A click of the mouse, and the Internet had my upcoming trip to Germany all ready to go. Only now could I relax and concentrate on how to pack. Should I arrive looking stylish like a tourist bundled up for Bavaria, Germany? I’d have to think about that.
The suitcases were packed and I flipped through my manila envelope, organized with computer print outs of airline tickets, train passes and hotel pictures for three excited female travelers.
I imagined getting through security would be the most difficult part of the trip, what with unloading laptops, coats and shoes while trying to not hold up the line. Had I only known that security would be easy compared to what was to come.
Our week of exploring German cities, shopping with the locals and tasting different regional foods was coming to an end as we anxiously planned our last day of activities. We would have one last train ride and then head to the airport…or so we thought.
That Horrible Snapping Sound
It all happened so fast. Our friend accidentally slipped and fell on a step and landed with a crashing sound. That horrible snapping sound and the sight of her bent ankle with a bone sticking out almost made me ill. Even worse, it signaled a very different end to our trip. As fast as we could, we loaded her into the car and drove to the local village (population 6,000) hospital, where staffing was at a minimum and all of us had to assist her into the emergency room by pushing the gurney.
Thankfully, a trauma doctor was on duty and announced in broken English that surgery was needed immediately. My mind was racing. Here we were in a foreign country, with no time for a second opinion. Our friend had never had surgery. The nurse took a copy of her passport and then I chimed in: “We have travel insurance!” And breathed a sigh of relief that we bought trip insurance for the three of us. The nurse told me to bring the insurance policy the following day because our friend would remain in the hospital for five days to avoid blood clots. Five days? But our return flight was in two days. As my friend was wheeled into surgery, the color drained from my rosy cheeks, and I whispered to my other friend: “The party is over; we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
I did know one thing; the $200 I had paid for the travel insurance just became the best investment I had made in a very long time.
Change of Plans
The surgery went well and the staff was helpful to us, but now we needed to get to our B&B, get some rest and gather our thoughts.
My global smartphone became my constant companion throughout this time, and I emailed and called my travel agent and family members to inform them of our mini-crisis. Suddenly I was glad I had booked the airline tickets with a travel agent because she began coordinating all the requirements now required by the insurance company and the airlines. The small fee she had charged us to book the tickets seemed inconsequential compared to the feelings of being overwhelmed 8,000 miles from home and not knowing what to do to help our friend.
A valuable lesson we learned about booking travel on the Internet is that it is not like retail buying on the Internet, where returns are possible. A nonrefundable restricted ticket is exactly that: nonrefundable.
The European coordinator for the insurance company called me and outlined the procedures, and once again, I was relieved to know that professionals were helping us.
We were able to use local transportation to visit our friend in the hospital, and we were also able to leave an extra global phone with her to call us. On the fourth day, she called and her voice shook as she told me the hospital required 1,000 Euro to release her the next day. We hurried to the hospital and contacted the billing department and handed the woman a credit card. She said, “NEIN!”- German for “No” and then she walked us to the ATM machine.
1,000 Euro meant three separate ATM transactions. What if one of the transactions failed? We took our time and after the first withdrawal, I used two ATM cards from different accounts. Always worried my ATM card will get captured, I travel with extra debit cards for such an occasion.
Making sure a receipt for the payment was given to us, we asked the hospital for all the medical records and X-rays to take back home to her doctor. The hospital complied and we were ready to leave on the fifth day, as the doctor ordered.
The evening before we had hoped to leave, the coordinator and travel agent finalized our returned flights and organized a private driver to the airport. I stressed with the coordinator that we needed a large van for us and all our luggage, lots of luggage. They must have understood American luggage because a big van by European standards was provided for us.
The insurance upgraded our friend to business class because she needed to keep her foot up and we all made it home safe and sound. We are fine, our friend is healing and we all look back on our trip with fond memories, despite the accident. But we would never hesitate to buy travel insurance for any future trips — because there’s nothing quite like knowing you have the protection when the unexpected happens.
For more information, the following websites are good resources for price and coverage comparisons:
Previously published in Amateurtraveler.com