Breaking Both Your Legs and How to Deal With Other Medical Emergencies Abroad

The worst case scenario that can happen to you while abroad is breaking your leg or dying (at least your family will still be able to collect life insurance on you if you die while away).

Breaking both of your legs or getting ill can be hard to handle. There are different 9-1-1 numbers, they might ask you which hospital you want to go to, and the level of care can be very, very different.

First World Countries

First world countries are easier to get medical assistance in. There are hospitals, ambulances, and typically, great medical care. Worrying about staying in the hospital after you’ve been broken isn’t a huge risk. 

Sometimes you’ll get asked in the ambulance which hospital you want to go to: low, mid-range, or high-end hospital. The low-end hospital is usually a public hospital that may not have on staff attendance all the time or may not feed the responsive patients. If you do, chose the lowest end hospital, it could save you money. But if traveling alone, you may need to order out for food or extra pajamas from the low-end hospital. The low-end hospital is great if you have someone who can bring you extra care items that you might need, and if your family is checking in often.

Worrying about medical care in first world countries isn’t something that should stop you from seeing the world. If you are concerned, writing down the emergency numbers can save you quite a bit of time and get you help a little quicker. If you are traveling in a first world country, it’s also more than likely that part of your emergency will be paid for. Which is very nice if you are a young or poor traveler. You can prepare ahead of time and get additional health insurance or ensure that your health insurance covers you in the countries that you’re visiting.

Second and Third Countries

The second or third world might be a little harder to get medical help in and may be easier to get injured in. Automobile accidents account for most of the American deaths abroad. And if you’re one of the 83 percent of Americans who drive every day, and don’t want to change that while abroad, be extremely careful. You may have to consider taking the train, a bus, or a taxi, depending on how hectic the country’s drivers are, and how Fast and Furious you feel. Avoiding the roads is a great way to avoid injury while abroad (especially while in a third world country). Accidents are unavoidable when they strike, but working around to the path of least harm will help you a lot, especially if medical aid isn’t immediately available, which might be the case, depending on the country you go to, and how rural you get.

Before you go abroad, visiting a doctor that specializes in travel will help. They can give you the vaccines you need, some antibiotics to take with you (just in case of an in-the-bush ear infection), and some advice on what sort of things to watch out for. Things like avoiding the water, washing your fruit, and handling food appropriately will help you stay out of the ER.

Paying for it

You took the budget early morning flight and booked in hostels the whole time, but a broken leg (or a terrible ‘case of the sniffles’) can really dig a hole in your budget. Luckily, if you’re uninsured, the US has the most expensive medical care in the world. That means if you break yourself abroad, you could end up saving a few bucks, even if it is super inconvenient. For example, breaking your hip stateside will cost you an average 40K to replace, but if you break that thing in the UK or France, there’s a 75 percent discount. On average, you end up paying only 10K! The cost of breaking yourself while abroad is a little less than breaking yourself stateside. Your biggest damage can come from making your flight back or trying to switch dates (consider getting travel insurance).

Going Home

If you’re injured, but still able to walk and make your flight home, it might be good to get on the plane. If you’re in a cast, you can fly 24 hours after the cast has been put on. If the flight is more than two hours, getting your cast split will help prevent deep vein thrombosis.

Of course, be honest with your doctor, let them know you’re traveling and don’t travel when you’re contagious. Doing the same extra care that you do during the busy (or holiday) season will help you make it through on time. Things like, printing out a map of the airport, arriving early, and calling ahead to see if there are any courtesy wheelchairs you can use. You can also call ahead and try to reserve an aisle seat, so if it’s your tummy or your leg, you’ve got space to move around. Just remember to be honest and open at every point of entry. There are quarantinable diseases and certain ailments you’re not supposed to fly with.

If a bad case of worst case scenario worries are holding you back from traveling, relax. First world countries often have the same quality of care, at a lower price, third world countries are a place to be a little bit more careful in. If you get hurt, it’ll be cheaper than back home, and you’ll probably be able to head that way even if you’re on crutches.

About the Author

Mary Grace is a freelance writer based out of the beautiful Boise, Idaho. She loves hiking skiing, and all things travel and adventure. Comment down below or tweet her directly @marmygrace with any questions or suggestions.