How To Handle An Emergency When You’re Overseas
Accidents happen. Whether you think they will happen to you or not, they happen, and you should always be prepared for them. I for one, never expected to have to deal with an emergency while overseas and here I sit, with my leg covered in scars and bruises and scratches, reminding me everyday that I was not prepared for an accident to happen to me.
On May 24th, just 10 hours after my husband and I arrived on the island of Santorini in Greece we decided to rent a motorbike as our way to get around the island. It was day 1 on the island for us and we still had 6 days of exploring. We knew we needed a way to get around. We decided to go up to the highest point of the mountain first. We couldn’t wait to see the views from the top and we were right. It was gorgeous up there. We were so excited about this week on the island. We couldn’t wait to continue our adventure.
We hopped on the bike after I excitedly exclaimed that I wanted to drive. Garrett climbed on back and I started us on our journey down the steep mountain slope. Before I knew it we were rounding a tight curve in the road when a car came around the turn from the other side faster than I had expected. I gripped the brake harder than I should have while still turning the handles and immediately the bike tipped. My husband was able to catch himself but I got trapped under the bike and slid down the mountain with it.
I had bruises and scratches everywhere and my knee was split open with a gash so big we knew immediately we needed to get to a hospital and fast. To make matters worse, I had started my period just 3 hours before getting on the bike. I couldn’t deal with all of it. I was a mess. I had no idea what to do or how to handle the situation. Luckily, for me, my husband remained calm enough for both of us and I ended up at the hospital. About 45 minutes, two x-rays, and six stitches later I was heading back to our suite.
I was completely unprepared on how I should have handled that emergency. I have no idea what I would have done if I had been by myself. Which is why I want to make sure everyone is prepared for emergencies. When you are overseas everything is unfamiliar. That’s what makes it so exciting and new and adventurous! However, we should educate ourselves on all possibilities and plan accordingly.
Here are 5 steps to take when dealing with an emergency overseas:
1. Make sure you have the number of your hotel / AirBnB host.
When you arrive at wherever you are staying make sure you have a contact number for them. This will be the first person you call if you find yourself in an emergency. Why? Because you know they speak English and the native language and they know the area. They will be able to either come and get you, help give you directions to where you need to go or call for the ambulance (if needed) for you. They can also help you communicate with the locals when you get there. This is so important.
2. Keep yourself as calm as possible.
This is what I struggled with most. I was hysterical when we arrived at the hospital. The nurse didn’t speak any English and she was trying to figure out where I was in the most pain (my gash had been wrapped up so she didn’t know how bad my knee was) and because I was crying so hard she couldn’t understand anything I was trying to communicate. We were fortunate enough to have our AirBnB at the hospital with us so she was able to communicate with everyone about what had happened and was able to let us know what they were saying.
3. Be prepared to pay the hospital bill upfront, whether you are insured or not.
Fortunately I have great health insurance but when you are overseas you still have to pay the bill in full up front and your insurance will reimburse you once you fill out your claim and send in your medical records for them. Luckily, in Europe at least, their healthcare is very affordable. For my visit, with everything that I needed to have done and a follow up visit the next day, we only paid $190. (That number includes the prescription and the crutches that I had to get.) Do we wish we didn’t have to spend that money? Of course. Was it enough to make us stress about finances? Definitely not.
4. Keep all receipts and records from the accident.
Keep your receipts from the hospital, the pharmacy (if drugs were needed to be purchased), and any other documentation you have from the accident. Your insurance company will want all of the information you can provide when you go to fill out your claim. The more they can see the stronger your claim will be. Put everything in an envelope and send it out to your insurance company’s international claims office (after you’ve made copies of everything for your personal records).
5. Don’t let the accident ruin your trip.
I think this is a big one. Granted, there are exceptions to this step. If you are injured and need further medical assistance than what the local hospital can provide then change flights and get yourself home and taken care of. However, if it was an accident like mine where you have to spend a couple days in your hotel recovering, allow yourself the recovery time and then make the most out of the time you have left and what your body is able to do. While there was so much more I wish we could have seen on the island we still had a wonderful time and I’m already counting the days until we can go back and do it properly!
While I hope that none of you have to deal with an emergency overseas, it’s always good to be prepared.
*Bonus – wheelchair service at the airport is ah-mazing.
Best of luck in all your travels!