Thursday, June 2, 2011


Leaving on the adventure

You're in a fog of pain from injury or acute illness. You're in a foreign country where the language and medical processes are unfamiliar. You're being asked the same questions at each stage of your medical journey and you're having difficulty providing the answers.

When our traveling companion was felled by a kidney stone, his wife drew a few lessons from the experience that she shared with us as "must do's" to be prepared for medical emergencies while traveling. They seem self-evident, but how many of us do them?

1 - Carry with you in writing the following information (you'll be asked over and over):

       a. Your passport to show your name and address

       b. Your height and weight in metric (meters, kilograms) or other local measurements  (see a worldwide metric converter here )

       c. List of medications you take, including over-the-counter, with dosages and frequency

       d. Allergies

       e. Past surgeries

2 - Have information on your insurance policies.

3 - Have cash to pay various medical providers. Payments may be reimbursable by your insurance so get receipts.

4 - Actually read your insurance policies so you'll know what's covered and proper procedures for submitting claims.

My friend was willing to describe for me where cash was needed and where their particular insurance will kick in, based on their experience in France. Experience may differ in other countries and with other insurance policies.

1 - Cash to doctor who came to hotel room to examine patient and gave preliminary exam

2 - Cash for ambulance to transport patient to hospital

3 - Cash (or "euro card" which they did not have) for deposit toward labs, x-rays and overnight as outpatient, balance to be billed when known. (Their travel policy requires that outpatient treatment for the first 24 hours be paid in advance, then reimbursed.)

4 - Cash for several taxi rides

5 - Cash for ambulance transfer on 2nd day to larger city, as surgery room was not currently available at the original hospital. (Wife and luggage were able to accompany patient in the ambulance so an additional expense here was avoided.)

6 - Patient was admitted to the second hospital overnight for a procedure.  Insurance company will be billed directly.

7 - There were translators involved in communication between the hospital and insurance company.

Incidentally, the wife used an iPod emergency phrase voice translator to request the doctor. (I don't think that's the actual name of the app but that's what it did.)

The cash outlay was not as much as you might imagine, something on the order of 500 euros (~ $720).

I personally always buy travel insurance, including for trip cancellation.  As I plunk out the bucks for it, I wonder sometimes whether it's worth it, but this incident reinforces the notion that you just never know what might happen.

I will be reading my policy more closely.

I will be calculating my height and weight in metric and carrying that list of meds.

Coincidentally, as I was planning to write this blog topic today, the Today Show had a segment on travel insurance. You can see the video here.

To read up on the topic, here are a couple of articles from earlier Today Show segments, one from Peter Greenberg, "Do you need travel insurance?" and one from Laura Coffey, "Is travel insurance worth the money?"* that cover a lot of bases.

* Scroll past html for plain text.

See you tomorrow.



  1. This is good information, Lee. I also buy trip insurance. It seems like a small price for peace of mind. But I have no idea what my metric measurements are. Yikes!

  2. Here's just one website where you can calculate your info:

  3. I am glad I bought travel insurance for the trip, since I was felled by a bad sciatic nerve injury and had to have surgery even before it was time to go! I have all the paperwork to file for reimbursement, so I'm hoping I'll not be out of pocket.
    However, I had not gotten around to getting insurance for my seminar at Asilomar, and wound up sending a friend in my place. A good lesson--always getting insurance now!

  4. mehitabel, I was thinking about you, and the other person who had a pre-trip injury and was unable to come, when I mentioned the trip cancellation part of insurance. It sounds like it's a good thing you didn't try to tough it out on the trip. How is the recuperation coming along?

  5. On your meds, also include FREQUENCY. Once a day, twice a day, every 12 hours etc...

  6. Thanks, Sister. I'll add that inside the blog.