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Don’t be Stranded in a Travel Emergency

Donna and Alan Hull in Lucerne, Switzerland.

I’m smiling through the pain as Alan and I pose in front of the Lion of Lucerne.

You’re bicycling through a French vineyard. Splat! You just fell down and broke a leg. At the hospital, the doctor says that the injury requires a full leg cast. Uh-oh. The full leg cast means that you can’t fly on a commercial airliner. But all you want to do is go home to doctors that you know and trust. What do you do—spend thousands of dollars waiting it out in France—or spend thousands of dollars on a medical transport home?

If you had joined a medical evacuation program like MedjetAssist before leaving on the trip, you would have been picked up from the French hospital and delivered to the hospital of your choice at home, all for a low yearly membership fee.

There’s a warm spot in my heart for MedjetAssist because the company rescued me from a medical emergency in Switzerland. Whenever I attend AARP’s [email protected]+ events, I stop by their booth to say hi. And my latest visit to [email protected]+ in Boston was no exception. I like to tease my MedjetAssist friends by saying that I’m a walking talking commercial for them. And I’m happy to share the experience with anyone who will listen.

AARP members receive up to 18% off on MedjetAssist memberships.

In December 2012, Alan and I were enjoying a lovely Rhine River Christmas markets cruise. We had just completed the river portion of our trip and had begun a 3-day land extension in Lucerne, Switzerland—the part of the trip that I was most excited about. But all I remember is feeling miserable posing in front of the Lion of Lucerne and hoping that I could walk back to the hotel.

The next morning, a Friday, I woke up in the Hotel Schweizerhof Lucerne and realized that I could not get out of bed. With Alan’s help, I walked the few, excruciatingly painful steps across the floor to the bathroom. Returning to the bed, I curled up into a ball and cried.

My back had been talking to me for days:  first a whisper, then a nagging reminder during most of my waking hours and finally shouting for my attention that morning in Lucerne. My back was finally saying, “Pay attention. There’s something wrong with me. Don’t even think about powering your way through this.”

Since we were on tour with our travel agents from Brown & Keene Travel, Ngaire and Ken Hytura, Alan alerted them; and they put a plan in motion to deliver me to a hospital. Once I was rolled through the hospital’s doorway and settled into a semi-private room, Ngaire and Ken worked the phones on my behalf, calling MedjetAssist to arrange transport back to the U.S., as well as alerting CSA, our travel insurance provider.

A hospital room with a view in Lucerne, Switzerland

View from my semi-private hospital room in Lucerne, Switzerland

On Saturday morning, the day after I had been admitted to the hospital, a take-charge travel nurse, Debbie Perdomo, bounced into my room to begin the arrangements for taking me home. I listened to her familiar southern drawl (it turns out that we both grew up in the South) as she conferenced with the nurses, some of whom did not speak any English, about my medications.

My injury did not require transport in a medical evacuation jet. Instead MedjetAssist arranged for business class travel for me and economy for Alan. By Sunday, Debbie was accompanying us through our day of travel, after arranging car services to and from the airports as well as wheelchair access. She also kept me safely medicated so that I could tolerate the journey home. And she tried to keep Alan from worrying.

After traveling for almost 24 hours, Debbie said goodbye to us at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula, Montana. The cost? Not a single penny out of pocket for the medical transport home.

What would have happened without my MedjetAssist membership? Our travel insurance policy had already done it’s job, delivering me to the closest acceptable hospital. How much money would I have spent before making it home?

There’s a wait and see attitude about back injuries in much of the medical community. After an MRI diagnosed a herniated disc in my lower back, the Swiss physician advised the wait and see approach. Hmm, hang around in an expensive Swiss hotel waiting for who knows how long until I would be able to fly home? In my case, that would have been the wrong approach. Once I returned to the U.S., my neurosurgeon discovered that I had developed a drop foot from the herniated disc. He ordered immediate surgery to avoid any further nerve damage.

Alan and I have belonged to MedjetAssist for years, although we sometimes let the membership lapse between major trips. Of course Alan always complained when I insisted on renewing the coverage.

After our Swiss experience, Alan told me, “I’ll never again complain about renewing the MedjetAssist membership. What would we have done without them?”

As I wrote earlier, AARP members receive up to an 18% discount on yearly memberships. Look at the Medjet savings:

  • Annual Membership: $215 (normally $260)
  • Family Membership: $325 (normally $395)
  • Short Term Membership:  Starting at $80 (normally $99)

Would you risk thousands of dollars for a medical evacuation or pay the nominal MedjetAssist yearly membership fee? The decision is a no-brainer for us. Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email.

Disclosure: AARP Member Advantages provided my travel experience to [email protected]+ in Boston. However the opinions and experiences are my own. Alan and I are paying clients of MedjetAssist and I am not a paid spokesperson for the company.

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