They were on a comfort cruise through the Amazon with International Expeditions when the unthinkable occurred, when Dave slipped and broke his back.
My wife, Deb, and I have traveled the world for years, taking on epic adventures from cycling the continent of Africa from Cairo to Cape Town to driving an old beat-up car from England to Mongolia. We’ve been to the far north of Canada trekking on frozen lakes and rivers in the dead of winter, and we’ve climbed to Everest Base Camp and the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. If something was ever to happen, it surely should have been on one of these zany adventures. Dave Bouskill.
The world’s favorite adventure travel couple, Deb and Dave have an impressive resume of extreme adventures, so getting hurt on a cruise made for birdwatching, village visits, and daily boat rides out to explore the “calm tributaries of the Amazon River” wasn’t something any-one saw coming. But it happened.
While waiting for everyone from their riverboat to assemble on land for a jungle hike, Dave decided at the last minute to run back to the boat to grab some camera equipment.
With his two camera bodies strapped around his neck, he reached the skiff boat that they had arrived on and jumped onto the boat with ease. Though as he stepped onto the steel steps leading into the hull of the skiff, his feet slipped out from under him and the next thing he knew, he was flat on his back, screaming in agony. The full force of his body weight and his back hit the metal stairs.
I had never felt such profound pain in my life, and all I thought was, “Oh God, I’ve just broken my back.” In an instant I saw my life change before my eyes. Would I ever be able to walk again?
They put pads in the front and back of me and tried to stabilize my spine. Deb and a guide leaned up against me to keep me stable on the bench as they put a board with ice-cold cloths on my back for 45 minutes while deciding what to do.
The other passengers had gone on the jungle hike, and our expedition leader was out on the river trying to get a signal on the satellite phone to call for air support. We were deep in the Amazon jungle, and it was going to be an ordeal to get me out.
I spent the next four hours in a fog. Deb ran in and out of the room, giving me updates on the search for a plane. A storm was in the area, and they couldn’t find a plane to fly us out. They considered calling in the Peruvian army. She was on the satellite phone with our insurance company, and they assured her that we were fully covered, so we should do what needed to be done to get me out of there.
It was four hours before a floatplane arrived. I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink, and now my entire body was seizing up. I had been lying on my side for nearly five hours. Dave Bouskill.
After his plane was forced to land in a small village due to the storm, Dave was loaded onto a makeshift ambulance to be transported to Iquitos, the only city in the Amazon. It was another hour in the ambulance, and at this point, more than 10 hours had passed since his fall.
It took a boat, a float plane, a tuk tuk and an ambulance just to get to the hospital itself…with no pain killers!!
After arriving at the hospital Dave learned he had fractured two vertebrae in his back, and spent the next week in a drug-induced fog. Luckily they were fully covered by his travel insurance, and seven days later, an air ambulance was sent from Canada to transport them both home, where Dave spent another eight days in the hospital.
It could have been worse, and although it was frightening and painful, I now never take one moment for granted. I didn’t need to have surgery which was a really big relief. I’ll be going through physiotherapy but they say it will be three months before I go back to having full mobility again.
I’m definitely thankful for travel insurance, I can tell you that much. That’s something that we will first and foremost be recommending for sure. Dave Bouskill.
Why You Need Emergency Medical Evacuation Coverage
Although this experience was distressing, having travel insurance meant that Dave and Deb didn’t have the stress of a looming financial crisis in the back of their mind throughout this situation.
The thing is, things happen when you least expect it, and you don’t need to be taking a crazy adventurous trip to find yourself in an emergency situation. “Retiree’s were on this cruise, just to give you an idea”, said Deb about the incident.
Domestic health plans don’t cover international travel, so it’s essential to take out a policy which specifically covers you for your time abroad. Emergency coverage generally means that the insurance company pays the cost for transportation and care to the nearest medical facility. In some cases that means transportation to another country and it may be quite a distance to travel.
If we didn’t have travel insurance then that would have a lot of money. We had two flights; we were airlifted out of the Amazon first, and then Dave spent a week in the hospital in Peru. He had cat scans and X-Rays and MRI’s and all of that sort of stuff which ended up being a pretty penny, even though it’s much cheaper than in Canada and the US! And then we had to be air ambulanced home once he was fit to fly. Debra Corbeil.
I didn’t really know how much it would have cost to fly us home, but we did find out that the flight from Peru to get us back home was $50,000. So I mean just having airlift as part of your insurance, a lot of people don’t read their insurance policies. They don’t know what’s in the fine print. People really need to read their policies and make sure they have full coverage. Being in Iquitos no-body spoke English so we got a translator as well.
After Deb got off that phone call and our insurance said “Don’t worry about anything, you’re covered for everything”, I think there was that sigh of relief that removes the stress which would be sitting over your head the whole time. There are some people out there who end up paying for it for the rest of their lives because they didn’t have travel insurance. Dave Bouskill.
Thankfully Dave is well on his way to making a full recovery, and there’s no doubt that we’ll be hearing many adventurous tales to come from the world’s favorite adventure travel couple.
Medical Evacuation Insurance With GeoBlue
The travel insurance that Deb and Dave use is through their credit card with American Express Canada. We recommend GeoBlue for Travel Medical and International Health Insurance globally.
International Health Coverage with GeoBlue provides fantastic insurance for emergency medical evacuations, and this service is available 24/7 no matter where in the world you may be. I advocate for GeoBlue Insurance because their policies offer the most complete set of benefits and services in the industry and essentially provide a worldwide, all-access pass to an exclusive level of care.
They have an elite network of doctors from most every specialty ready to see you in over 180 countries, and GeoBlue doctors and hospitals bill them directly so you don’t have to even worry about filing a claim, and you don’t have to lay out any cash.
It’s so important when you travel to travel with a full service travel health plan that provides a higher level of protection and peace of mind than standard evacuation memberships offer. If you are not sure about your current plan, or one you are considering, make sure you get a copy of your certificate of coverage and read it.
Make sure you have a complete picture of what you are buying. Read the fine print. Then cover yourself with an International Travel Medical plan or a comprehensive Expatriate plan from the world’s premier International Insurer…GeoBlue.
For more information about coverage with GeoBlue, or to obtain a free quote, contact Timothy Jennings at IndividualHealth.com.
A health insurance broker we trust, Timothy has worked in the international and US domestic market for more than 30 years and offers travelers a range of different options on plans and coverage including short-term travel medical (generally less than 6 months), annual renewable coverage for international travelers, expats, and coverage for business groups worldwide.
Email him at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or:
If there’s one thing you should take away from this story, it’s that travel insurance is essential, and it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling for a week, a year, or even just a day, you never know what could happen.
Not only the fact that many countries won’t let you in without proof of proper health insurance, having travel insurance guarantees the peace of mind that you will never find yourself in financial crisis due to an accident abroad.
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Images courtesy of The Planet D.