with Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance.

“This service is invaluable,” John said. “I can’t understand why everybody doesn’t have this.”

After arriving at a lodge in Zimbabwe, John received a rough welcome when he was wheeling his suitcase around in the dark at 4 AM and ran into a huge cactus thorn that poked through his kneecap. He went to a local clinic, received a shot, and they sent him on his way, telling him everything was going to be OK. The pain subsided in the meantime.

The next afternoon, he and his 15-year-old son were riding on an elephant when the elephant spooked, reared up on its hind legs and dumped its passengers 12 feet to the ground. John’s son landed on top of him but was unhurt.

His brother, his mother, Betty, and her other grandson were riding on two elephants in front of them.

“I heard my grandson yell, “Help! Help!” Betty recalled. “But we had to stay calm and keep riding away from them so as not to spook the other elephants we were on. It was terrifying.”

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John’s several broken ribs

John’s brother immediately contacted Redpoint Resolutions to activate his Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance program. An ambulance brought John to a local clinic, and Redpoint medically evacuated him and his family via a twin prop King Air plane to a leading South African hospital.

There, an MRI confirmed that he had sustained several broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a punctured lung. Redpoint’s African operations leader, Jack, met the Dury family to oversee his care: making billing and other arrangements at the receiving hospital, communicating with the family’s home physician in San Antonio, Texas, and taking care of other family needs.

“Jack came right away and took care of everything,” Betty recalled. “He stayed with us that evening, walked me back and forth between the hospital and the hotel, and eventually helped get John’s hospital bed set up in the hotel. Any time he wasn’t there, he called me to see how we were doing.”

“When we got to South Africa, all John had were a pair of pants and a shirt, and those were cut off of him,” she continued. “So, Jack’s girlfriend took me out shopping twice for clothes, once for him and once for clothes for myself because we had left our suitcases behind in Zimbabwe.”

“It was just amazing to have someone there taking care of anything,” she continued. “Bringing us fruit, and anything else we needed. It was so comforting to have them there.  I don’t know what we would have done without them.”

To add injury to injury, the left knee that John had punctured was still giving him trouble, and images at the South African hospital revealed that a large chunk of thorn was still present in his patella. That was surgically removed. Doctors implanted a plate and screws in his collarbone, while his broken ribs – a complicated set of fractures known as a “flail segment” – risked further puncturing his lung.

John’s surgically repaired collarbone

In the meantime, Redpoint placed an additional critical care paramedic at his bedside, to oversee his medical treatment and ultimately escort the family home to San Antonio when medically safe for the patient to fly.

“He took care of everything,” Betty said. “Handled our passports, got us through customs, on and off the planes, everything.”

“You know, in the end it was the little things,” John said. “Yes, all of this is what clients pay for, but you went far above and beyond what is expected. I cannot imagine a company that is more caring.”