Medical emergencies while traveling

travel medical insurance
If this is to be...then be insured! Photo courtesy of Fernando AUDIBERT

You’re on a vacation and having lots of fun traveling, when suddenly you find yourself in a hospital with a serious illness.

Medical emergencies while traveling can be a serious problem if you’re not prepared.

You’re thousands of miles from home, from family, and from friends. You may not even speak the language, or if you do know the basics of the local language, medical terminology will likely overwhelm your abilities.

The doctor shows you your x-rays, MRI film, and other test results that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that immediate surgery is necessary. That part you get – you probably don’t understand the details, but the conclusion is unmistakable. Surgical intervention is necessary.

After the doctor finishes explaining your medical circumstances, a representative from the hospital’s business office arrives at your bedside and informs you a deposit in the amount of $30,000 is required for the surgery. “Will you be putting that on a credit card or paying cash?” she inquires.

Of course, this is not you. You were smart enough to buy travel insurance before you began your trip, weren’t you?

The odds of something like this happening are remote. That’s why travel insurance is so cheap. A good comprehensive policy costs about $300 for six months of coverage.

So, why doesn’t everyone have it?

I don’t know, but they don’t and when they suffer a medical emergency while traveling, many, many people find themselves in foreign hospitals every year facing a financial and a health disaster.

In one case I know of, a hospital placed a call to a patient’s family that went something like this: “Hello is this Mrs. Smith? Mrs. Smith, this is Mr. Chi – I’m the business manager at ABC Hospital in Jakarta Indonesia. Your son, Michael has been in an accident and requires immediate surgery to save his life. Mrs. Smith, your son is uninsured, and we need a deposit of $25,000 before we can proceed. Are you in a position to make this deposit now by credit card?

Folks, don’t do this to your family – buy travel medical insurance anytime you travel internationally – even if it’s only a stroll across the border on the weekend.

I have been traveling my whole adult life without incident until recently. I was enjoying traveling in Indonesia and writing this blog when I noticed I was having an unusual difficulty walking. Life is full of little aches and pains that resolve themselves, which is what I figured this was.

But, over the course of just a couple of weeks, my condition went from difficult to walk to impossible. About all I could do was hobble around the house, which forced me to accept that this was not a normal, run of the mill ache.

I managed to get myself to a hospital where they determined I would need immediate surgery on my spine because the nerve that ran to my legs was severely pinched in three places. They told me if I delayed, I could lose bowel and bladder control, and/or become completely paralyzed below the waste.

I immediately went to another hospital for a second opinion, which was identical to the original diagnosis.

Fortunately, I had travel insurance. So, I contacted my travel insurance company, which was World Nomads.

The claims process was not seamless, and smooth. There were bumps in the road. But, at the end of it all, they did evacuate me to Singapore for evaluation and a very expensive surgery.

Had I been uninsured, I would have had a serious problem. I may have been able to get home to the U.S. without doing additional damage, but then again I may not have.

World Nomads must have believed I probably would not be able to, which could have been why they ultimately agreed to pay for the surgery in Singapore.

So, how am I now? Back to normal? No. According to the doctors in Singapore the recovery time for this kind of surgery is three months. Different people respond in different ways, they say.

Currently, my mobility is about the same as before the surgery and my level of pain is actually higher.

The only things that are different are my outlook and my expectations.

Before the surgery, my outlook was one of further degeneration, as was my expectation.

Now, my outlook has the potential for a full recovery, as do my expectations.

The next three months will tell the story.

In the meantime, I will continue to write about Indonesia on this blog in a new, reflective travel style. And, I’ll be writing about Indonesia’s great travel destinations on our other website – gotravelindonesia.

I hope you’ll enjoy both, and please feel free to comment and let me know your experiences and opinions.

Animal Rescue Operation – Mount Merapi, Central Java

animal friends Jogjakarta,animal friends yogyakartaRescue Operation Needed at Mount Merapi, Central Java.

Mount Merapi has just erupted and a rescue team is needed to help rescue the animals in the area.

Gunung Merapi meletus dan tim penyelamat diperlukan untuk membantu menyelamatkan hewan di daerah tersebut.

Animal Friends Jogja (AFJ) and Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) will collaborate to help animals suffering from this disaster.

Animal Friends Jogja dan Jakarta Animal Aid Network akan berkolaborasi untuk membantu hewan yang menderita karena bencana ini.

We are in need of financial support to allow us to obtain veterinary medicines and equipment.

Kami membutuhkan dukungan keuangan untuk bantuan memperoleh obat-obatan bagi hewan dan peralatan yang dibutuhkan.

The team will consist of three veterinarians and twenty volunteers.

Tim akan terdiri dari para dokter hewan dan sukarelawan.

Kami membuka diri untuk relawan yang benar-benar ingin membantu secara nyata di lapangan & donasi. Jika untuk dukungan moril, silakan post ke FB page AFJ. Terima kasih, Sekecil apapun bantuan teman-teman, tetap berharga bagi satwa!

Any animals that we see in distress will be helped. Dogs that need shelter will be relocated to the Animal Friends Jogkarta office. We will set up a temporary shelter there, where dog owners can come to collect their dogs after they have dealt with their own problems.

Setiap hewan yang berada dalam kesulitan akan dibantu. Anjing yang membutuhkan tempat tinggal bisa dipindahkan ke kantor Animal Friends Jogja. Kami akan mendirikan tempat penampungan sementara disana, di mana pemilik anjing juga bisa datang untuk mengumpulkan anjing mereka setelah bisa mengatasi masalah sehubungan dengan bencana letusan Merapi ini.

Stray Cats in distress will be relocated to safer areas.

Kucing liar yang mengalami kesulitan di daerah tersebut dapat direlokasikan ke daerah yang lebih aman.

The team consists of an experienced animal rescue team – both AFJ and JAAN has dealt with wildlife and domestic animals for many years.

Tim penyelamatan hewan terdiri dari mereka yang berpengalaman, baik dari AFJ dan JAAN yang telah menangani satwa liar dan hewan domestik sejak bertahun-tahun.

Total costs for preliminary rescue & act are estimated to be IDR 15,000,000. This includes travel costs.

Total biaya untuk tindakan penyelamatan darurat diperkirakan sekitar Rp. 15.000.000 ini termasuk biaya perjalanan.

Contact 0813 2883 7434 | 0819 0371 5656 for registration of volunteers, donations and more info. Thank you very much.

Hubungi no telp 0813 2883 7434 | 0819 0371 5656 untuk pendaftaran sukarelawan, sumbangan dan info lebih lanjut. Terima kasih.

Animal Friends Jogja

Am I now a medical tourist?

medical tourist,medical tourism
Souvenir of Jogjakarta - I hope you don't have one of these!

Sometimes travel doesn’t go according to plan. Situations do arise when traveling that take you down a path you didn’t intend to go.

In my case, three spinal discs decided to compress the nerve that runs along my spine, making walking progressively more difficult until I could barely walk at all – it just took four weeks from the initial symptoms appearing to the point of walking only with extreme difficulty.

When my symptoms got to the point that prevented me from walking any distance at all, I was forced into a hospital, and into the hands of a neurologist, who would later pass my case onto a surgeon.

In a matter of a month, I went to a perfectly mobile person, who was enjoying traveling around Indonesia and writing about it, to someone who could barely walk, and having doctors tell him that immediate disc decompression surgery was necessary to prevent paralysis.

So what happened? I have degenerative disc disease and it simply progressed to the point that symptoms appeared. When they did appear, the symptoms appeared very aggressively.

Needless to say, my project of traveling around Indonesia for a year is going to be affected – to what extent I don’t know. One aspect of traveling I did not intend to write about was having surgery performed in a foreign country.

But, for the next couple of months I’m going to be walking down the path of a medical tourist. Hopefully I can provide a look inside the experience of medical treatment abroad (medical tourism) and help you decide if it’s for you, if you’re considering the option.

For the traveler who doesn’t want the operating room experience; those who prefer things like surfing and scuba diving, you’ll be reading the story of what happens when you have a medical emergency while you’re traveling, and you need immediate care.

Beyond the initial steps of getting the diagnosis, the next step is to contact the travel Insurance company. I have World Nomads travel insurance – I’ll be telling you what their claims process is like soon.

Thank you for following GoTravelIndonesia thus far! I hope you’ll continue to do so as the project evolves.