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William Russell blog -Expat life in Mauritius Children having fun while snorkeling - Airlifted from Mauritius kids

Expat life in Mauritius is incredible, however, no matter where you are, an emergency can happen.

In 2019 an expat family were airlifted from Mauritius. They faced the worst nightmare when a headache proved to be more sinister for their daughter. In this article, we tell their story and how international health insurance with emergency medical evacuation cover helped them in a difficult situation when living and working abroad.

William Russell blog -Expat life in Mauritius Children having fun while snorkeling - Airlifted from Mauritius kids
Expat life in Mauritius can be really fun. Make sure you and your family are protected by international health insurance in case an emergency takes place.

Expat life in Mauritius: how can emergency medical evacuation help?

Jamie Copsey and his wife Olivia live on Mauritius with their children Patrick, Matilda (Tilly) and Ferguson. The family moved to the small island in the Indian Ocean years ago as part of Jamie’s work as Head of Learning & Development at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Jamie, whose role involves a great deal of travel, runs training programmes for conservation biologists. Read more about the best countries to raise a family if you are relocating with kids.

In April 2019, they faced every parent’s worst nightmare when a bad headache soon proved to be a lot more sinister for their daughter, Tilly. After tests were conducted at their local hospital, the family were told that the 10-year-old was suffering from viral meningitis. She was treated accordingly and sent home to recover.

However, a couple of days after leaving hospital, Tilly was re-admitted with excruciating pains in her legs – which soon affected her ability to walk. While more tests were carried out, doctors in Mauritius were unable to find anything wrong. The doctors began to question her symptoms and after another week in hospital she was discharged.

Emergency medical evacuation: family airlifted from Mauritius in emergency

“As Tilly was still paralysed and in extreme pain, we knew we needed outside help – but given our location, we really had no idea what to do for the best. Fortunately, we received a call from the medical team at William Russell the next day. They had requested Tilly’s notes and tests as soon as she had been admitted to hospital and having seen the results of her lumbar puncture their doctors had decided they were not happy with one of the MRI scans.”

They told us that a plane was being arranged to airlift Tilly off the island immediately. Within 12 hours she was being taken by ambulance to the airport and then on to South Africa.
Parents of Matilda

Medical evacuation was essential in this emergency case, because it allowed time to treat the patient accordingly with the best support. Read more about what is emergency medical evacuation and why expats need it when they live and work abroad.

Once in Johannesburg, Matilda was admitted to paediatric ICU and her pain was managed with morphine while the doctors tried to agree on what was happening to her. Eventually, one doctor diagnosed her with a rare condition that he had seen before: ADEM, or acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

This disease, which is sparked by inflammation in the spinal chord or brain, prompts an auto-immune response that attacks the nerve endings. During the four-six weeks that Tilly was in hospital in South Africa, she underwent extensive physiotherapy in an attempt to get her walking again.

Jamie explains: “It’s been a long road – because initially, it was intensely painful for Tilly to put any pressure on her legs. However, eventually, she was well enough to continue her physio at home in Mauritius.”

Around six months after falling ill, Tilly is now pain-free and has returned to school.

“It’s hard to describe how grateful we are to the doctors at William Russell – and obviously, my employer Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust for arranging such excellent medical cover. Having your child fall ill is bad enough, but when the doctors are unable to agree a diagnosis the whole thing becomes doubly stressful.

“What really stands out for me is the way William Russell’s doctors reviewed Tilly’s case so thoroughly – stepping in before we even got a chance to ask them to. I also found that whenever we received or made a call to our two allocated contacts, they were always there and fully up-to-speed on the latest developments. When you’re experiencing the type of stress our family was under, not having to go over old ground every time you call makes a huge difference.

“Before this happened I hadn’t realised how vulnerable you feel being overseas. It would have been very difficult, not to mention expensive, for us to get the help Tilly needed without private medical cover – and having the support of experts there working for you is amazing.”

Looking for health insurance in Mauritius?
Check out our guide on how to get covered

Wherever you move, go with total peace of mind

At William Russell, we have 30 years’ experience of helping expatriates finding best places in the world to move abroad and settle into their new lives overseas by providing world-class global health insurance. Plus, we produce lots of expert material to help you and your family adapt to life abroad.

Making the move to another country can be challenging. But no matter where you go, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers international health insurance and income protection that covers you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays, and we can even offer medical evacuations to patients who require treatment in other countries.

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