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Suspense-killer: nothing really happened.  But …

Back-story:  we’ve always been resolutely travel-insurance-free and health-insurance-free.  Our thinking, and experience,  has been that we’ve saved enough through not paying premiums to buy ourselves a new hip or two as required, or get ourselves back to NZ if disaster strikes. And (in New Zealand at least) the public health service is fine by us.

But last year we did want insurance to go to Russia – and felt vaguely comforted by its untapped existence.

So – this year we decided to get insurance (health and travel arrangements) for our Swiss-time.

Recantation: (Flash of light, blast of trumpets) I now Believe in Travel Insurance.  And – it’s not about the money, it’s about the support.

So – there we were, doing our normal dash.  Landed in Bangkok from Auckland  – so with the ‘from home” time  we were about 18 hours underway.  Got fresh boarding passes – beer, game of chess, Mani’s blood pressure medication – then the route-march to our next gate. Bangkok terminal is L-O-N-G, and the travellators are only on the arrivals floor. Close to a kilometre later, onto a hot air-con-less plane.  Mani was sweating – with cause.   So far, so normal.

We start pushing back. Mani settles down for a pre-food nap. And suddenly he’s having a little seizure.  Nothing huge.  Nothing noticed by anyone except me. But definitely no longer still so normal.

By now, we’re starting towards the taxi lane.  I’ve got the woman over the aisle to call the flight attendant while I try to rouse Mani, who’s now groggily asking me what I think I’m doing. At least that’s what I think he’s saying – his mouth isn’t quite working right.  Then there are four flight attendants, and they’re talking to the captain, and (Aaargh!) he’s on the PA saying there’s been a medical emergency and we’re taxiing back to the terminal.   I’m trying to remember what the quick tests for stroke are – was that a mini-stroke?   Well – the speech centres weren’t affected for more than a minute or so. Mani is now articulating quite well that he’s fine and was only having a little nap, and would I stop picking on him.

By now, we’re back by the terminal and three ambulance staff are on board and they’re discussing whether to use the hoist to get him off the plane.    Mani is trying to persuade them nothing had happened, while I’m trying to persuade him that there’s no way the plane’s going to fly with him on board.  The attendants had already got our overhead luggage lined up by the door.

Consensus – he can walk off.  So that long trip down the aisle – apologising left and right for causing our fellow-passengers delay, and thinking maybe a stretcher and hoist would be a convincing prop to justify the fuss…   down the stairs and into the ambulance for initial checks.

Now I know, of course they'd have a little emergency room in an airport!

Now I know, of course they’d have a little emergency room in an airport!

First question to me: do you have insurance?  Me, matter-of-factly, yes.

From then on – it’s all organisation.   From the ambulance into a small (?two-room?) hospital in the airport, the medical staff monitoring and testing Mani, the Swiss Air staff cancelling our tickets and telling me how to rebook. I’m writing things down because I feel my memory scrambling   (which bag pocket did I put his passport in after finding it for the third person because now a fourth wants to see it?).

Then realisation – this is just a way-station. They’re definitely going to transfer him to a real hospital. Out through immigration, into another ambulance and off.  The driver put the siren on just once – when on an almost-empty 2am motorway a ute cut tightly in in front of us. That was the best bit.

A & E. More tests.   And the next realisation – they’re admitting him. We’re not getting out of here anytime soon.  Forms. Paperwork.  And hallelujah an insurance policy number  to write down. And a deposit to pay.

More trundling – to the ICU.  Another aaargh. In my mind, Intensive Care Units are about seriously sick people, life support systems. Hushed voices and lots of bleeps.   Well, happily, in this ICU it’s just about machines to monitor, and lots of nurses. A whole corridor-full, on little trundleable work-stations, outside the hospital rooms.  Mani’s hooked up.  Another doctor is giving him the once-over.

My phone is not working. I use a hospital operator to reach Margrit and Roman to tell them not to meet the plane, and put Mani on to reassure them he’s really ok and we’ll be in touch when we know what plane we’ll be on.    I am now more than 24 hours without sleep, and no idea where I might lay my head.  At the airport, someone had mentioned a nearby hotel – so I enquired.  “Oh madam, you can have a room here. Let me take you”.  Aaaah!

Never has a narrow bed been so welcome

Never has a narrow bed been so welcome

The Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital is a private hospital – with a unit in the airport, and ambulances between – no wonder the  process was seamless.  My respite was dual-purpose;  laid out like a hotel room, marble bathroom fittings, little toiletries and all  – but with a hospital bed. I climbed in, felt bed-matched to Mani, and was asleep.

Sleep is a wonderful thing.  After sleep I could make my phone go.   I could talk to Andrew at Cruiseabout in Wellington (ah the ease of english-as-a-first-language communication) and he could get the Southern Cross Travel Insurance people to call me.  They did.  And again it was easy – the “what next’s” clear.

And after sleep the next miracle appeared.  SamitivejSrinakarinHospital has an International Customer Support service.  She arrived, with impeccable communication skills.  They were setting up liaison with Southern Cross:  yes, they knew the contact details – they’d exchanged visits.  They were looking at re-booking flight options: would it be ok if we flew Thai instead of Swiss because we could do that tomorrow?  Would we like them to organise the hotel for tonight? Order the taxi to get us there?

I turned off my ‘must-get-organised’ mode, picked up my book, and left it to them.

Small  things amuse -especially when you're looking for light relief. What looks like a bench swivels out and discloses the necessary.

Small things amuse -especially when you’re looking for light relief. What looks like a bench swivels out and discloses the necessary.

Meantime, Mani is off to have an MRI.  A very long claustrophobic hour, but with great pictures to show for it.  An EEG – apparently the lighting effects are fantastic, but then there’s the stickiness of the electrodes to get off. Another ECG … I think they’ve eliminated everything but Athlete’s Foot.

And by the end of the day, the doctor is reviewing the scans with us and declaring that it was to all intents and purposes nothing more than a faint. A faint!  The faints I’ve seen (no names, dear friend) have been graceful slides to the floor – but apparently they can spasm like a seizure.

Mani is delighted, relishing the descriptions of his wide and strong carotid arteries – plenty of blood getting to that brain! Nothing abnormal showing anywhere.  Overall in very fine shape for his age (of course by the time he’s telling it, that translates to  “like a 25-year-old”).   Actually, the doctor seems genuinely pleased with it all – and I realise that it must be something of a professional bonus to be bearing “totally ordinary” news.

Out of the medical processes and back to the administrative ones.  Customer Services comes to the room, confirms the onwards flights, and what we’ll need to pay – and checks we have enough Baht for the taxi. Not enough? Accounts will exchange Swiss Francs.  Accounts turns up with the itemised bill.  It had been tactfully made very clear that because there’d not been time for them to confirm that Southern Cross was covering the claim,  we needed to pay before they handed over the medical reports and the vital “Fit to Fly” certificate.

We did. They did.  An escort to the taxi – and away.

So  – was the insurance worth it?  Yes!  Actually, the bill was not bad.  That wouldn’t have hurt much. But getting effortlessly drafted into a system set up to get you good care, and then organised and sent on your way – that was priceless!

I’m glad I’m a woman and therefore allowed to change my mind.