Touring the Emergency Room

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Sitting in on a bed in the emergency room with a "broken" toe

I’m coming to realize that an adventure for Kelly & I isn’t complete without a trip to the emergency room.

See also: How to Stay Healthy on the Road

This post was originally published in 2008 . It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

One night rather late (after 11pm), Kelly was going through the fridge for a snack. And out jumped a 5-gallon heavy glass jar full of iced tea. It launched itself from the top shelf of the fridge…and directly onto his big toe.

Crash! Splash! (Pause, pause…string of unintelligible curses to follow).

We all raced from our dark corners of our place to discover Kelly frozen in front of the fridge, the door open, iced tea and broken glass EVERYWHERE. With lots of cursing.

We all froze, wondering who was going to make the first move in what promised to be a monumental clean-up job.

We ushered Kelly to a nearby chair for diagnosis of his toe. He was bleeding from many places, but not badly. But in front of our very eyes, we watched his big toe swell.

“I think it’s broken. No – it’s broken. For sure,” were Kelly’s words through clenched teeth as he tried to wiggle his toe.

We all tried to determine if they can do anything for broken big toes. Do they splint them? Give you a bootie? A cast, perhaps? Ooh Ooh – maybe traction; that would be fun. Or maybe they just send you on your way with instructions to stay off it for an unrealistic period of time.

Kelly started making noises about needing to go to the hospital. Although our roomie (Zero) was more than willing to drive us even at that late hour, I noticed that all the Americans in the room paled at the idea. They were obviously hesitant to choose a hospital trip as the first line of defense. There were a few quiet suggestions that we wait until the morning to see how bad it was, but there was also no denying that Kelly’s toe was getting bigger by the minute.

A quick call to our travel insurance company revealed the “rules” of what they would cover, and off we went.

In comparison to more recent Canadian emergency room adventures, which lasted upwards of 4 hours each time and as long as 10 hours, this trip was a breeze. Kelly was immediately whisked away by the doctors while I finished the paperwork part of admitting him. Pretty much as soon as we said the word “insurance” the way was paved!

After a few x-rays, the doctor informed Kelly he was extremely lucky not to have broken his toe; he just crushed it nicely. The nurse came back to send us on our way with a few heavy-duty painkillers.

“You may as well keep this bottle of hydrogen peroxide too, because somehow or another, you’ve paid for it!” was the nurse’s departing comment to us.

Luckily, we got away from the trip without having spent a dollar of our own money – the hospital bills the travel insurance company directly (who in turn bills our provincial plan for all they can get). But I have a sneaking suspicion that we haven’t seen the end of this adventure…I am expecting a lovely bill in the mail for the expenses that weren’t covered; perhaps gauze, tissue paper, or a bottle of hydrogen peroxide…

And we’re taking bets as to how much the hospital is billing overall for this relatively short trip…the cost of care in the U.S. isn’t standardized the way it is in our home country, and it’s a foreign concept to us that every little thing comes at an exorbitant cost.

Back home, flash your provincial health care card, and you will be charged for little to no expenses at all. Kelly has endured strokes, heart attacks, two heart operations, and a series of other minor to critical emergencies. And the highest bill to come in the mail was $150 for an ambulance trip.

Here in the U.S. though, we hear stories of a medical emergency devastating an otherwise financially healthy home.

Conversely in other countries like Singapore, people routinely visit for “medical vacations”, taking advantage of the high quality of care for dirt-cheap prices to have operations and other medical procedures performed.

All I can say at this time is, thank goodness for travel insurance. The strangest things can happen in the wee hours while raiding the fridge for food.

Post Script: $900?!

We eventually did get a bill for this trip to the emergency room; 45 minutes, a few x-rays, and a couple of painkillers ended up costing us $900. Thank goodness the insurance company covered it all! From experience (including claims experience), I recommend World Nomads. They’re the most flexible for insurance, allowing you to apply for and renew it from abroad. Get a free quote here.


Note: If you end up purchasing an insurance policy through the links in this post, I will receive a small commission. This in no way affects your price, and helps me to keep The Professional Hobo going as a lifestyle travel resource. Thank you in advance for your support! 

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4 thoughts on “Touring the Emergency Room”

  1. Hi Nora,

    I just found your blog, and I’ve read the whole thing through (almost in one sitting). When I read through your posts (especially the early ones), it’s like I’m reading my own diary where I tell myself how awesome it would be to embark on an adventure like this. And the tips and links you’ve provided to other resources (like the caretaker website, Vagabondish, LaptopHobo, etc.) have been extremely helpful. I wonder if you would mind if I asked you a couple of questions via e-mail about your trip prep. You can reach me at amfutch at hotmail dot com. Thanks so much, and keep up the great work.

  2. I wish you well in your attempts to “do something” with your travel experiences online.

    I found your tips on getting cheap airfares to be accurate, yet limited. For most international budget travellers the big expense is a round-trip international flight. There is a book called “The Practical Nomad” that has amazingly precise and detailed airfare information. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Read it, and then pass the info on to your readers in a concise form. All will benefit.

    For example, it explains how most airlines have agreed to not sell below “published fares,” which are ridiculously high. So, expedia or any on-line site, as well as the airlines themselves, can’t offer discounts. But, discount agencies can offer lower prices by giving away some of their commission. This is the loophole.

    Anyway, it makes for a great read. And, explains things I have never heard before like…

    -it is often cheaper to get domestic flights as part of an international ticket to avoid domestic taxes.

    great stuff. it’ll help fuel your advice giving ability.

    he has a website too.

    happy travels, and good luck making a living off of it– it isn’t easy, but certainly worth the effort.

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