When things go wrong on holiday the trauma and anxiety is exacerbated by the foreign language, culture and procedures. Everyone hopes it will never happen – but accidents sometimes do. Navigating the medical landscape and travel insurers is difficult in one’s own country, never mind when abroad. It all adds up to a lot of stress and worry.
Accident Day – Day 1 – Thursday
A day out at an Adventure water park was planned at Escape on Penang Island, Malaysia.
We got there in a cab, bought our tickets, loaded up the electronic payment system, bought rash vests and beach shoes and headed off to explore what was available.
After exploring the water park we headed over the bridge to the adventure park. High rope walks, climbing walls, leaps of faith and zip wires were all popular.
The leap of faith was the first thing that Rez and Zahra decided to try. Harnessed up they climbed to the top of the 20m platform for the arrested descent jump.
Rez went first. He jumped. The descent was dramatically slowed by the system and Rez landed on two feet. I thought he would be bored by the long wait and lack of adrenalin.
That was until I heard a ‘pop’ sound about a second or so after he landed. I was about 10 feet away and I heard it and rushed over as Rez fell over- still harnessed up. We managed to unharness him and hop over to a bench where I removed his trainer and sock – only to discover a lump the size of a hockey ball at the side of his ankle.
Zahra was still up at the top of the jump so was (eventually) allowed to jump down too. Landed perfectly without any issue. Unharnessed herself and ran over to comfort daddy.
I asked for First Aiders. When they arrived they immediately placed an ice pack on the ankle to reduce the swelling and were initially reluctant to move Rez. After some time they sprayed his ankle and got two of the Escape team to assist whilst Rez hopped his way to the First Aid room.
The nurse and other first aided were rapidly in discussion. Neither of them were happy with the injury and finally said we needed to go to hospital as they thought it was a break.
Travelling to hospital
Ok. So how do we get there? Well they thought we could drive ourselves. I pointed out we were in holiday and got a cab to the park. I asked for an ambulance. This caused some discussion and eventually the customer service manager appeared. He explained that it would take an age for an ambulance to arrive and then take us to hospital. He could drive us to the local hospital and it would be much quicker. He would also stay with us to navigate the hospital system. I readily agreed.
A wheelchair was found and Rez was pushed down to the car park and loaded into the back of a jeep. The journey was along mountain twisty roads and through beautiful scenery, which was difficult to enjoy due to the circumstances. I was worried sick.
We finally arrived at the local village hospital.
The hospital was small, as one would expect for a local hospital. Unfortunately they were undergoing renovations. That meant we had to wait outside in the heat before being seen.
We registered, with assistance and translation, paid the registration fee and waited in the heat. After quite some time we were admitted into the Emergency room. And a room it was. The renovations meant that the Drs and nurses were working in a confined space but working diligently nonetheless.
After an initial assessment Rez was sent for an X-ray. After paying, we wheeled Rez around the corner (literally) to the x Ray room. X-rays done and wheeled back into the Emergency room. After the Drs assessed the X-ray the news of a bad fracture to the ankle was delivered. It would need a cast and probably pins and an operation. Wonderful! (sarcasm).
Then there was a further delay. After pushing for an update I discovered that the medical team were trying to discover the charge for a foreigner for a cast. After establishing the cost I went to pay using my card. Oh no Madam we only take cash. Flipping Nora. I then had to be driven to the local village to an ATM to take out a wad of cash and back to the hospital to pay. All while Rez was waiting in agony in the heat.
In the meantime, Zahra was camped out by the pharmacy waiting for Daddy’s prescription – which, to my surprise, they gave to her. (She’s 13.)
Back at the hospital I paid for the cast and then, and only then, did the staff prepare to put on the cast. A full back leg cast was applied. We were told to wait for it to set and then we could leave- with instructions to go to hospital back in Singapore ASAP for an operation.
Great -Rez was discharged. Erm, but we were in the middle of Penang in a village and we didn’t know where we were. We also did not have crutches or a wheelchair. Yes, just think about that. How on earth were we supposed to move?!
The staff member from the theme park came to the rescue again and agreed to drive us back to the hotel in the jeep. It was about 5pm by this point so this guy had spent all day with us by now.
It was on the long journey back to the hotel that my mind started spinning with all the consequences of this accident and what I was going to have to sort etc. I felt sick as a dog and was feeling incredibly anxious. The reality of the situation was hitting home hard.
When we eventually reached the hotel, they provided a knackered old patched up wheelchair for us to use- thankfully. I thanked the theme park staff member profusely and showed my gratitude. He was very gracious.
We managed to get Rez to the room and into bed to rest.
We called the insurers. Again.
I headed out to the local shopping mall with Zahra to the pharmacy to try and buy some crutches. They didn’t sell them but another shop did. We managed to buy some. Rez would now be able to hobble around at least.
I wasn’t hungry but we grabbed some food to take back to the hotel- not fancying a room service wait.
A very fitful night’s sleep followed.
Day 2 – Friday
So many phone calls – insurers insurers insurers! Lots of waiting around for decisions to be made. None of which we could influence. Different time zones didn’t help either. It was a long anxious day of waiting.
Day 3 – Saturday
Flight home confirmed for Rez only. Despite having an annual family travel policy the insurers underwriters, Tokyo Marine, decided that the policy only covered the injured party. They were quite happy to pay for treatment and flights back for Rez but not his wife and daughter.
Yes, the lack of common sense is astonishing. They really did expect Rez to call a cab, manage his own luggage and check in at the airport, on his own with crutches, without assistance. Assistance with a wheelchair would be provided at the airport after he had checked in.
Yes- I know – anyone with an ounce of common sense would be able to establish that wasn’t physically possible.
The insurance agent tried twice, unsuccessfully, to get the underwriters to change their mind. He did let me know what flight he was planning to get Rez into and stayed on the phone whilst I booked tickets for me and Zahra. Once we were confirmed on the flight he booked Rez on.
We were on our way back to Singapore.
Check out at the hotel caused confusion as we were leaving a day early. They ordered a large MPV to get us to the airport and off we went.
At Penang Airport
The airport is being expanded and upgraded. Building work and hoardings everywhere. Trying to locate the right check in desk was tricky to say the least. The map / plan provided was pretty much indecipherable unless you were travelling with Air Asia.
We found an information counter and requested a wheelchair. There was some consternation about this as it was a wheelchair for the lobby only and we would have to change wheelchairs at check in. Ok. Then they requested to hold a passport as security. I refused. There was a language barrier so I did not bother trying to communicate how on earth we were supposed to check in with out a passport. Again, the common sense seemed to be lacking. I write down my passport details in a book and that satisfied them enough to release a temporary wheelchair for Rez.
He had to push himself around as Zahra and I had a luggage trolley each. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long for the checkin counter to come up on the screen. The queues formed quickly as the staff hadn’t even arrived at the desks. We waited in line for about 30 mins before we could checkin. Whilst I was checking us all in, a different wheelchair was brought for Rez and an assistant to push him around. Zahra took the other wheelchair back and I had to go over after checking in to sign and confirm it’s return.
We then proceeded to immigration where the assistant managed to bang Rez leg into the immigration counter making him squeal. The immigration officer was unmoved and waited for Rez to provide his fingers for the scan. Once through immigration we went through the security screening, which was actually quite efficient considering we had a wheelchair and crutches to get through.
We were then walked through staff areas, behind the scenes, to get to the lounge. Rez received complimentary access but we had to pay. Again, they were just going to wheel him in and let him wait alone. Obviously we paid to join him. Then it was a relaxing hour until he flight was called.
Again, an easy process into the aircraft and into the seat. We were on our way home.
The process through Changi airport went smoothly and we were met back in Singapore by our friend Nick, who gave us a lift home.
Day 4 – Sunday
We went to the Emergency dept of Raffles hospital. It was very quiet for a Sunday. A Dr just happened to be in the lobby when we arrived and immediately offered a wheelchair and directed us where to go. Registering was quick and easy and the hospital liaises with the insurer direct (so we didn’t have to pay and reclaim).
Two Drs took a look at Rez’s ankle and X-ray. They confirmed that it was indeed a bad fracture. The plastered him back up (but with a smaller cast) and told us to come back tomorrow to see the orthopaedic surgeon under an emergency appointment.
We headed home to rest.
Day 5 – Monday
Nick picked us up early and we were in the hospital early for the appointment. We were seen as soon as the dept opened. The orthopaedic surgeon Rez saw is the Managing Director of the dept so it doesn’t get much better than that.
More examinations, x-rays and a lot of sitting around waiting. It was a busy dept and the surgeon was fitting Rez in between his other appointments. Eventually the surgeon advised that as the bone hadn’t shifted it was possible to have a cast rather than an operation and pins inserted. What a huge relief. More waiting around (over an hour) before the surgeon was free to put Rez’s new smaller (and blue) cast on.
After it set we were given a shower cover and another appointment made for two weeks time to have the cast changed. (The humid climate here in Singapore is not great for casts apparently). Rez was signed off work on “hospital leave”. We then had to go to physio to collect new crutches. More waiting. Finally, the physio taught Rez how to use under armpit crutches and provided a new pair.
After 5 and a half hours at hospital we finally headed home; tired but relieved.
Time to rest, recover and recuperate.
Well we’ll have to claim all the miscellaneous expenses from the insurers at some point and it will be interesting to see what their interpretation of necessary expenditure is (such as crutches). We will also be submitting a formal complaint at some point about the ludicrous policy of separating a family when one is injured. Hopefully a complaint will make them reassess their policy in future so others don’t have to deal with that nightmare in an already anxious time.
In the meantime I have to try and keep my usually very active cycling husband confined to bed or the sofa with his leg elevated so he can heal. It’s going to be very difficult!
Thank you to everyone who prayed for us all. Another example of the power of prayer as no operation was required.
Thank you to all our friends who sent positive thoughts and well wishes. We felt the love and support you wonderful people.