Post written December 24: When I booked the trip to Nepal, the tour company, Nepal Eco Adventure, mentioned it was mandatory to have travel insurance. Of course I would ensure that I was fully covered because that’s just smart travel… but usually with travel insurance, you never think you’re going to need it.
Before I left, I verified that I was covered for trekking under my employer group plan, Alberta Blue Cross. I also topped up my RBC Infinite Avion VISA travel insurance, just in case.
Yesterday I found myself waiting for a helicopter rescue. Now I can’t tell you the exact cost of what that would be, but think about the hourly cost of getting a helicopter to leave from Kathmandu, travel for half an hour before refuelling, then travel through the Khumbu valley of the Himalayas to extract someone. When the rescue helicopter picked up me and Ramesh, we flew back to Lukla, where Chhatra, the owner of Nepal Eco Adventures, was waiting to check in. We refueled, and then went back to Kathmandu. The whole medical extraction process was quite exceptional, actually. A van from Swacon International Hospital was waiting outside the airport, ready to take me directly to the hospital for emergency help.
Upon arrival, the doctor and nurse were waiting to greet me. “Please, come this way”, they said. Right through the doors was a bed. I took off my boots and got comfortable. They inserted an IV tube into me for rehydration. I was suddenly taking medications for nausea, cough, headaches, and gastric issues. All my vitals were checked. Then I was taken for a chest xray and brought to my private room with full bathroom and big screen TV. Over the next several hours, many wonderful nurses would come in and out of my room, checking the drip bag, giving more medications, putting an inhalation mask over my face for the cough, and checking to see if I needed anything. Ramen noodles were brought to me, and a dinner order was taken. It was seriously wonderful service. Chhatra and Ramesh were on hand checking in on me as well. It wasn’t like I was helpless… I just think the level of care and service was exceptional!
At some point I passed out and had the longest and most restful sleep I had had in days. It’s Christmas Eve as I write this. The staff has continued to monitor me and take my vitals. They bring in drugs every once in a while for nausea and a cough that won’t go away. I don’t completely have my appetite back so I’m eating small meals- more ramen noodles with bread, for example, or just toast for breakfast. I’ve had an ultrasound done just to make sure things are okay. The doctor just came in not too long ago and they’ll keep me here today for observation. My blood glucose level has gone back up to normal levels. I’ll be discharged on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to me!
I don’t think I fully understood how bad as I was doing. I mean, I could feel that I wasn’t doing well at all. After talking to my guide, who has been guiding for 18 years, it was the second time he has had to recommend a helicopter evacuation… so it doesn’t happen often. Based on his guiding experience, he knew I was bad. He’s also seen/heard of people who decide to push on and then something really bad happens, or they die once they get back to the city. That is not the story I would have wanted.
I started this post talking about insurance, but I haven’t really chatted about it. And that’s a good thing! So I don’t know how much all of this would have cost. Factor in the helicopter, ambulance service from the airport, 3 days of in-patient care, doctor and nursing staff, a chest xray and ultrasound, and all the medications, I’m thinking I’m easily looking at way over 10K in medical costs. But I don’t have to think about that. When I phoned Blue Cross this morning, I was concerned about the next steps. Unbeknownst to me, everything was already in motion. The hospital had opened up a claim. Medical records were being sent. Blue Cross and the helicopter rescue company were settling the medical evacuation costs. I was advised to just relax and get better as my main priority.
So that’s what I’ve been doing all day. Resting. Watching TV. Writing. Chatting with Chhatra and Ramesh. And not thinking about medical costs.
Moral of the story? Always travel with travel insurance. You just never ever know when you’ll need an emergency helicopter rescue out of the Himalayas!
Update Jan 12: I just received in the mail records of my claims!
Remote Emergency Evacuation (heli-rescue): $13952.40CAD
Hospital Treatments for 2 days: $2861.88CAD