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Emergency Travel

Just this last week a friend of mine was in desperate need of getting to Germany right away. Her daughter was in distress in a mental health facility in that country after a traumatic time.

Without going into details to protect the family, the young woman did not speak German and was being given ever increasing doses of sedatives in order to keep her calm. She was not responsive to her sister who happened to be there. After many phone calls seeking out advice, it was determined that she should be brought home. Several problems were to be tackled in this endeavor.

All the patient's possessions were stolen, including her passport and her plane ticket. Another ticket was available to her but this will strand her sister. Her sister was also not in the position to deal with helping her sick sibling in her journey home. My friend, after much discussion and debate concluded that she had to go to Germany to rescue her daughter. We called several agencies including the Red Cross and Travelers Aid.

Next was a call to our Congressman's office. The assistant there did refer us to the passport office in Washington D.C. but they were insisting that my friend would have to fly to D.C. to visit that office for an emergency passport.

Having to leave from a western U.S. city (Phoenix) there was no direct connection for my friend to D.C. and on to Stuttgart. After haggling with a couple of airlines trying to obtain an emergency fare for my friend, and being mostly unsuccessful, we booked her to New York and on to Germany after a six-hour layover to take care of the passport. We were very lucky to get an appointment in the New York passport office and she was set to go.

The point of this letter is that, to the best of my knowledge there was no one place to find the information that we needed to get my friend on her way. It took more than 24 hours of phone calls, including to the American consulate in Frankfurt, and most of those calls were not returned. By the time we were able to get the plans laid in, it was well past 9 p.m. Friday and many offices were closed. I can't believe how lucky we were in doing what we did.

One thing I do know from this experience is that you get nowhere fast when you wait for red tape twisters to answer your questions, especially when they insist that they will call you back.




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