Stranded woman needs life-saving drugs
Danielle McCarthy has been stuck in London since Thursday when she was due to fly home to New York after attending a sales conference.
But McCarthy's situation is complicated by the fact she needs to take a synthetic thyroid hormone, Synthroid, daily as a result of having her thyroid removed because of cancer.
She says she has not been able to get hold of the drug from pharmacists in the UK. Synthroid is a brand name for a synthetic form of thyroxine known by the generic name Levothyroxine.
"I have to take Synthroid which the UK doesn't have," McCarthy told CNN. "They have a natural form of it which doesn't absorb in my body the way that it should. I take a very high dose -- 250 mcg -- and it's been a nightmare trying to get my medicine."
But Judith Taylor of the British Thyroid Foundation told CNN that Levothyroxine was available in the UK, though not by the Synthroid brand name. In the UK it is known by its generic name or by the brand name Eltroxin.
McCarthy said the response of U.S. authorities to the situation had been an "absolute disaster."
"I called the U.S. embassy and tried to get some information from them and they just referred me to the Web site and said there's nothing we can do, you need to go and talk to a doctor."
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The U.S. Embassy Web site said that Americans stranded in the UK should "monitor local media reports and relevant airport and airline websites for information."
"If you need help refilling a U.S. prescription or with other ongoing medical issues exacerbated by the flight disruption then airport, airline, or hotel personnel should be able to contact a doctor or other medical professional on your behalf," it said.
She also said she had written to the White House and said that the U.S. should follow the UK's lead by mobilizing the military to help get people home. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday that Royal Navy vessels had been deployed to bring home stranded travelers.
"I don't understand why the U.S. government hasn't made any official announcement as to what they're going to do to try to help us," said McCarthy who contacted CNN via iReport.
"The British news is saying how they need to reach out and help their people and they're sending out UK navy ships to pick passengers up. Why don't we put U.S. passengers on those UK navy ships take them back over and then bring back other people? We need to stand together and work together rather than trying to figure this out individually."
McCarthy was due to fly home with American Airlines but has now booked a second flight with Virgin Atlantic to "double my odds."
She has bought a train ticket to Paris in the hope that she can travel onwards to connect with a U.S.-bound flight from Madrid.
She is also on standby to travel aboard the Queen Mary 2 luxury cruise ship departing from the English port of Southampton on Thursday and due to arrive in New York on April 29.
But McCarthy, who has three young children, said getting home in a guaranteed seven days would make the trip worthwhile.
"I can't imagine that UK passengers want to actually board that ship knowing that they might not actually be able to come home. I'm on a waiting list because it's fully sold out," she said.
McCarthy said it had been difficult being separated from her family for so long and not knowing when she would be able to get home.
"My poor husband is trying to manage three children on his own," she said. "I have Skype so I've been able to call a couple of times -- but it's a little bit more difficult to call them on Skype because they don't really understand and they get more upset."
McCarthy said her mother had also collapsed as she was speaking to her because of the stress of her situation.
"I was having a nervous breakdown and while I was on the call with her she passed out and had to be taken to the emergency room, so it was quite an ordeal."
McCarthy said she was extending her medicine by skipping days but admitted that she was feeling the effects.
"Your thyroid controls everything, it controls your metabolism, it controls your energy, it controls all that... I'm extremely exhausted, my body just shuts down, I'm very emotional and there's nothing I can control."
Taylor, of the British Thyroid Foundation, said it was better to get a replacement drug than to ration the dosage and said either Eltroxin or Levothyroxine were "pretty much completely interchangeable" with Synthroid.
"They are almost identical and certainly for a few days it would do absolutely no harm," said Taylor. "They are inexpensive and if anyone is dependent on them then apart from filling in some details it should be possible to get the problem sorted out. I would expect any pharmacy in the UK to have it in stock."
Taylor said those needing urgent medication should see a doctor, known in the UK as a general practitioner or GP, with details of their prescription.
"They can enrol her as a temporary resident and usually no costs are involved at all," she said.