One month in a Thai hospital
Think £225 sounds like a lot for travel insurance? Think again. When Jamie booked his sixth-month insurance policy with STA Travel, he had no idea that £225 would eventually save him at least £15,000.
By Jamie Lee-Furlong.
I was just over three weeks into my six-month tour of South East Asia when I checked into that memorable room in Koh Samui. I remember the tranquil, tree lined private balcony. The fierce air-conditioning, giving welcoming relief from the relentless Thai sun. The large cable TV and spacious ensuite bathroom. And the surprisingly comfortable bed...
It was probably the nicest hospital room I’d ever stayed in.
It was less than 24 hours before my admission that my travels took a serious turn for the worse. I was relaxing on one of Koh Phangan’s many beautiful beaches, slowly recovering from the Full Moon Party. The hangover was finally gone, I’d just about caught up on sleep, and aside from a mild stomach-ache (which didn’t surprise me considering my body’s ongoing disagreement with Thai food!) I was feeling good. However, having just completed my second swim of the day and enjoying my third doze in a deckchair, my stomach pains began to intensify. A lot.
I headed back to my room hoping that some water and a little nap would help. It didn’t. The pain worsened to the degree where I couldn’t lie in one position for more than a couple of minutes without having to move. This wasn’t an ‘upset’ stomach, this was a raging, demonic, furious stomach, foaming at the mouth and…well, you get the idea! Later that evening I made my way down to reception and booked a taxi to the local clinic, where I was told I had food-poisoning and was given a cocktail of painkillers and antibiotics.
Unconvinced, I returned to my hotel, where I spent the night tossing and turning in constant searing pain. Early the next morning I made my way back to the local clinic, knowing now for sure that this was far more serious than a dodgy fried egg. The nurse took another look, and this time I was diagnosed with acute appendicitis.
From here the Thais burst into action. I was rushed across painfully bumpy roads to a larger clinic nearby, examined again and put on an intravenous drip. Then it was a quick drive to the nearest pier where a speedboat was waiting to dramatically whisk me across the waters to the hospital on neighbouring Koh Samui.
I remember lying on a bed in the reception area, talking to a girl sat next to me who was upset about having twisted her ankle. The doctor then came along, told me I’d be undergoing surgery in an hour or two, and went away again with my passport and insurance details. Things are a blur from there onwards – from shock, or tiredness, or pain, I don’t know. I was just glad that somebody else was dealing with things and that I didn’t have to think any more.
I ended up spending an entire month at Thai International Hospital, during which time I had two operations, three days in intensive care, countless blood tests and X-rays, more than one restless nights sleep, and the removal of my ruptured appendix. It was hard going, really hard, being 6,000 miles from home, completely alone, and not knowing at the time how long I’d be there for.
The only thing that kept me going was the medical staff at my travel insurance company, who were beyond incredible at staying in touch, giving me somebody to talk to around the clock, helping explain any medical procedures, keeping my family up to date, and making sure that when I was ready to go home that my medical bill was paid in full and that there was a business-class airline seat waiting for me to stretch out on.
I left the hospital on the day of my flight home and two paramedics kindly drove me to the airport. As I sat in the departure lounge, watching a flawless tropical sunset, I felt like I understood the word ‘bittersweet’ for the first time. I was intolerably sad to be leaving Thailand so soon, yet I was looking forward to seeing my family after such a trying time.
I also knew how lucky I was, in a strange sense, and how things could have been so much worse. The only thing I’d really had to deal with was pain and discomfort. Everything else was handled smoothly and efficiently by the medical staff and my insurance company. Were it not for them I could have been landed with a £15,000 bill at best, and at worst… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.
Luckily, Jamie made a full-recovery (aside from some lovely scars) and went on to conquer HK, Vietnam and Cambodia. You can read about his travels here: www.jleef.co.uk