Imagine getting seriously ill or injured while you’re far from home; without your family, friends, your usual doctor nearby. Maybe you don’t even speak the language of where you are. For many people, this can be a very scary time, but we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be as bad as you might fear. Depending on the injury or illness, preparation and a calm reaction can go a long way to ensuring that you come out of side of this challenging time with just an interesting story to tell your friends back home. Of course, there are also the other cases, the more serious situations such as the story of Kalae, the champion boxer from Hawaii who became seriously ill while training in Thailand. These are the stories that could scare even the most experienced traveler. Inspired by his story of hope and survival, we have created this simple guide for how to deal with sudden illness or injury while abroad.
Before You Leave Home
Most people don’t like to think about getting sick or seriously hurt, and especially not while planning for vacation. However, even more than when you’re at home, preparation for these incidences while overseas is crucial. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s not to say that you can prevent an accident or an emergency, which are by nature not preventable. What you can prevent are any unnecessary disasters that could result from lack of preparation. To that end, here are a few things you can do before leaving home:
- Do you have any preexisting conditions? Bring extra medication to have on hand in case your luggage is misplaced, or your travels become delayed.
- Have you done your research on the healthcare system of your destination? Research the major hospitals, where they’re located in relationship to your accommodation, as well as the available emergency transportation services.
- Do you have travel insurance that covers healthcare? If not, do this before you leave your country of origin, as many providers will not insure you once you’re already on the road. Make sure your plan covers you for evacuation.
- Any pertinent medical information? Bring copies along with you, and let your primary care doctor know where you’ll be traveling and for how long.
- Do you know your blood type? Make sure you do, and communicate it to people who need to know.
In Case of Emergency
If something does happen when you’re far from home, it can be easy to panic and get scared. However, the first and most important step is to remain calm. If you’re in an accident, you will need to calmly tell emergency personnel what is going on with you, and what you need from them, assuming that you’re able. And in the case of serious illness, being calm can help you better understand what your healthcare providers need from you.
- Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible and explain your situation.
- Depending on what part of the world you’re traveling to, you may need to be respectfully outspoken about the quality and type of medical treatment you receive.
- If possible, seek out an international hospital that might have personnel who can accommodate your language and cultural preferences.
- Ask someone for help. Traveling alone can be a fun and interesting experience, and everyone should be free to make their own travel choices based on their desires and limitations. However, in situations of sudden illness or injury, having someone who can help you get to the hospital or even advocate on your behalf can be very helpful.
- If your condition worsens, or the medical care where you are can’t accommodate your needs, contact your family to arrange for a medical evacuation. In addition to emotional support, your family can be instrumental in coordinating with resources in your home country.
Kalae arrived in Thailand for an intensive training program, but his plans took a drastic turn when a headache quickly escalated into a collapse and being rushed to the hospital. Because his circumstances were critical, Kalae’s family were engaged almost immediately in helping him receive the care he needs, at the right facility. As soon as he found out what happened, Kalae’s father was on the first flight to Thailand, and acted quickly to make sure that his son was rushed to Bumrungrad International Hospital. This quick action by his family and the doctors at Bumrungrad who immediately began administering the latest investigative care, played a crucial role in Kalae’s recovery. By receiving exactly the advanced care his condition demanded, Kalae’s transfer to a facility in his home country was one that led to his success story. Instead of ending up in long-term care, Kalae is back on his feet and fighting to get back into the ring. Watch Kalae’s story unfold here.