Today I share my experience with getting hurt (physically) in a foreign country and recommendations on how to deal with the situation.
After a peculiar bus ride from El Salvador to Honduras, it was a relief to wake up in a cozy and lively town. Colorful Buildings. Cobble-stoned streets. Ample central park. Whitewashed church. Santa Rosa de Copan was the breath of fresh air we needed after a tiring bus travel day.
When the amazement and wide-eyed sightseeing faded a bit, my husband and I concentrated on finding a nice spot for breakfast.
It was then when the unexpected decided to materialize.
The sidewalk pavement was uneven. Suddenly, I stepped over a dip, lost my balance, and fell. My husband was walking in front of me. When he heard the commotion he looked back and saw me on the floor.
“She was robbed,” was his’s initial thought.
I was in pain and couldn’t mention a word for a couple of seconds. He understood the situation when he saw blood on my left knee. There was a large cut surrounded by smaller ones plus dark spots on the entire affected area. I shed a tear or two while the pain was at its peak.
My husband hugged me. Some ladies stopped to help. One of them told us about a clinic in the main plaza. We thanked them and told them I was fine. When I was able to stand, we decided to stop by the clinic because the cuts and bruises looked kind of serious.
Once at the clinic, the doctor told me I needed stitches. I got really nervous at that moment. Seeing myself in a hospital bed waiting to be sewn like a piece of cloth is not my ideal vision of a travel experience. Once the affected area was cleaned, the doctor informed me I didn’t need the stitches because the main cut wasn’t that deep. Uffff, I breathed with relief. We left after I was bandaged.
What I Learned from Getting Hurt
It is obvious nobody wants to get hurt in a foreign country. However, there is a good chance this is going to happen if you have a serious case of wanderlust. And believe me; a physical wound can test you at very deep levels.
Minutes after my fall, a lot of thoughts started to rush through my mind. At some moment, I had to focus and start to make decisions (about my health and upcoming plans). I was able to continue with my originals plans even though I had doubts about how everything was going to end.
I want to share what worked for me at that moment. I believe this can be of help in similar cases (and assuming there are no life-threatening wounds involved).
Use common sense – Evaluate the situation and determine if you need medical help. When in doubt, decide to look for medical attention.
Evaluate your options (if you can) – Can you go to a private clinic? Medical help can be affordable in some countries. Do you need more specialized help? Maybe a visit to the pharmacy will do it.
Ask for help – Locals can direct you to the correct place to get help. If you don’t speak the language, visit an information center or touristic service provider. I have noticed security guards and police officers are willing to help most of the time (if they don’t understand you, they will point you to somebody who can).
Evaluate medical facilities – If you end up in a clinic or hospital, take a good look at the facilities. Does the environment look legitimate? Does it give you a good feeling? Make sure you do not end in a subpar, fake, or clandestine place (I am talking from personal experience here).
Inform the doctor about your allergies – This is important for obvious reasons. Some people even carry cards in the local language.
Ask questions – Don’t leave the clinic or hospital with doubts about your situation. For example, I asked the doctor for an expected healing time. That information helped me to make decisions about some activities I had planned.
Follow medical recommendations – Take and/or apply the prescriptions. If you don’t do this, things may get more complicated.
Follow closely your progress – I took a close look at my wounds every day. I knew they weren’t getting infected. The pain was diminishing with time. If you don’t see progress, it may be time to visit the doctor again.
Decide if you are going to be able to continue with the itinerary – I got hurt on a Thursday. I had hiking, rowing, and swimming plans for the Monday and Tuesday of the week after. While in the clinic, I had thoughts of canceling my tour. In the end, I decided to wait a few more days since it was possible to cancel the day before the tour start. Once you get stabilized, think if you can continue with your plans. You may decide some changes are needed.
Buy travel insurance – This is the best way to plan for the unexpected. This is essential if you are a frequent traveler. The more you travel, the more your probabilities of getting hurt in another country increase.
Get checked once you get back home – Once you return home from your trip, I recommend getting your injury checked by your primary physician or specialist. You want to make sure you are healing properly without any secondary effects
Keep your cool and a positive attitude – I understand this suggestion can even sound ludicrous. But if you decide to continue with your trip, think about all the time and money you have invested. You better enjoy it.
Do you have any suggestions for moments like these? Let me know in the comments section below.