Insurance companies. Some are quick enough to take your premiums but equally quick to wriggle out of their obligations should you need to claim. Having heard the story of my friend Gary and his recent trip though, I’ve started to appreciate that one day an insurance company might just save your life.

The story begins in 2008 when Gary was kicked by a horse and foolishly chose to ignore the subsequent pain – a ticking medical time bomb that nearly proved fatal. Fast forward two years and Gary is in Bali, busily taking pictures before flying home that evening. At one point Gary crouched down to take a photo and felt a shooting pain in his calf accompanied by his leg turning completely white.

Gary is a ginger, Scottish man so the fact that any lightening of his skin colour was noticeable caused concern and he immediately headed to hospital. The doctor took one look at Gary’s leg, shuddered and sent him off to a bigger hospital, after relieving him of £200 for the consultation. At the second hospital Gary underwent two ultrasound scans (£500 each) which identified a clot restricting the blood flow to his lower leg. Deep vein thrombosis was diagnosed and Gary was put on a course of drugs (£250 per day) to dissolve the clot. This was obviously an inconvenience as he clearly wouldn’t be able to fly until the clot cleared, but he had little choice and was admitted to hospital (£550 per night).

Some five days later, it became apparent that Gary was not responding to treatment and things began to take a turn for the serious. A CAT scan identified an aneurysm behind his knee – the legacy of the horse-inflicted injury and the actual cause of the restricted blood flow to his lower leg. The doctor advised that this would need to be immediately removed or risk amputation, paralysis or even death and, oh, the operation will be £10,000. Cue a hasty phone call to his parents (who had been kept in the dark up until this point). Fortunately Gary’s parents were able pay the £10,000 on their credit card. Another phone call was made when, 20 minutes before the operation was due to start, the surgeon informed Gary that they would be undertaking a slightly different procedure and that it would be another £3,000.

Unfortunately, it would appear that while £13,000 may get you an operation in Indonesia, it does not guarantee a decent anaesthetic. Gary woke up just as the surgeon was cutting the aneurysm from his leg but whilst he was conscious and in agonising pain, he was still sufficiently anaesthetised to stop him alerting the medical staff.

It then became apparent that the surgery had been a complete waste of time as the surgeon had attempted to ‘rewire’ Gary’s leg via a vein blocked with congealed blood.

It was clear that they had reached the limits of medical ‘expertise’ in Bali and Gary needed to be transferred to a hospital that would be able to treat him with some degree of competence. Unfortunately, the nearest such institution was in Singapore. A private jet was called (£40,000) and Gary headed to Bali airport.

Another five hour operation followed in Singapore where the surgeon attempted to undo the Indonesian hospital’s malpractice. This time the operation was much more successful and Gary settled into intensive care (£5,000 per night) to begin his recovery with his leg held together by 130 staples and 20 stitches. One month and £76,000 worth of Singaporean medical expenses later, Gary was allowed to fly home much to his (and his insurance company’s) relief. The total claim would be in excess of £150,000.

There’s two real morals to this story. As I always suspected, horses are inherently malevolent and untrustworthy animals. Secondly, it’s well worth paying a bit more for your travelinsurance: It’s a dangerous world out there.

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