Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Imagine being thousands of miles from family and friends in a strange country where locals speak a language you hardly understand – then falling gravely ill and being rushed to hospital. Words: Jeremy Rochow
This nightmare became a reality for South Australian traveller Shane Stewart who fell ill 5 weeks into a 3-month global jaunt and was airlifted to a Greek hospital.
“On my last day in Venice I started to feel a little bit sick,” he said.
“It started as fatigue and dizziness and I assumed it was just flu or heatstroke, so I decided to push on with my trip.”
A few days later, while Shane was on the Greek island of Milos, he found out he had pneumonia which had escalated to stage 3 Empyema – an infection of the lung tissue.
The 25-year-old was immediately flown to Athens and admitted to hospital in a serious condition.
Shane’s mum, along with his girlfriend Vanessa Walter – who planned to join Shane later on the trip – made a mad dash to his bedside.
“I was a little delirious and didn’t have my insurance details with me when I was admitted, so I ended up spending a few days in a public hospital which was terrifying,” he said.
“It wasn’t until Vanessa arrived and dug up my insurance details that I was moved to a private hospital.”
Shane was borderline septic when he arrived at the private facility and was rushed straight into surgery. He spent the next 5 days in a medically induced coma, and another 3 weeks recovering.
The bill for the South Australian’s hospital stay, airlift from Milos, pharmacy visits and accommodation totalled more than $100,000.
“Thankfully everything was either covered or reimbursed through travel insurance,” he said.
Shane’s mum wouldn’t let the young traveller leave Australia without buying travel insurance.
“It was always my intention to get insurance, but she still reminded me maybe 6 or 7 times while I was planning my trip,” Shane said.
The avid traveller, who fortunately upgraded his coverage at the last minute and only paid a $100 excess despite the $100,000 bill, urged people to buy insurance when heading overseas.
“You always hear about horror stories overseas, and I remember thinking it’ll never happen to me, but you never know,” he said.
“I can’t even imagine what would’ve happened if I didn’t have it. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford private care, and honestly the public system was downright harrowing.”
Shane recovered, and a few weeks later he and Vanessa completed their holiday, travelling through Europe and Japan, before returning home.
“Vanessa is also a doctor, so her being there to bandage me up and keep an eye on me for the rest of the trip definitely helped as well,” he said.