A Bel Air man's long journey home

Woman uses retirement funds to fly her ailing brother from Indonesia

October 29, 2003|By Amanda Angel | Amanda Angel,SUN STAFF

Dennis Storm's two-month odyssey from an Indonesian hospital bed to Maryland ended yesterday as relieved relatives gathered around the Vietnam war hero and Bel Air resident.

"It's all fine now," said Sharon Storm-Brown, Storm's sister from North Carolina, who rode with him on the last leg of his journey on a state-owned helicopter provided by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"This was the smoothest leg of the journey," she said.

Storm, 57, a Marine veteran, was awarded the Silver Star for saving eight men from a burning helicopter in 1969.

He suffered a stroke Sept. 2 and had been hospitalized in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he was working as a consultant.

After complications set in, Denise Storm, Dennis' sister from Bel Air, paid International SOS, a medical evacuation organization, more than $50,000 from her retirement fund to transport her brother on a 20-hour commercial flight from Jakarta to JFK International Airport in New York on Thursday.

The last leg of Storm's journey to Baltimore was to be in an ambulance -- the family could not afford another flight -- but because he began coughing up blood during the flight, medical authorities admitted him immediately to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ehrlich dispatched a Maryland State Police helicopter to fly Storm from Brooklyn to Baltimore.

Storm landed at Maryland Shock Trauma Center and was taken to the VA Medical Center, where he was in critical condition last night.

Mickey Storm, Dennis' mother, who lives with him, was in tears at the fourth-floor waiting room at the VA Medical Center, relieved that her son is home, but saddened by his poor medical condition.

Although the trip home is complete, Storm's journey to recovery has just begun, according to Denise Storm.

After he suffered the stroke, he was admitted to the Siloam Gleneagles Lippo Cikarang hospital in Jakarta, where he developed pneumonia, a fungal infection and bed sores.

His condition worsened to the point where Indonesian doctors told family members that they could not provide adequate care.

Both sisters sought help through the Office of Veterans Affairs, the military, charity organizations and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, but Maryland's effort was the first time someone helped them, Denise Storm said.

Denise Storm said the governor's office offered the family the helicopter flight when officials discovered the severity of her brother's condition.

Calls to Ehrlich's office were not returned yesterday.

Denise Storm said the air transport was necessary to bring Dennis Storm to Baltimore to prevent the stress that driving along bumpy roads would put on him.

Two pilots, a third-year resident at University of Maryland Medical Center and the section supervisor at Martin State Airport, Sgt. Walter Kerr, escorted Storm-Brown and Dennis Storm from Brooklyn to Baltimore.

"It feels good that we were able to help someone who really needed it," said one of the pilots, Tfc. Jim Dinges, instructor for the Aviation Division of the Maryland State Police.

Although the state transported more than 6,000 people to emergency medical facilities in helicopters last year, it is rare to respond to someone out of state, according to Kerr.

He said the helicopter left Brooklyn at 2:30 p.m. from a baseball field next to the Brooklyn hospital and landed at Shock Trauma at 3:35 p.m.

Denise Storm drove her mother back to Baltimore as her brother was in flight so they could meet him when he arrived at the Intensive Care Unit at the VA Medical Center.

The family visited Dennis Storm's new room and met his doctors briefly before returning to their home in Bel Air.

As they were leaving, Denise draped her arm around her mother's shoulder and whispered, "You have your boy back."

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