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.

3 comments

  1. Richard L. Connell

    I am sorry to hear that your recovery is going so slow. Get well soon and keep us posted on your progress.

    Dick

  2. Anthony

    I really feel sad to know that unfortunately you got injury during your vacation. I will pray to god that you get well soon. :)

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