Subject: Travel Insurance
Good morning Ziners,

I indicated some time ago that I was taking a two week coach tour with a friend through Europe. To make a long story short, I hit the side of my leg on a chair in Nice, France (did not even break the skin). By that afternoon, my leg was swollen and looked like it was covered with eczema. By the next morning, the leg was starting to blister. When we arrived in Montecatini that evening, I went directly to a hospital - the young female doctor there spoke English fortunately. She prescribed Rocefin, a very strong antibiotic with a caution that I had to see another doctor in 24 hours for yet another shot. I spent the day in transit from Montecatini to Venice at the back of the bus where the tour guide tried to make me as comfortahble as possible. Along with the pain, I had a blinding headache and fever.

Upon arrival in Venice, I went off to another very large hospital where the language barrier was very difficult. I took the Rocefin with me - the doctor gave me the shot and rebandaged the leg which was now festering with very large blisters and told me that no tour was worth dying for. He referred me to a specialist and told me to be back at 9AM the next morning. The dermatologist took one look at it and said "you go home now - it is important you go now". They rebandaged it again and gave me yet another shot of Rocefin and then the fun began.

Our tour director had their London office call me at the hotel as I was so sick I had to stay in bed. She then put me in touch with the sub-contractor company in the U.S. which handles air flights. This lady insisted that my ticket required me to fly home from Rome. I told her I was not ambulatory and that there was no way I could get to Rome and must leave from Venice. I also asked what the point was of paying for insurance if it didn't get you home from the point the emergency occurred. After giving me a very difficult time, she agreed that she would get me a flight from Venice but that I would have to pay for it up front and then collect from the insurance after the fact. At that point, I didn't really care so agreed.

She faxed about 15 pages of material to the hotel for me to fill out, one of which was a credit card authorization and the rest was medically related. She also indicated that their "people" had to deem me medically fit to fly. We faxed this off to them Thursday afternoon and heard nothing more.

My flight was to leave Venice at 11:30 on Friday morning to JFK in New York and then on to Detroit where my husband would pick me up. The tour bus left at 8AM for Rome with everyone on it and I left for the airport by myself. When I got there, Delta had my reservation in the computer but the contractor had not paid for the ticket as instructed by fax. I showed her the paperwork but she said it meant nothing to her, they didn't know these people and she could not give me the ticket. The ticket counter was closing in 30 minutes so I hauled out my credit card again and charged the ticket (which by the way was $2100 Canadian one way). I was supposed to have a bulkhead seat which I did not get.

They did have a wheelchair waiting in New York and again in Detroit where I arrived about 9:30 last Friday night and my husband and two of my kids took me right to our local hospital where our family doctor was on alert. I was admitted immediately and spent five days on IV antibiotics and also by mouth, as well as heparin for blood clotting and a machine which inflated air in and out of stockings I had to wear to circulate my blood.

My leg was frightening to behold - the emergency room chief physician said it looked exactly like flesh eating disease but the odds were in my favour that it wasn't. The fever had gone and my white count was normal and there were no red "streamers" shooting out from it. The infection was from the top of my ankle up to just under my knee all around the leg with great chunks of flesh literally eaten away. It has been diagnosed by the surgeon who was called in as streptococcal cellulitis. I still have a home care nurse coming in every day to change the dressing and give me my IV antibiotic - this will go on for 3 more days and then I see my doctor again.

Yesterday, I called the insurance company and have received claim forms via the internet to get this process under way.

The reason I am writing this is to warn you to read your insurance when you purchase it. I had to fight and argue to get home from Venice instead of Rome and have yet to see whether they will pay for it. To be on the safe side, my husband has been taking pictures of my leg every day so they can see the severity of the infection in case they question why I cancelled the rest of the trip. Caveat emptor!!

One favourable thing I do want to say is that in my three visits to Italian hospitals, they did not charge me one red cent for the care I received which was excellent. The only thing I had to pay for was the prescription written by the original doctor.

And the worst part of all was that I was in Venice two days and did not even get to see it!!

Pat, Ontario