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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.

Rafting Ottowa River.

Rafting Ottowa River; the world’s favorite adventure travel couple. Photo: The Planet D.

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.

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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.

Full Recovery

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 <sales@individualhealth.com> or:

Click For Free Quote

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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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Images courtesy of The Planet D.

    68 Comments

    • Absolutely – I’m from Australia which has a fab health care system, though as soon as you leave the country you’re at the mercy of the system of the country you’re in. And if you’re traveling somewhere like the States having insurance may just save you from complete bankruptcy!

  1. Like Fiona, I could never dream of travelling without a travel insurance. Sure, I could probably afford visiting the hospital with a minor thing and the chances of breaking a back is probably small. But most people do also forget that it cover delayed luggage or even if one are called home 🙂 Great post Megan! 🙂
    Tine recently posted…Havana in picturesMy Profile

    • Absolutely – and especially if you’re traveling a lot, the chance of something happening are more and more likely the more time you spend abroad. Glad you enjoyed the post Tine!

  2. This is so scary! I know a lot of younger people (think gap year after school) who bought the cheapest insurance possible, or even none, to save a few bucks. Although I don’t get the highest coverage, I make sure I get a lot. This just goes to show you never know. So glad that Dave is recovering!
    Hannah recently posted…Hipmunk City Love: 5 Waterfront Hotels in StockholmMy Profile

    • Cheap insurance is probably worse than no insurance at all! Because you end up paying for it but it never ends up covering you for anything so you’re essentially just throwing away money. Insurance is definitely one of those things were it pays to pay for quality.

    • Absolutely – it could have been so much worse so he’s very lucky and we’re all so glad he made a full recovery 🙂

  3. Wow! That was a scary ordeal! I am glad that Dave is recovering without the need for surgery! This is the second time I hear about GeoBlue, I will definitely look into that since they seemed to have a good reputations. It is very important to have travel insurance no matter what
    deafinitelywanderlust recently posted…A Whole New World: Tokyo DisneySeaMy Profile

    • Absolutely – I have nothing but wonderful things to say about GeoBlue, and I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things also. Definitely give Tim at Individual Health an email and let him know we sent you. Insurance is one of the most important aspects of traveling abroad.

  4. Great article! I won’t leave the country without proper travel insurance. I deal with non-residents getting injured almost everyday and I never understood the people who wouldn’t purchase it. It’s not enough just to buy it though. you have to make sure it’s a great company as there are a lot of horrible ones.
    Megan Kenendy recently posted…Skagit Valley – Tiptoeing thru the TulipsMy Profile

    • Thanks Megan – so glad you liked it. And absolutely re investing in a great company – purchasing cheap insurance from a sub standard company is worse than traveling with no insurance at all. You end up spending the money but don’t end up being covered for anything. Better to do it right which is why we get behind GeoBlue 🙂

  5. I’ll have to look up what coverage my insurance offers! I know we’re kind of covered in Canada, because our daughter got sick once when we were there, but we still had to pay out of pocket and then got reimbursed. I can’t imagine having to pay for the flight out of pocket! It’s good to know Dave is doing better now!
    Jolanta aka Casual Traveler recently posted…Before Visiting Stonehenge, Learn a Bit of its HistoryMy Profile

    • Absolutely read through the fine print to make sure you have a total understanding of what your insurance covers. That’s what’s unique and what I love about GeoBlue, is that they direct bill so you don’t have to pay out of pocket at all 🙂

    • Well I’m glad to hear that you haven’t run into any issues when not covered. Seriously recommend it for every trip though – you truly never know 🙂

    • Absolutely – one of the most importance aspects of travel!

  6. We don’t travel without insurance. Thanks for a good reminder! Accidents can really happen to anyone.

    • I’m so glad to hear Tanj – you really never know when something is going to happen to you. Believing we’re invincible is one of the biggest errors we can make.

  7. I had goose bumps while reading the story…
    When you are on the road you never know what might happen and a travel insurance is essential… We have a yearly international coverage and everytime we needed to use it, only for little incidents, it gave us a peace of mind…
    Great post Megan!

    Safe journey,
    Nat
    Natalie Deduck recently posted…How Much does it Cost to Travel in The Philippines?My Profile

    • So glad to hear you’re properly insured Natalie – you absolutely never know what might happen abroad. Just this morning in Napa Valley actually Mike has taken ill so we’re very glad to have a hospital close and know we’re covered.

      Glad to hear you’ve only ever had to use your insurance for little incidents – hopefully it stays that way! Happy travels & safe journey 🙂

  8. I was tempted my first trip to travel without it, but am glad I purchased it in the end and didnt have to learn my lesson the hard way!
    Andrea recently posted…Guide to Toronto’s BeachesMy Profile

    • I’m so glad you did decide to purchase insurance before your trip Andrea – there’s nothing worse than learning the hard way, especially with the sheer cost of healthcare around the world at the moment!

    • I’m glad we could make yous top and think – it only has to happen once to learn the hard way! Let us know if you have any questions about the insurance side of things 🙂

  9. Dave’s story really resonated with me because I always thought I was safe since I didn’t do anything wild or extreme or crazy when I traveled – but even a simple slip or stumble can have catastrophic results.

    • I’m glad the story resonated with you – and I think that’s the general consensus, that if you’re not overly adventurous and don’t generally partake in adrenalin activities that you’re safe, though all it takes is a tumble in the street, or in Dave’s case tripping over the boat.

      Insurance is so essential for everyone whether you’re adventurous or not.

  10. I have a EU insurance that only provides medical help within the EU. But reading this post, it looks like a great idea to get a normal insurance that would help me in the situations like this…
    Olga recently posted…20 Hidden Gems In Eastern EuropeMy Profile

    • Absolutely – if you’re heading outside of the EU definitely look into international insurance which covers you all over the world. Let us know if you have any questions about the insurance side of things – Tim at IndividualHealth is also there to answer any questions and he’s incredibly knowledgeable 🙂

    • So glad to hear that nothing happened Priya – always seems to be the way though lol nothing will happen when you do what it and then the moment you choose not to renew murphey’s law kicks in and something happens!

    • Absolutely – so glad to hear you’re fully covered Alli.

    • Absolutely – I was so horrified when I heard originally as well, and of course we’re all so very very glad that Dave came through with a full recovery. I can’t even imagine how horrible it would have been not being insured in that instance!!

    • Absolutely – I’m so glad they were insured when this happened, and I’m glad that it can hopefully provide a cautionary tale to other travelers who think they’re invincible and don’t need the cover.

  11. I remember reading this on their blog when it happened, what a scary thing! I am a critical care nurse so I see so often how it just takes one moment to completely change someones life. I always have travel insurance when travelling abroad, it is so not worth the risk to go without it.
    Valerie recently posted…8 Travel Mistakes We Made in Southeast AsiaMy Profile

    • Absolutely re never being worth the risk – I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of situations you’ve witnessed Valerie as a critical care nurse. Huge respect for what you do!

    • Absolutely – let me know if you have any questions on the insurance side of things 🙂

    • So sorry to hear you had issues in Thailand Nelson – I hope you came out unscathed and fully recovered also.

  12. Oh man, I remember reading there story when it happened. I am so glad he is recovering. We never ended up doing any insurance, in fact we haven’t had any in 8 years. This story reminds me how lucky we’ve been. And it reminds me to get on the phone soon…
    Mary recently posted…5 best beaches on the Big Island of HawaiiMy Profile

    • Definitely recommend jumping on the phone to Tim at Individual Health and hooking up some travel insurance – so glad that you’ve been fine so far though 🙂 It only takes one fall though! Travel safe 🙂

  13. It just shows how quickly things can go wrong. I’ve done so much trekking, snorkelling, kayaking and other random adventurous activities while I’ve been away that I’ve always made sure I get good insurance. I’ve heard and seen some horror stories on my trips. Just before we set off on the Inca Trail, one of our group got a pulmonary embolism and had to be evacuated to Lima to recover. She had no signs of ill health before but altitude can be really tough. You never know when you’ll need medical care. So important to get this sorted for each trip. Great advice Meg
    Kate recently posted…A Hindu Blessing in Pushkar, IndiaMy Profile

    • Absolutely does – OMG I’m so sorry to hear about your travel companion; that does not sounds like fun in the slightest. You’re totally correct though, altitude really can be tough if you’re not used to those kind of heights, so you really need to make sure you’re covered in case you find yourself in a dangerous and potentially life threatening situation.

      I hope she’s ok now and fully recovered. Scary stuff!

  14. As I’m reading your post, I kept hoping “I hope she tells me how I can get this insurance!” Thanks for the info. It’s something you never think about until it’s too late.
    Jody Robbins recently posted…Fantasy TripsMy Profile

    • Let us know if you need any other tips on the insurance side of things – we’re always happy to help, especially when it comes to making sure you’ll be covered for your time abroad. It’s not something you want to learn the hard way!

      Be sure to drop Tim at Individual Health a line and let him know we sent you – he’ll make sure you’re well taken care of.

  15. This goes to show that it is better to be safe than sorry and always take out travel insurance.

    • Absolutely – if that moral of the story can even just save one person from learning it the hard way then my job here is done! Let us know if you have any questions re the insurance side of things 🙂 Tim at Individual Health is awesome and really knows his stuff 🙂

    • Glad to hear that Joe! Feel free to share to help us raise awareness and make sure no-one is without insurance out there 🙂

    • So glad to hear that Nat – I shudder to think of the cost of Deb and Dave’s bill had they not been insured. A cautionary tale to everyone.

  16. wow….that story was beyond harrowing. 10 hours before he was on a plane….that is scary, imagine if it was a wound that involved internal bleeding or something.

    thank god for travel insurance is right. we never travel without it!
    Mike recently posted…Crocodile Dundee CountryMy Profile

    • I can’t even imagine – I’m just so very very glad that he’s ok and that it all worked out. Just goes to show that you don’t have to be on a crazy adventure for something small to turn into something very serious. Health insurance is a life saver in moments like these!

  17. Thank goodness for your insurance! You never plan to get hurt like that on vacation. What a nightmare to face in a foreign country when you could hardly even get satellite phone service.

    • Oh absolutely – just goes to show that you don’t need to be out an an adventurous activity which is deemed dangerous to find yourself relying on health insurance. I can’t even imagine the situation they would have faced if they weren’t covered.

  18. Hey Dave, it has been a while and good to that you are well on the road to recovery. Everytime I read your story I think how so much can change after an incident such as yours! We are wishing you lots of Christmas wishes and a great 2016!

    • Merry Christmas Simon. Travel safe in 2016! X

  19. What a horrific experience. I can’t imagine receiving such a serious injury, especially in a remote location like the Amazon. I didn’t realize that domestic health plans don’t cover international travel. My parents are going on a land tour of Europe this summer, so I’ll have to talk with them about their insurance needs while they are away. Thanks for the important information, and for sharing this story!

    • Glad we could bring your attention to insurance before their trip – it’s just not worth traveling without it, especially when it’s now so affordable and could save you so much. Not great thinking about worst case scenarios but I do think that it’s a necessary precaution we must take.

      Let me know if you have any questions, always happy to help 🙂

  20. Wow, that sounds like such a terrifying experience! But I’m glad to hear that everything is going to be okay. It’s a good thing that air ambulance was available and made it in time. I agree that it’s important to be ready and prepared for things like that. My dad always used to say to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Thanks so much for writing!

    • Hi Paul, thanks for stopping by. Yes, so very glad that everything ended up being ok. Dave recovered quite well. It’s scary to think how much worse it could have been. I think your dad’s analogy is a great one to live and travel by. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to be prepared and then go from there.

      Happy (& safe) travels!

  21. I can attest to this; whilst I’ve never broken a limb (much less my back!) while travelling, I did wind up sick and on a short-stay in hospital that cost me close to £300 (merely for a saline drip for 2 hours, followed by an incorrect diagnosis I might add).

    I failed to check whether my phone’s holiday insurance covered particular medical instances (it didn’t), and wound up having to sheepishly borrow money to get through the rest of my holiday.

    • Sorry to hear that you wound up in hospital abroad – it sucks getting stuck with that kind of a bill and finding out that insurance won’t cover it.

      Wishing you all the best for safe travels in the future – insurance which covers medical is definitely worthwhile even for just a short stay 🙂
      Meg Jerrard recently posted…Visiting the Most Famous Mosque in China; Dongguan Great Mosque, XiningMy Profile

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