Make the most of your health. Live while you’re young. Make hay when the sun shines. They’re such clichés, and I may have just quoted One Direction, but it’s true that you never really know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Or, in my case, almost gone.
My now-husband and I were planning our epic round-the-world honeymoon long before I got ill. But if there’s one thing that’s sure to get you fired up to travel, it’s the idea that you might not be able to.
To fully understand where I’m coming from here, you need to know another fun fact about hospital: they never tell you quite how ill you are until you’re not anymore, and you’re constantly told how well you’re doing, even if it’s not that well.
So, after my two weeks in hospital, I was discharged as an inpatient. At my first outpatient appointment I was praised for how well I was doing. My CK levels were down to about 250 (remember a healthy level is under 200, but at least I was out of the millions).
In my second outpatient appointment, it was a bit of a different story. I was told that my kidneys had not continued to recover at the same pace; they still had a way to go before I was in the clear; and if they didn’t improve past a certain point, they would start to deteriorate again.
If that happened, my kidneys would continue to get worse until they stopped working altogether. I could need regular dialysis. Eventually, it would become daily. Eventually, I would need a transplant. They were clearly done with the sugar-coating.
Suddenly faced with the possibility of a lifetime of kidney complications, my first thought (and I still can’t decide if this was stupid or not) was: “But, I have to go travelling!”
Surprisingly enough, my doctor took my concerns seriously. He told me that, if I got good enough travel insurance, stayed within a day or two of large-ish cities, and took note of the nearest hospital at any given time, I should be fine. It wasn’t exactly how I’d pictured the trip, but at least it was something.
Of course, it never came to that. My kidneys did recover enough to stay recovered. But that day I got glimpse of what could have been, and when it didn’t happen, I was more determined than ever to make the most of my health. Because I can.
One thing I did have to deal with, however, was a much-elevated travel insurance bill. You know that bit where the form asks for pre-existing medical conditions? I no longer have the luxury of selecting ‘no’.
To give you an idea of what acute kidney injury does to your travel insurance bill – I used to travel for work fairly often, so I had a 12-month travel insurance policy paid for by the company. I informed that company when my circumstances changed, and, because I’d had a serious illness within the last two years – even though I had been discharged from the hospital even as an outpatient – my premium went up from under £50 to £255.
Six months later, as I was preparing to leave the country, I needed the more expensive backpacker’s insurance, and I had to pay for it myself. It was by far the most expensive thing we purchased for the trip, except for the flights.
Still, to use yet another cliché, better safe than sorry. So far, I haven’t ended up on dialysis in a foreign hospital, but if I did, I wouldn’t have to worry about the financials.
What I have had to do, as you might remember, is book an appointment with a neurologist. That’s pricey, and only partially covered by the reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Australia. I called the insurance company and, apparently, as it’s not strictly a medical emergency, they don’t cover it.
If they diagnose me with a neurological disorder, it becomes a medical emergency and they’ll think about it. Either way, it doesn’t feel like a win for me.
The appointment is in two weeks. And, weirdly, the best-case scenario is that I pay $300 to be told there’s nothing wrong with me.
I will, of course, keep you posted.