Here's my personal true-life story.
Thirty years ago,as a young, headstrong lawyer between jobs, I decided to take a solo vacation exploring Mayan ruins in the Mexican Yucatan. On my way to a lesser known archeological site, I missed a turn on a lonely, unmarked gravel road. In my attempt to correct course, I rolled the
Volkswagen Beetle I had rented.
Thrown out of the vehicle, I landed pinned under it. I remembered thinking how deserted the area was. I had passed very few autos. People were a scarcity as well. I started screaming, ayudame, ayudame. Help me. Help me…to deaf ears.
I was worried about what I had done to my body, but I somehow knew I would get out of this predicament. It felt like I had broken my back and some ribs since whenever I took a breath, I felt a great deal of pain in my chest.
After a while —I’m not exactly certain how much time had passed—but I heard the sound of a Jeep approaching. A man got out of the car and started speaking to me in what sounded like German. I wasn’t certain, but what I shortly discovered was that he didn’t speak English or Spanish. Somehow he conveyed to me that I shouldn’t worry, he was going to get help. And off he went.
I waited...and waited. The sun was blazing and I felt that if I didn’t get something to drink soon, I would die of dehydration. More time went by. I must have dozed off. When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by a dozen or more people., I heard someone say levanta, lift. The next thing I saw was the car being lifted off of me.
After I thanked everyone profusely, the next thing I knew I was being lifted onto what appeared to be the backseat of a bus—an improvised gurney. It was from a local school bus. Then I was driven to a nearby hospital, a one-hour, torturous ride. I could feel every stone and pot hole in the road. Finally, we turned into what looked like a one-room school house. This was not what my idea of a hospital should look like. I started worrying again.
Then things got worse. The hospital administrator poked his head into the bus and asked me if I had Mexican health insurance. Jokingly, I said, “no, but I have American Express.” He didn’t laugh. Finally a doctor intervened. They hooked me up to an IV so that I could get some fluid into my system. The doctor gave me a cursory examination and said he thought I had multiple fractures of both my pelvis and ribs. He told me not to worry; they were going to drive me to Cancun, the next closest major hospital.From there I was flown to Miami.
I had to purchase six seats. The airline removed two seats in each of three rows, so that a gurney would fit. I was lifted onto the plane from the back food loading area. It was the only place wide enough to fit the gurney. As I looked down on this vertical entrance,
I hoped I wouldn’t fall off the stretcher or be confused as the evening’s snack. What a way to make a memorable entrance. I flew to Miami flat on my back, strapped to the stretcher. Two Colombian doctors(a husband and wife)happened to be on the flight. They sat next to me and did everything they could to keep my spirits up. Some real spirits would have alleviated the pain, but someone must have told the flight attendants no booze for this girl.
When we landed in Miami,my father was there to meet me. I’m sure I was a sight for sore eyes, but seeing my father was the best thing that happened to me. He had made arrangements for me to be rushed to a trauma level-one hospital. Suddenly, I was surrounded by what seemed like every doctor in the hospital.
X-rays showed that I had fractured my pelvis in eight places, dislocated it and as if that wasn’t enough, I had fractured eight ribs. The docs concluded I would need to be in traction for at least two months.
And here’s the kicker. My health insurance was canceled upon my leaving the first job and my new employment hadn’t started yet, so I had no insurance coverage from that firm. So here I was, facing large surgery bills and a lengthy hospital stay—and no insurance.
Okay, the story has a happy ending—well, as happy as can be expected. My new firm went way beyond the call of duty, and initiated coverage for me from their company insurer, effective retroactively!
So now, older and wiser,I think back on those fateful days and realize what a financial predicament I could have been in. Nowadays, I never travel without health insurance. And I tell all of my friends –as American Express would say, “Don’t leave home without it.”