Truth; I love to travel at least twice a year.
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I live in Canada, so sometimes exploring my beautiful country feeds my hunger, sometimes taking a little road trip to our American neighbors is something special, or sometimes (because it’s really freaken cold in the winter where I live) I like to go where it’s hot and get a winter break.
Whatever it is, I love it, I love to explore and experience the culture of the world! I feel like it makes me a better person, get that break from the daily grind, and it fills me with such wonder and knowledge that you can’t get out of a book or the internet.
Experience is everything!
Until the last thing you expect happens and your life as you know it changes.
I’m talking about my most recent trip – I went to the Philippines and Thailand with my mom, brother, and aunt for about a month.
It was going super great! A cousin from Vancouver had a beautiful wedding on the beach. We got to see my moms home town, hung out with a lot of relatives, and also explored new places.
Then we went to beautiful El Nido, Palawan. Holy man was it beautiful! The water was so blue, the lagoons were vast and afar, and the seafood was fresh. It really did feel like paradise. I remember when my mom, brother and I first arrived, we had lunch at this restaurant right on the beach. They had summer-y relaxing house music playing, we had delicious fresh mango shakes, and an awesome meal!
(I opted for a cheeseburger because I was missing American food at this point but it was still delicious!)
My mom booked us a tour for the day to explore El Nido’s lagoons by boat and oh man was it worth the money.
Seriously. If you ever get the chance to go to the Philippines, get on a plane to El Nido and book the lagoon tour!
Our trip was pretty jam packed with activities so we were always on the go. After being in El Nido for a few days, we went back to Manila for one night, then off to Thailand in the morning.
Then that’s when it happened.
I would wear contacts so it’s normal that my eyes would feel irritated after wearing them for a while. I try to take extra care by cleaning and changing them often. (I use to work in an Ophthalmology office so I saw what would happen if you didn’t, and it isn’t pretty)
I woke up in a bit of pain in my right eye and figured I may have scratched my eye taking out a contact lens. It happens. I then began to flush my eye with artificial tears and hoped for the best.
Well, an hour later my eye was in pain. I spoke to my brother who also worked at the Ophthalmology office I use to manage and he thought it was scratched as well so him and my mom went to a local pharmacy and picked up an OTC ointment for me to use.
It felt better but not really.
Then it started to get scary. Slowly it started to hurt a lot. A lot a lot. And my eye became really really blurry. It was concerning because I waited a few hours and it only seemed to get worse. I contemplated going to the local emergency and then realized we had to leave to catch our flight to Thailand in a few hours.
I panicked. My eye was going dark, there was pus coming out, it was in so much pain, and we were getting on a flight to a country I didn’t know and didn’t speak the language.
Once checked in at the airport, waiting for our flight, I used my extra detective Google skills and searched “eye emergency Bangkok”.
Do you believe in fate? Because I do. I believe everything happens for a reason no matter if it’s good or bad, that is the path our lives are supposed to take.
Well, I stumbled upon an eye hospital called “Rutinin Eye Hospital” which had great reviews from travelers saying that this hospital was great and they spoke English. I didn’t care, I just needed a hospital that spoke English that would see me asap.
They had a 24/7 phone line. Jackpot.
I called, confirmed they spoke English, and got an appointment with an Ophthalmologist about 2 hours after our flight landed.
So I was super worried it’s one of those grungy hospitals you see on TV, but holy cow it was not. Not even close.
Honestly, the eye hospital was huge, SO clean and SO organized. I’ve never seen something like it. It seemed to trump anything we have in my home city. I know this hospital is funded privately and that’s probably why, but holy geez I hit the jackpot.
The first Ophthalmologist saw me right away. And he was scared. My eye scared him. By this point, I couldn’t open it and couldn’t see anything when I did.
He asked how long I’d be in Thailand (we were leaving after one more night) and he said “Oh no. No no. You’re going to have to stay a long long time. With your eye like this. I’m going to have you see the corneal surgeon. Your cornea is badly infected.”
THE SURGEON? WHAT?
So I’m crying at this point. And also as I type this. It brings back such memories. I remember being so so scared and sobbing in the hospital. The things that were going through my mind;
I’m going to lose my eye.
I need surgery. I’m going to stay in Thailand for a long time.
Will I ever be able to see again?
How am I going to pay my rent?
How am I going to pay for a surgery and weeks stay at the hospital?
Will my travel insurance cover this?
(oh man I’m actually having trouble typing this)
That was another concern. Surgery in a foreign country is expensive! Even if it’s Thailand! So I panicked, took my brother’s phone, and bought additional coverage hoping it would help if anything further needed to be done.
I wish I would have thought about additional travel insurance before my trip. But you never really think about it! I mean, how many trips have I been where I didn’t need it? Probably at least 50.
But it just takes one.
Just one trip. Just one time. Just once to need the travel insurance.
This was that time.
A few hours later I was able to see the corneal surgeon. She said my eye was bad. Real bad. My cornea was melting as we speak and it was a severe corneal ulcer.
There was a hole in my cornea. It’s gross. If you have a strong stomach, Google what a corneal ulcer is and that would be my eye.
I couldn’t even look at the pictures she took for my chart. I couldn’t.
She started me on round the clock antibiotics. I was to stay at the hospital overnight but they didn’t have beds and since my mom is a nurse, she could help me with my drops. I had to set a freaken timer on my phone because it was every 15 minutes. I didn’t sleep.
I saw her again in the morning. She gave me more medication, said I was safe to fly back to Manila and to see her colleague there. My entire visit with medication and small procedure of cutting my eyelashes worked out to be $150 Canadian. I really lucked out. I know I’d have to pay for the visits in Manila and they would be a bit more expensive but I didn’t care. I just wanted my eye to get better. Those visits worked out to be $80 Canadian and well worth every cent. I was super fortunate that I did not require surgery and have to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time. Who knows how much that bill would have been!
to today and my eye is a million times better. It doesn’t hurt anymore and I can see out of the eye now. It’s quite blurry because the ulcer has left a scar, but I got to keep my eye and that’s what matters. I’m still on eye drops but just once a day, and I see my doctor here in about a month where we will finally discuss vision options since my swelling has gone down.
I’ve learned that you could never be too careful. That something that happens to one in a couple hundred thousand people, could happen to you.
It happened to me.
So ladies and gents, get travel insurance. Get it before you go ANYWHERE. You never really freaken know when you’ll need it and it’s just such a small investment in your health.
Only 15% of travellers get insurance, and many get it while they are already travelling!
A really great company for travel insurance is World Nomads. Seriously, check out the quote thing below for your future travels. They offer super comprehensive coverage, and I now will always go with the Explorer package since it’s usually only a few dollars more and you get SO MUCH more coverage.
Travelling in the near future? Book mark this and grab some insurance through Word Nomads – you’ll be glad you did.