My husband and I decided to attend a Depart Smart fundraiser because it was at a brewery and looked like fun! Not only did we thoroughly enjoy the people and food, we learned what a valuable service Sheryl Hill and Depart Smart provides to families who are sending their kids abroad. Since our son was studying in Seville, Spain, we were glad we did the right things in preparation, such as vetting the university program, registering with the State Department and making sure he had adequate medical insurance.
While our son did not have any serious issues while studying and traveling in Spain, the Depart Smart’s videos and stories about the kids who suffered tragedies on student programs abroad made a big and lasting impression on me. I filed in my head a lot of tips from Depart Smart’s website and program, including what to do if a life threatening problem comes up while overseas.
Little did I know how valuable Depart Smart’s life-saving advice would be during an Easter 2016 holiday.
I planned a romantic, eight day trip to Belize with my husband. Eight hours into it on a Saturday, he fell down the cement stairs of our Vacation Rental by Owner, VRBO, rental, suffering a severe skull fracture and traumatic brain injury. I was not with him when he fell, He was not discovered by anyone for several hours. I assumed the tourist-oriented island had adequate medical emergency services. Was I wrong! There was no ambulance service available on Saturday nights. We were lucky an urgent care center had recently received funding to stay open into evening hours. Imagine trying to move an unconscious loved one and trying to find the best healthcare in a foreign country.
Before we got him to the urgent care, some of the information I gleaned from Depart Smart’s travel safety orientation kicked in. I knew I had a limited chance to assess the situation. I looked carefully at the scene and asked the right questions to determine that my husband’s injury was an accident rather than an assault or robbery. Once at the hospital, I asked the civilian responders to write down their names and email addresses for me. I’m glad I did because one of them tried to scam me later for extra money. I knew I needed to acquire important police and hospital records before we left the country.
My husband was stabilized in the hospital for four days, then airlifted to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. Fortunately, Depart Smart’s guidance encouraged me to secure the right insurance, and have my credit card limit raised to pay for his care and the $36,500 deposit for his evacuation. I raised the limit on my credit card to $50,000 before we left. We eventually discovered that the airlift to Arizona cost $380,400. We didn’t have to pay a penny. Our deposit was fully refunded through our travel insurance.
I am pleased to report that my husband received outstanding medical care in Belize. I am so grateful he is fully recovered. We learned a lot from the experience. One of the most comforting parts for me is knowing that I was able to employ the knowledge I learned from Depart Smart. I was capable of making informed decisions. I am able to cope with emergency situations better than I ever could before I started attending their marvelous and educational fundraisers.
I will continue to spread the word about Sheryl Hill and Depart Smart and the incredibly valuable services, vast resources and advocacy they provide to all travelers.
My name is Carol Giuliani of Senior Travel Companion Services in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I am a caregiver and fiduciary, guardian, conservator, power of attorney/trustee and personal representative with more than 33 years experience. I am a bonded, insured professional fiduciary, trained by the Volunteers of America in 1993 and certified by the National Guardianship Foundation in 2006. I am a 22+ year member of the Minnesota Association of Guardians and Conservators, have an excellent reputation. I practiced law for ten years.
Vacation planning is my lifelong passion. I have combined it with my energy and experience helping adults and seniors create vacations they would not otherwise be able to take. I creatively and efficiently customize their trips to take them wherever they want to go! I have planned and executed trips with adults and seniors to California, Arizona, Las Vegas, Florida, Louisiana and cabins in “Up North” Minnesota.
My personal travels include destinations throughout North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. Machu Picchu was an adventure in 2011. I was in Dubai and Italy for seventeen days in 2015.
I coordinate trips by air, train, and/or car and join in any or all aspects of the trip, my client’s desire. If seniors or special needs individuals just need help getting back and forth from a destination, or connecting with loved ones, I do that. I work within budgets to craft and customize a trip or adventure for experiences desired. I love to travel.