At the end of my first year of University, three friends and I decided to go backpacking around South East Asia for our summer holidays. We had planned the most incredible trip throughout the year, saved like crazy and finally a few days after Christmas flew out to Thailand to begin our travels through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Unfortunately things didn’t quite go to plan for me and I’ve recently teamed up with Southern Cross Travel Insurance to share my story and reiterate the importance of having travel insurance when you travel!
FULL MOON PARTY
We flew straight from Bangkok to Ko Pha Ngan where the New Years Eve Full Moon Party would be taking place. After a few days of island hopping, drinking and relaxing it was New Years Eve.
We set off to Haad Rin beach which was on the other side of the island and had a few drinks whilst trying to take it all in! It was such a full on, crazy environment with people everywhere. Shortly after the midnight fireworks, we wandered down the beach to the fire skipping rope and fire slide area. There’s no rules and no health and safety here!
I’m very accident prone, and so was hesitant to take part, but after some gentle persuasion from my friends I climbed the rope to the top of the slide and slid down it. It was over a metre from the end of the slide to the ground and I landed really awkwardly on the sand, breaking my ankle in the fall!
MY MEDICAL EXPERIENCE IN THAILAND
Ko Pha Ngan only had a small medical clinic. There were medics on the beach who assessed my injury and knew my ankle was broken. I was taken to the clinic in an “ambulance” which was just a Ute (truck for our Pommie & US readers). The journey lasted around an hour during which we bumped along the roads with my broken leg flying about. It was the middle of the night, but they assessed me there and advised I would need surgery. For this I would need to be transferred to Ko Samui.
The next morning, my friends and I took a ferry to Koh Samui, where we were met by an ambulance and taken to an international hospital. The ferry was full of injured westerners from the night before (some in a lot worse state than I was).
It was around 24 hours before I received any painkillers, and my surgery took place very late at night the day I arrived. I’d broken both my tibia and fibula (ouch!!!), and during surgery they put in a plate, seven screws and a nail to fuse my bones!
The quality of care in Ko Samui was surprisingly fantastic. I had a private room with bathroom, English TV (YAY!) and despite the doctors and nurses barely speaking English, I was well looked after. I spent eight days in hospital all together (they removed the drains in my ankle around day 6 which at least meant I could go to the bathroom myself…more YAY!). I was finally allowed to fly home on day 8.
PAYING FOR TREATMENT
I’ve always said “If you have enough money to travel, you have enough money for insurance”.
For every single trip I have been on, I have always been insured. My insurance for this trip cost me about $180 Australian dollars for six weeks. What a bargain considering my medical bills were in excess of $20,000 Australian dollars!
It was pre Wi-Fi and phones with data so the hospital lent us a phone to contact the insurers, who were prompt and excellent, contacting me daily for updates where I would speak to a nurse and fill her in on how I was feeling. They arranged all my flights back to Australia and I was upgraded to business class so that I could have my leg up for the entire journey. I can’t recommend strongly enough that people always get insurance!!!
THE AFTERMATH OF MY ACCIDENT
My parents arranged for me to see a Orthopaedic Surgeon in Australia, as soon as I got home from Thailand, to ensure the surgery was all done correctly (which it was luckily)! I then spent a few months in plaster followed by a boot, and had physiotherapy for about 6 months.
12 months after I returned, I had further surgery to remove all the metal in my ankle. My ankle feels almost as good as new now! I’ve been very lucky, and it only aches after really long hikes and in the cold! I even hiked the Inca Trail in Peru in 2013 with hardly any hassles!
LESSON LEARNT & MY ADVICE TO OTHERS
I should have listened to my gut instinct that was telling me it was a stupid idea (due to my accident prone nature). I’ve learnt my lesson, and whilst I am still all for adventures whilst travelling, if something just doesn’t feel right then I won’t do it. If you’re visiting Thailand and planning on attending a Full Moon Party just be aware that there’s a lot of dangerous things there and so it is really important to exercise good judgement and common sense to stay safe.
If the worst should happen? Stay calm and find help, and as much as possible try to stay positive. I was lucky as I was with friends initially and once I was settled in hospital they continued travelling (as I urged them to do)! I did struggle in hospital, with the language barrier, being alone and generally being devastated my trip was cut so short. I think back now and we’d planned to hire motorbikes and drive around the island the next day. There’s absolutely no way I would ever do this at home, so I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea in Thailand. I like to think that the broken ankle was taking me out of action so that I couldn’t get on a motorbike the next day and do much worse damage!
I was scared to travel again initially and due to the long recovery process I didn’t go overseas for about 12 months after my accident. I’m happy to say though that it hasn’t stopped me travelling and since then I’ve visited the US, South America, Morocco, most of Europe, Turkey and even lived in the UK for two years! I do sometimes still get worried about getting injured again as it was quite a traumatic experience but I’m so lucky to have Dan who both encourages and supports me through all the exciting adventures we have whilst travelling. I am also lucky that thanks to having travel insurance I wasn’t saddled with $20,000 of debt from my medical expenses.
The moral of the story – trust your gut instinct and ALWAYS get travel insurance!
Thanks to Southern Cross Travel Insurance for allowing me to share my story & I hope that it may help others in the future should things go wrong when you are travelling!
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