It all started when I had lunch with my cousins. We planned on hanging out at the mall, and I suggested eating at a restaurant that catered to everybody's food preference. I ended up ordering a chicken meal with rice and macaroni salad. Everything tasted great, and my cousins and I even ended up watching a movie afterwards. It was another typical, great day with my family. As we ended the day grocery shopping, I didn't think there would be a problem until I immediately felt like fainting in the middle of the store.
Now mind you, this experience could happen to anybody anywhere around the world. I just happened to be the "lucky" one that experienced it during my travels to the Philippines. This story does not reflect my experience of the country as a whole, but rather, an unforgettable, difficult memory from my trip. I wanted to share this experience to let you understand that traveling is not always pleasant and easy, and I would never want to falsely expose it that way. What made this circumstance uneasy was the fact that I did not expect anything horrible happening to me, which was why I decided to not get travel insurance during my stay. Boy, I was so wrong.
I left the grocery store to get some fresh air, and although my family bought me water to help me hydrate, it shortly backfired as I puked during the jeepney ride back home. When I reached back to my auntie's place, I immediately wanted to lay down on the couch. The idea of me walking around, or even attempting to eat dinner felt overwhelming for me. My body felt like it was all tied up and inflamed at once, as if I had a bomb inside my intestines that wanted to explode. Going straight to bed sounded like the perfect idea to erase the horrible stomach aches from my memory.
Despite the pain I was feeling, I did feel comforted by my family's care. My nine-year-old niece heard I was feeling ill, and walked up to my room to fan me with the puke bucket next to my bed. She promised she would take care of me as she handed me hot tea from my auntie and some vapor rub for my headache. Right when I needed to use restroom, there was a brownout from the whole village. The lack of electricity meant that the whole house was pitch-black. I didn't think I would be able to walk downstairs and properly find the restroom, especially when I had my stomach ache. Fortunately, I only waited for 15 minutes until the electric outage turned on again, and I was able to use the restroom. That whole night, I ended up vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. I knew that I had some food poisoning condition, but I had never felt this sick in my life.
The following morning, I knew this was an illness I could not treat without medical help and decided I had to go to the hospital. At this point, I didn't care about the cost, I just wanted to feel better asap. Due to the lack of energy and sleep, my cousins had to lift me to the van and accompany me during my ride. My senses spiked as I was easily nauseated by the smell of gasoline and irritated by the noise from the morning traffic. When I arrived at the hospital, the medical staff assisted me in a wheelchair, and I immediately felt scared. For the first time in my life, I felt like there was a good chance I might not live to see tomorrow.
I was bawling as I was lying down on the hospital bed in the ER, and the nurses rushed over me, inserting an IV and asking me medical information. "Are you allergic to this? When was the last time you did that?" I was so overwhelmed by everything that was happening at once that I felt really unsure whether or not I really wanted to go through with my hospitalization. I just continued to cry telling the nurses I was scared. However, I knew there was no other way that would help me get rid of my illness. After a talk with my doctor, I signed my medical contract and decided to stay.
Being hospitalized in a developing country outside of home was difficult. I didn't want to eat, I didn't want to take medicine, I didn't want to get out of bed to pee in a cup. I just wanted to be alone, focusing on staying alive. My relatives took turns visiting me, telling me to "stay strong" and "keep praying." I didn't know if I was really strong enough to battle it. I just remembered what it was like when I was healthy, but those feelings didn't motivate me to get better. It just amazed me at how quickly my life could be threatened by the choice of food I eat.
I ended up being discharged the next day, but I did not fully recover until a week later. It was quite scary looking at myself in the mirror the first day I returned back to my auntie's place, being so thin ( I was 104 lbs prior to my illness) and looking so lifeless. As far as medical costs, I had to pay all of it, and I was lucky that my family helped with the coverage as well. I was just relieved that this experience didn't hinder the remainder of my trip, although I wished I did a better job at preparing for emergency situations prior to it.
Some things to know if you travel without a travel insurance:
As for the ending of this story, I am completely well and can even look back at this experience with laughter. Who knew macaroni salad would have such a dramatic impact on my life?! Leave a comment about your thoughts on travel insurance and if you ever experienced being ill while traveling! The lesson learned is that the best option is to get travel insurance, even if your trip is less than 6 months. I must say, if I HAD to be hospitalized anywhere outside of home, I'm quite blessed to have this experience with my extended family there for me. Until next time- Ressa