Part 2: New York or Bangkok?
(In Part 1, I discuss how exposed to major expense are expats who elect to go without medical insurance tailored to living abroad. I also explain what went into my decision on purchasing a policy.)
Let me say that I never have thought of myself as the fragile sort of person who could easily break a hip like so many older men and women who topple because their bones give out while they are upright. For them, such a fracture is usually the cause, not the result, of a fall.
After all, as I am inclined to boast, I work out daily with a combination of lifting weights or sweating on an elliptical training machine. Then there are walks of several miles most days as well so as to help me manage my weight.
I also enjoy hiking, frequently upward, on vacations, so I’m unusually fit for someone my age, I like to think.
I confess viewing with horror the prospect of being referred to as “elderly” should I be so described as the victim of a crime or a collision with a motor vehicle.
My level of fitness undoubtedly contributed to my uneventful and quick recovery. My bones, according to my doctor, are strong.
I broke my hip on a Sunday evening in July, and an x-ray Monday morning confirmed my condition. Sustained by huge doses of ibuprofen during an inexplicable wait for the x-ray film all day, I consulted an internist friend for a referral.
My friend recommended two orthopedic surgeons in Phnom Penh. The one I saw first thing Tuesday morning turned out to be the only available physician of the two, so I didn’t agonize over having chosen him.
The doctor said he could pin together the two stable parts of the neck of my femur with two screws. It is a fairly simple surgery, he opined.
(It was in the lobby of the small hospital where he worked that the first, albeit slight, hardship, of being disabled came home to me.
(Finally in a wheelchair, I spotted a water cooler at the moment I thought to slake my thirst. Expertly wheeling myself over, I discovered that it was a simple matter to reach the spout. Unfortunately, the paper cup above the device eluded me. I had to ask for help.
(How disempowered I felt. How more greatly sympathetic to the physically challenged have I become.)
Researching online, I discovered that the Cambodian doctor’s approach was questionable, hardly surprising given the quality of medical care in Cambodia.
Consequently, I had to make my next crucial decision: exactly where to be treated. I spent literally hours evaluating the possibilities.
The two options I considered were the U.S. and Bangkok. (Singapore would be an equally acceptable possibility.)
By going to any of the countries close to Cambodia, I would be out of pocket for the surgery that I needed, economy-class airfare for Lin and me (to fly for an hour or more), and a hotel for at least a week after my discharge from the hospital. There also would be other living expenses, all of them lower in Southeast Asia than in the Big Apple.
Seeking treatment in New York City, where I had lived for decades, at least most of the treatment costs would be covered. However, there would two last-minute business-class fares and a hotel that would run far more money than the one I favor in Thailand.
Worse, the flight alone would take probably around 24 hours — it could be approximately two hours less to as much as six or eight hours more — including airplane changes that would be arduous even with wheelchair assistance. The journey would subject me to pain for a far longer time than staying close to home and, critically more important, expose me to the real danger of destabilizing the fracture.
It was not an appealing option.
I reasoned that my financial exposure by traveling to the States would at least equal what I would end up paying by choosing nearby Bangkok, which has a reputation for excellent healthcare and where I would need to locate a physician I could trust.
It finally was an easy decision.
Next: Lucking out, looking up and unfailingly looking down