Hospitalized in Kuala Lumpur aka. Thank Goodness for Travel Insurance

When we embarked on our adventure less than a month ago, we had no idea we’d be using our travel insurance so soon. One moment we’re painting tulips in the mountains of Johor and the next – we’re in the most expensive hospital in Kuala Lumpur. Sometimes life finds funny ways to make your journey on this planet more interesting.

This adventure began while we were up in the mountains, spending a few hours a day painting on the floor. One day Christine felt a sudden sharp pain in her lower back and, thinking it was a sore muscle, spent the next few days stretching and even went hiking. Thankfully, it wasn’t until we got to Kuala Lumpur that the pain got so crippling that we immediately headed to the first hospital we found on Google – Pantai Hospital (that just so happened to be the most expensive private medical establishment in all of KL…oops). “Coincidentally” (I don’t believe in coincidences) it also happened to have one of the best spine surgeons in the world!

After hours of back and forth with her travel insurance company and agreeing to pay a 5,000 Ringgit deposit upfront, she was finally admitted to the hospital and sent for an X-ray and an MRI test, that discovered the supposed muscle pain was in fact a slipped spinal disk. At the ripe age of 20.

We ended up spending 3 nights at the hospital, me glued to Christine almost 24/7, her getting epidural shots in her spine and me keeping her mind sane. She couldn’t understand how it was her of all people, laying in a hospital bed with a herniated disk. After all, she was only 20, she stretched every day, ate healthy, exercised and meditated and was overall on the better side of the health spectrum. But we also discovered she has a straighter-than-normal spine and that combined with general bad posture (that most of us are guilty of), spinal compression due to long hours of travel and carrying a 10+kg backpack led to the simple activity of bending down and painting tulips to cause a disk to slip out of place, painfully touching a nerve.

The overall hospital experience wasn’t that bad. We read, watched movies and spent a lot of time talking. Surprisingly, the food we were served was not the worst thing you could possibly think of consuming, like many would assume, it being a hospital. Most of it was actually pretty good – tofu and Dahl and the most delicious bean sprout salad I’ve ever had + a small amount of fresh fruit. That, however, was reflected in the final bill of 6,171.35 Ringgit. Ouch!

We also had time to re-plan our adventure. We were supposed to join a turtle conservation project on the Perhentian islands from the first of September, working with turtles, sharks and corals. However, as Christine needs a few weeks to recover before she can move freely again, we have had to give up our spots on the project and say goodbye to our plans of seeing baby turtles hatch and find their way to the sea. Instead, we are staying in KL for the foreseeable future, using this opportunity to practice:

• patience with Christine’s recovery

• gratitude that we were in a privileged position where we were able to get her the necessary treatment

• and trust in that the universe has better plans for us, once this obstacle is behind us.

We choose to see this not as a setback but as an opportunity to find a new adventure. There are plenty of turtles needing saving, right?

The moral of the story is to always buy travel insurance because apparently even the healthiest 20 year olds who eat well and exercise regularly can suffer from unexpected, excruciatingly painful and incredibly expensive-to-treat painting-related accidents. Also to always believe that good things are in store for you and obstacles are only put in your way to challenge and inspire you. It’s all about perspective!

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