When There’s a Medical Emergency While You Are On Vacation

Over half my life ago today, I was on vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia when I was admitted to the hospital for a burst appendix.  I was traveling when it actually ruptured so I was not feeling too great by the time I made it to the hospital.  (That may be a huge understatement).

emergency room

I was on vacation with my family at the time, which included my parents and siblings.  I was taken to the hospital very early in the morning, the day after we arrived.

Here are my tips, looking back.

1. Admit when you aren’t okay

I know this sounds obvious, but it was really difficult to admit that I really thought something was wrong. I didn’t want to interrupt anyone’s vacation, so that’s why I waited until things were really bad to go to the hospital. At that point, it was really obvious that I needed to go–whether I admitted it or not.

2. Tell the hotel what’s going on

My parents talked to the hotel that we were in about what was going on. Surprisingly, they agreed to extend our stay for free while I was in the hospital, plus a couple of extra days at the end.

I can’t guarantee that every hotel will do this, but a hotel can’t figure out how to help you out unless they know what’s wrong.

3. Don’t try to vacation too much while recovering

I kept trying to “enjoy” Williamsburg when I was out of the hospital and insisting I was okay. But going over streets of cobblestones in Colonial Williamsburg in a wheelchair with fresh surgical incisions was way too much.

4. …people will pay more attention to you in a wheelchair

After the cobblestones failed, my parents took me to Busch Gardens to enjoy all the different shows there. And oh my gosh. I was not prepared for how much attention the actors in the show would pay to me.

5. You can always go back

I didn’t get to do everything on that vacation that I wanted to do, but I’ve been back there at least four times. When I finally focused on how to get better, it took the stress out of trying to make sure I had a good vacation (and feeling guilty for ruining everyone else’s).

Also, not an official tip, but demerol can make you really paranoid. Really paranoid.  And not quite with it.

I accused my mom of plotting against me when she went to the Barnes and Noble near the hospital.  Sorry, mom.

I ended up being in the hospital for about two weeks more in New York (where I lived back then).  But I recovered  just in time to go back to school in September.  Perfect timing!

More recently, I had an allergic reaction while in flight.  Good times!

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. I was once in Gander, Newfoundland. My side had been hurting for a couple of days, and it keep getting worse. My wife and i were heading to Lancy Meadows the next day. Lancy Meadows, the first and only known Viking site in North America, and definitely not the medical capitol of the world. But also the main goal of our 3 month camping trip.

    I was fearful of perhaps having appendicitis, and the pain kept getting worse as evening came, and then night. I had noticed a large hospital down the road a few miles from the campsite in Gander. Finally, about midnight, I told my wife,”I think I should go to the emergency room at that hospital we saw today.”

    Now it was a mad rush; we arrived in about a quarter hour, with the pain getting worse all the time. I was sure the appendix must have burst. My wife left me off at the emergency room door, while she parked. I struggled through the door and there was a cubicle near the entrance with a stern looking woman seating inside. I went over and said that I needed to see a doctor.

    She asked what seemed to be the problem, and I explained that I’d had a pain in my side for about two days that had been worsening, and I was afraid it was appendicitis. “What side hurts? she asked. “My left side.” She looked irritated, “Your appendix is on your right side.” I said, “Oh,” feeling pretty dumb. But what a relief, and miraculously, the pain started to recede.

    She took me the examining room, a doctor came in, took vitals, pushed and pulled, “Does this hurt?” “No.” “Does that hurt?” “No.” And shortly, “Your temperature is normal; there’s no swelling, no sign of any infection, no tenderness. We can’t find anything wrong.” Actually, I was starting to feel pretty good.

    The doctor continued, “We can do more extensive tests, but maybe you should get a night’s sleep, and if it’s still a problem in the morning, come back.”

    By the time we got back to the campsite, the pain was gone. What a great doctor! The Canadian health system charged me $112 for this visit, which I thought was quite a bargain.

  2. My findings are the healthcare I can get on the road surpasses what I can get at home.

    I had the misfortune of contracting C.Diff. Unfortunately, I’m on the road for work most of the time, so this wasn’t good nor pleasant to deal with. I’d been dealing with my home doctors when I was in town, but they really weren’t of much help. Eventually, it got very bad, like couldn’t-peel-myself-from-the-bathroom-floor bad. Of course, I was on the road when this happened.

    I went to an urgent care clinic that was close to the hotel. What a wonderful experience! The facility was amazing, new, very patient-centric, more like a spa/salon interior than healthcare facility. Staff was even more amazing, far better than my own doctors and their office staff. They were caring, concerned, and compassionate. They wrote a script for lab tests, gave me a few tips, even showed me where the best labs were for my insurance AND where they were in relation to my hotel.

    As soon as the results were back (less than 24 hours), I went back in for a follow-up. We went through the options, they wrote a few scripts, and even called various pharmacies for me, finding which ones had the prescribed meds AND which ones had it the cheapest. They didn’t charge me for the follow-up!

    Most impressive, the doctor called me every day for the first week to see how things were going. From there, she followed up with me every few days for the next 4 weeks, even though I was out of the area. I can’t even get my own doctor’s office to call me back, let alone the doctor call me.

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