Far From Home: Couple Rely on Air Med to Repatriate after COVID-19 Diagnosis in Europe

December 1, 2020

Both 79-year-old Jim and 77-year-old Joanne Booth from Ottawa, Canada were experienced world travelers. The couple had already seen Spain twice before leaving for their trip to the island of Mallorca in Spain in March of 2020. 

The Booths were part of a travel group of Senior Discovery Tours with whom they have traveled many times. Palma de Mallorca would be the destination this time. But COVID-19 would alter their plans. 

The Pandemic Hits Spain
Some tours were cancelled, but not all. Everyone was quarantined except for meals. A few days later, Jim started coughing, then Joanne started coughing. Jim had a doctor come to the hotel to check both of them. Jim’s lungs were clear, but his wife was taken to a nearby hospital for further testing. Joanne was admitted immediately, and Jim returned to the hotel. Over the next few days Joanne was sent to three different hospitals.

Hotels and other businesses were closing all around Spain, and a local travel agent advised Jim that he did not have a place to stay that night as all of Spain was closing down. The local travel agent eventually found a place for him to stay at the hospital where Joanne was. Jim arrived at the hospital carrying all their bags to find out he had to be tested first. It was then that Jim found out that he was also positive for COVID-19. The next day Jim and Joanne were in the same room. Jim mentioned to his daughter that the only way they could get home was by AirMed. As it turned out, the people at the Booth’s insurance company were having the same thoughts.

A couple of days later, Jim was taken to ICU. His body started to shut down. His lungs and kidneys had stopped working and he was put on a ventilator. 

Air Med to the Rescue
Joanne says she was frightened when she first recovered. Neither she nor Jim spoke Spanish. And for several days, she was not even sure where Jim was or how ill he was. Then she found out Jim was already on a ventilator and unconscious. For five weeks, Jim remained unconscious as his body tried to fight off the virus. This went on for a month before Jim was stabilized enough to travel.

On April 19, a GMR Air Med transport landed in Palma, Spain to take Jim and Joanne home. Jim was still on the ventilator and would require special care. Stops were made in Shannon, Ireland, and Goose Bay, Labrador before the crew delivered Jim and Joanne home to Ottawa Canada. Almost two months later, on June 18, Jim was discharged from the hospital and allowed to return home. 

Today, both Jim and Joanne believe they are lucky to be back in Canada safe and sound. And they want to thank their new friends at GMR for making it all possible.

Family Thanks Crew
Joanne says, “COVID-19” leaves you with a souvenir. For me, I’m very sleepy all the time.  And for Jim, a couple days after coming off the ventilator, he had seizures. His lungs are scarred, and he still can’t take a full breath anymore. Jim also has a bad foot, where he has to wear a brace for walking.”
The Booth’s daughter, Debbie wants shared her gratitude to the crews who helped bring her parents home. “On behalf of our family, Joanne and Jim and their children Debbie/John and Kevin/Marnie, their seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, we would like to thank everyone who made this possible. You are our heroes.”

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