**WARNING: Open wound photo below**
From 2013-2015, I traveled nearly the entire time and was out of the US far more than in it. Before getting a credit card that included travel insurance, I’d always just wing it and save the extra cash by opting out of trip insurance when it was suggested. I never get food poisoning and I avoid riding on the back of scooters at all costs, so what could go wrong?
The answer is: a lot… a lot can go wrong. Here is my painful Thailand experience :
While spending some time in Tonsai, an isolated beach in the Au Nang province of Western Thailand, I developed a skin infection on my leg and chest. It was completely out of the blue and curiously just built up under the skin – no cool shark attack story to even go with it. Everyone’s injuries seemed to get infected in the area, seemingly due to the water. I thought if I kept it dry and clean, it would heal itself and disappear, but every day it got more red and inflamed.
Some called it celulitus, others played it down to just a spider bite; but regardless… it was getting worse and painful. I began hearing horror stories of travelers that let infections go for too long without treatment and needed amputation. I started having nightmares and panic attacks that I was going to have my foot cut off in a Thai hospital that shared workspace with a laundromat.
So rather than leaving it to such a fate, I decided to make the 30 minute rock climb to the nearest travel clinic in Railay. After a quick glance, they informed me that it needed draining and was past the point of medication. Do I believe that today? Well I force myself to to justify the scars. Within minutes, they had numbed the areas, cut them open, and drained them.
Now, I’m not sure if it’s because I was hormonal at the time due to a visit from aunt Flo or if it’s because I was overdue for a hearty cry, but boy did I let the tears run. The doctors kept asking if I was in pain and I truly couldn’t feel a thing. I was so upset at the situation that I just couldn’t control my emotions. I’ve been robbed, harassed, and lost alone and never batted an eyelash, but this set me off? After 10 minutes of prodding and scooping, it was done and they sent me away with antibiotics and instructions to come back for cleaning every day for the next week.
It’s probably no surprise to anyone that the clinics and pharmacies in Thailand aren’t quite as regulated as in other countries. You can often find strong painkillers in the casual shop and purchase them over the counter. I wanted to beat the pain before the numbing wore off, so I limped to the nearest shop and purchased the strongest stuff they had. I knocked back a pill and made my way back to home-base. After arriving, the pain was surfacing and it didn’t feel like the meds were working… so heck why not have another!
I headed off to dinner with my friend then it hit me. I began sweating and the lighting seemed to make everything a pale green color. I started getting paranoid that everyone in the restaurant was watching me and swore I could hear them all whispering my name. I couldn’t sit still and I couldn’t even read the menu anymore. “You don’t look very well, you’re getting very pale” said my friend with wide eyes. I had to get out of there. She walked me back to our bungalow and I fell onto the bed. I took all my clothes off and positioned the fan in my direction. I kept hearing steps on our balcony so I’d call for my friend but to no reply.
I haven’t taken those pills since.
After opening the bandages the next day at the clinic, I noticed that they did not sew up the wound… would that gash be there forever?! Their method of cleaning was saline and benzine solution which also got me worried, but I’m not a doctor, what would I say? After 2 days, the would on my chest wasn’t healing and they had to scrape out the infection and make an even bigger hole. FINALLY, it started to heal and to this day, I have a keloid scar smack in the middle of my chest and a dark scar on my leg.
The visit, supplies, and antibiotics cost me around 300 USD, for which I did NOT have insurance. Since then, I always stay covered with travel insurance. My favorite for all kinds of travel is Allianz because of their extensive coverage and plan options. I use them myself and suggest them for all my clients because I’ve yet to have a clients claim get denied… knock on wood. I’m happy to help you find the best coverage for your trip, feel free to contact me for a quote.
In conclusion, take care of your skin when traveling to exotic countries. Invest in travel insurance and don’t always settle for the cheapest plan, because you just. never. know.