Nearly 6,000 US citizens die abroad every year. If you learn nothing else from this book, do not leave home with any doubt about the status of your health.
Early in 2003 while working for the US State Department, I made a number of trips to Greece to help the government prepare for potential acts of terrorism during the 2004 Summer Olympics.
On one trip to Athens, I met my friend, Mike, another retired Federal agent, who I would be working along with me and the Greek police until the Olympics began.
The night before we were scheduled to leave Athens, Mike and I had dinner at the home of embassy friends. We had an early flight back to Dulles the next morning, so we said good night in the lobby and agreed to meet there the following morning so we could get to the airport in plenty of time for our flight back home.
From details that we later pieced together, Mike had gotten out of bed the next morning and collapsed next to the bathroom in his guest-room from a massive heart attack and died.
A week later, I escorted Mike's body back to his wife in the Albuquerque.
An autopsy revealed that Mike’s heart had been barely functioning and he should never have made the trip.
Unlike Mike, who had less than a healthy lifestyle, I have been health conscious most of my adult life. Ironically, though, I would soon be facing the same disease that killed Mike.
I had no idea that the arduous travel when to some of the unhealthiest, highest-altitude and highest-threat countries in the world that I, too, was a walking time bomb, in need of a quadruple bypass and an aortic valve replacement that was successfully performed two years later.
Because of Mike and 6,000 US citizens who die abroad every year, I offer the following:
1. Please...schedule an annual physical examination with comprehensive blood and urine tests BEFORE you travel abroad.
2. Visit the website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/travel) to obtain country-specific health condition reports and required and suggested vaccinations;
NOTE: Even if you're not a US citizen, I would urge you to use this valuable resource as it is among the best in the world;
3. Visit an international travel clinic that can administer the vaccinations you need for your destination, and document them in a vaccination record. If you have a record of previous vaccinations, take it to the clinic and have it updated. Contact the nearest clinic by visiting http://www.istm.org;
4. Remember the website of the International Society of Travel Medicine. Remember to get vaccinated against both hepatitis A and B (http://www.hepfi.org/living).
5. If headed for a developing country, consideration should be given to getting the three-dose series of pre-exposure vaccinations for rabies and malaria medication, if you’ll be traveling in regions where malaria is prevalent; and
6. Visit your family dentist before departing for overseas. Ensure that you have no major cavities or abscesses that could ruin your trip abroad.