NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

August 8, 2012

On the road to recovery

Months after her stroke made national news, local woman sees health improving 

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According to published reports, RSP officials believed it was too much of a hazard to send in a plane to get her out before October. The cold weather and winds made it too dangerous for the flight crew, officials said.

But as her condition continued to worsen, she worried.

“My vision was getting worse, and my cognitive skills were failing,” she said. “My speech and memory were failing.”

Douceur turned to long-time Vermont friend Rachel Yushkevich, who recommended lawyer Russell Barr. After he reviewed Douceur’s contract, he determined a medical evacuation was allowed based on the contract’s medical provisions, which promises evacuation to save life, limb, eyesight or to prevent permanent disability. Plus, there had been other emergency medical evacuations from the South Pole, she said.

“I never wanted people to put people in harm’s way to come and get me,” Douceur said. “All I was asking for was for them to proposition a plane so it could come for me if a (weather) window opened. They refused. I felt they were gambling with my life. I knew the longer I went without treatment, the more chance I had of permanent brain damage.”

In distress, Douceur’s family reached out to the media, and her plight went viral in all its realms, print, television and Internet. N.H.’s senior U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen even intervened on her behalf with the National Science Foundation.

With all these efforts, however, it still wasn’t until Oct. 17 that Douceur boarded a plane for McMurdo station, then to New Zealand, where tests confirmed she had suffered a stroke. A week later, she was in the neurological ward at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Tests showed that there was a blockage but also a micro-bleed in her brain.

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