Travel Agent Helps Save A Life

by Richard D'Ambrosio

Thankfully, helping save a life isn’t something most travel agents have to do.

But recently, Lisa Griffith, a Cruise Planners travel advisor in Kellogg, IA, was leading a cruise group on an eight-day Caribbean sailing when a client began experiencing pain in his lungs.

“He had had cancer previously, but was cleared to travel on the trip,” she said. “He was having a hard time breathing and initially rejected medical assistance because of the expense. But I convinced him and his wife that he should visit with the onboard doctor.”

The client was put on oxygen, while the ship medical office contacted a hospital in Bonaire, the next port of call. Meanwhile, Griffith asked the couple for their copy of their Allianz Global Assistance (AGA) travel insurance policy so she could e-mail a Cruise Planners colleague back in Iowa. Griffith’s colleague contacted Allianz as the ship pulled into port, and an ambulance took the client to the local hospital.

Allianz e-mailed Griffith the Release of Medical Records (ROMR) documents to work with the client to start a claim and to engage Allianz in providing travel assistance.

“We sent the forms to the hospital for signatures and then Griffith’s colleague Ryan received the signed forms and sent them to us,” said Kimberly Seay, Allianz’s U.S. director of assistance. “Although it was a picture of the signed forms, it was enough for us to obtain a timely medical report.”

Meanwhile the cruise line didn’t notify Allianz that one of its customers was hospitalized until three hours later. “The fact that we were notified earlier by the client’s travel agent made a huge difference, as we had already received a medical report, received signed ROMR forms, and arranged direct billing with the hospital,” Seay said. “When we are working a medical emergency, we’ve learned that every hour can make a difference.  This entire process was made possible because of the travel agent’s assistance.”

The next morning AGA’s medical team reached out to the treating physician for an update. The patient’s oxygen demand was increasing while his respiratory status was deteriorating.  Allianz determined that the patient’s condition warranted an evacuation via Air Ambulance, as the member was not stable to travel on a commercial airline. AGA worked with the daughter and the customer’s spouse to obtain additional information that was needed to execute the evacuation to include: passport information, date of birth, weight and height and primary insurance needed to secure a bed in a U.S. hospital.

Allianz also realized that to get the man moved the same day, they would have to move fast. The Bonaire airport normally closes at 10 p.m. , and it would take the air ambulance crew three hours to fly there. Then the crew had to go to the hospital to assess and prepare the patient for the flight before transporting him back to the airport for takeoff. Allianz got the airport to stay open, and got the man to a Florida hospital, where he was treated and recovered fully.

Griffith finished her cruise with her group, though all of them had a story to tell when they got home, and a more personal incentive to talk about the importance of travel insurance.

“I was so thankful he had insurance. I always ask my clients, ‘do you want travel protection?’” Griffith said. “I always ask them to check with their own insurance.  But still there are people who won’t purchase it.”

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