Milk your travel insurance in Cambodia

Some travel advice: if you’re in a place like Cambodia, you have travel insurance, and suddenly you need to go to the hospital, TELL YOUR DRIVER that you want to go to the best, most expensive hospital in town. You poured your savings into travel insurance – you damn well better use it.

Just make sure you get receipts – the insurance companies will obviously do anything legally possible to reject a claim. I only hope they can’t cheat you for choosing decent medical care over a dingy, unsterile hospital room. That’s not quite the sort of place where I ended up, but I would’ve been much better off asking for the good hospital down the road, instead of the one ‘famous for being cheap’, as I later learnt from my driver. (He only thought he was doing me a favour). Anyway, what follows is a sort of diary entry of my hospital trip.

 (I’m doing a lot of bitching here but in all honesty, the hospital facilities were far superior to what I expected, and the doctors and nurses were truly very kind.)

Probably better conditions than I make it out.

I woke to mild pains in my stomach and weakness throughout my body, but nothing too serious. Ready for breakfast, I gathered my touristy shit and was about to head out the door, when suddenly I felt dizzy and faint, and told my girlfriend I’d have to rest for a little while. Eventually I staggered my way down the two flights of stairs to the restaurant. A few steps before the bottom, the dizziness came back, more intense than before and getting worse.

There are some fragments of time here I can’t recall and so I assume I blacked out. But I wobbled closer to the tables, towards a blue blur that I hoped was my Amy’s top. An intense welling of pressure was building up in my head and I flopped into the chair opposite Amy breathing heavily. ‘I can’t see or hear anything’, I mumbled, but my senses were returning. Amy told me to rest my head on the table while she rustled a tuk tuk and suddenly we were zooming along the streets of Siem Reap to a hospital.

The doctors and nurses spoke no English, so I explained what happenned with the help of my semi-english speaking tuk tuk driver. They were quick to set me up in the V.I.P. room (important here synonymous with white) with an intravenous glucose solution that would drip into my arm for the next five hours. They injected medicine into my bum for diarrhea that I didn’t really have.

The day dragged by uneventfully (other than more injections), and when I’d absorbed the entire solution it was time to leave. Walking down to the hospital entrance, I blacked out again – the exact same as in the morning. Which, if we were able to communicate it well enough, would mean the medicine and the hospital stay had done absolutely nothing for what I assume now was just severe dehydration.

If I had been somewhere a little more well established, the doctors may have spoken better english and I could’ve properly explained how I felt. They might have given me a meal to raise my blood sugar levels instead of telling my girlfriend to buy bread for me down the street. They might have given me some water, instead of relying on the slow-dripping glucose solution to rehydrate me.

You might be thinking I’m exaggerating my illness and bitching excessively about the service. You’re probably right. But I’m just trying to make the point that Cambodia is the type of place where it would be wise to look after your health. In case there really is something seriously wrong with you, you better be in a hospital that can treat you effectively. If you bought travel insurance, I say milk it for all it’s worth.

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4 Responses to Milk your travel insurance in Cambodia

  1. Kristi Bernard says:

    I hope to travel someday. I hope never to get sick when I am out of the U.S. Thanks for the tips and get well soon.

  2. You are so right. Glad you are OK. Once while traveling in Japan with my toddler son he had a convulsion. I rushed him to a the hospital. The only words they could say in English ‘epilepsy’ and ‘grand mal seizure.’ Lucky for us it turned out to be a normal thing that sometimes happens to babies, usually boys, when they have fever.

    • Beau Gamble says:

      How awful — I guess a hospital is the WORST place to come up against a language barrier, especially with a young kid… Glad it turned out to be nothing too serious, though 🙂

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