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Malaysia forum

Please be cautious hiking to monkey beach (why health insurance is the most important thing you buy

Posted by antoniamitchell on 16/6/2016 at 04:27

Hi everyone.

The various write ups on the hiking path to monkey beach can make it seem quite easy (40 min, 30 if you're a fast walker, etc)... just a walk in the park.

The reality is, despite the park having actually improved the trail in the past year or two, this is not the west. A large part of the trail is a narrow dirt and mulch track cut into the sides if a hill, occasionally litered with fallen branches, logs and rocks to step over or clamber over. All it takes is one hiking boot slipping on a wet leaf or a lose bit of dirt (or whatever actually happened, I'm still not certain) at precisely the wrong time (ie, when passing a steep drop off into a small ravine), and the end result can be one fall backwards and upside down into the ravine, 2 weeks in a private Malaysian hospital with 2 factured vertebra (and a handy new set of steel rods and pins holding my spine together for me).

I have no one to blame - it was pure rotten luck, and I consider myself incredibly lucky in many ways - my spine and nerves were damaged but not severed, so I can still walk (and I'm hopeful of further improvement over time). My head was a only lightly bashed and I sustained no brain damage.

But make no mistake - this is a life changing injury, and for the next months my life will revolve around resting and healing and physio and waiting to see how much of my damaged nerve sensation I get back.

So I guess I just wanted to share this as a cautionary tale. It takes just one piece of crappy luck to change your life. So, please, please always take out adequate health insurance (one that pays everything up front for you, rather than one that experts you to pay up front and claim back - turns out the claim back kind are absolutely useless when you're strapped immobile to a spinal board, and the local state hospital somehow wants you to go to the admissions desk to input your credit card pin before they take the xrays).

I always took out insurance in the past, but always assumed i'd never need it - i'm not a risk taker by nature, I'm not into adventure sports or driving big powerful motorbikes. I always assumed the worst likely to happen to me was falling into an open draining ditch and spraining my ankle, maybe a foot fracture at the worst, where the deductible for the xray means it's practically not worth claiming on insurance, so it never worried me that I'd be in a situation where I couldn't physically hand over my credit card to pay for the treatment. Luckily in addition to the pay then claim back personal travel policy, I had a better policy from work (AIG - they've been brilliant), so I got well taken care of in the end.

But please, please, never go anywhere without a good policy.

Take care of yourselves.

#1 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by somtam2000 on 16/6/2016 at 07:36 admin

Hi Antonia.

Thanks for the write up and that is great to hear you're on the road to recovery. I've walked that trail myself and was really shocked when I first saw what had happened to you (on Facebook). Glad to see AIG did a brilliant job looking after you.

I've also added in a reference to this post on the listing for the national park and said to watch your step -- I know obviously too late for you but will raise awareness among others going there.

Best for a speedy recovery


#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by antoniamitchell on 16/6/2016 at 07:36

Thanks, Stuart.

#3 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by gecktrek on 16/6/2016 at 19:10

hey, sorry to hear of your unfortunate accident, echoing somtam's comments, good luck in your convalescence...

#4 gecktrek has been a member since 24/3/2013. Location: Australia. Posts: 178

Posted by antoniamitchell on 16/6/2016 at 19:54

Thanks Gecktrek!

#5 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by Yesterday on 16/6/2016 at 21:21

The importance of travel insurance cannot be stressed enough so it's good of you to be willing to share your personal account of just how easily things can go wrong. Also good to be reminded of the pay up front and repaid vs the insurer pays straight up
All the best and I hope your recovery goes smoothly

#6 Yesterday has been a member since 9/8/2015. Posts: 33

Posted by exacto on 17/6/2016 at 12:50

I'm sorry about your fall and the rotten luck, but glad you are on the road to recovery. Will you be posting your journey back to full health on travelswithstjude?
Wishing you the best. Get well soon.

#7 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,840

Posted by antoniamitchell on 17/6/2016 at 19:35

Hi Exacto and Yesterday,

Thanks for the wishes. It's certainly not been the 4 day weekend in Penang I was expecting!

I haven't even thought about blogging all this (at the moment just getting through physio and getting showered and dressed every day is exhausting) but I suppose I probably will start blogging about it, as much as a way to process all the feelings and thoughts as anything else...

Take care of yourselves

#8 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by TerroirTravel on 18/6/2016 at 13:54

Yikes! How awful for you, but glad that you are (mostly) okay.

I second your recommendation for insurance, always bought it, never used it until recently, when I fractured my ankle in Zimbabwe.

I hope your recovery is swift!

#9 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76

Posted by SBE on 19/6/2016 at 05:59

So sorry to hear about your accident, what lousy luck! Hope you get better soon.

Just wondered how you got help help after you fell? Presumably you were in no fit state to walk back to the park entrance. Did you call someone or did a park ranger come looking for you when you didn't come back?

#10 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by antoniamitchell on 19/6/2016 at 06:29

Luckily, I was hiking with a friend. Neither of us could get through to emergency services on our phones. So first i climbed back out of the ravine, back to the path. Then i just sat on the path and waited while my friend hiked on to monkey beach to find help.

When she arrived at the beach, she got another tourist to hike back along the trail to find me, while she got one of the boat men who hang around to be chartered to sail back along the coast. When the tourist reached me, she went down to the water's edge to wave in the boat, then between the three of them they managed to get me back on my feet, staggered onto the boat, and transported me back to the entrance of the park, where a local woman got me into the back of her car and drove me to the local walk in clinic, who called the ambulance.

So it wasn't really the rescue I was expecting - i'd much rather have had an ambulance crew turn up with a stretcher and spinal board than stagger with help on and off boats, all the while aware that one sudden movement wrong could cause the broken pieces of my vertebra to sever my spine.....

But you do what you need to at the time.

And I was very lucky - it could easily have been so much worse....

#11 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by antoniamitchell on 19/6/2016 at 07:00

Oh, and I don't think the rangers would have known if I didn't come back, because although visitors are asked to sign into the park, the guy on the desk told me we didn't have to sign out again.....

Thanks SBE and TerroirTravel for the wishes.

#12 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by antoniamitchell on 19/6/2016 at 19:31

Although rereading this it makes it sound more dramatic in my brain than it was - at the time I didn't know I'd smashed up two vertebra - I just knew from basic first aid training that a hard fall meant I was risk of spinal injury, and that I should try and avoid moving until I could get medical attention.

But we were no where near a road (and I'm guessing penang doesn't have ambulance boats to get to injuries away from the road), and my poor friend was trying to hold it together but only just avoiding panic, so.... you just hold it together and do what you need to, to get to help.

I was also covered in blood at this stage - my head wounds were completely superficial - I didn't even need stitches, but anything on the head bleeds a lot, so that was undoubtedly very frightening for my poor friend. I also was feeling really woozy and wanted to lie down, so my poor friend had to scream at me to stay sitting upright and keep my eyes open, while she left me to go find help. I can't even imagine how frightening it must have been for her.

What kills me - the boatman wanted money to come get me. More than my friend had on her. She gave him everything in her purse, and then when they picked me up my friend had to take more money out of my purse for him. What a way to behave - during Ramadan no less.....

But everyone one else I encountered was amazing during this ordeal. So I'll just write off that one boatman as a bit of a little ****. He still got me out of the park, so he still helped.

Anyway, I'm being discharged from hospital and sent home tomorrow - I can't wait! !!!!!

#13 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by SBE on 20/6/2016 at 04:48

You were lucky you weren't somewhere more remote! Transport to the nearest hospital can cost a fortune and most insurance companies have a clause insisting you contact them beforehand .... which of course you can't do if you're somewhere where there's no internet or phone signal.

Accidents that happen in very remote and hard to get to locations are going to be the most expensive places to get a medical evacuation. Of course some decent insurance companies take unavoidable circumstances into account, but I bet there are also some who'd use that get out clause to avoid paying up and you never know how good your travel insurance really is until you have to make a claim. When I was in the Bandas a few years back a woman came down with both dengue and malaria and her husband had to fork out about $2500 to charter a speedboat back to Ambon. There was no kind gesture from the boat captain that time either...

Anyway, sounds like you're on the mend now. Hope the flight back home won't be too uncomfortable for you!

PS Interesting that they don't ask you to sign out when you leave the NP. The first time I took that trail I was sent back to HQ to sign in by a ranger. The reason he gave was that it was for safety reasons... he said they'd know there was a problem if I didn't come back at the expected time. It's hard to see how just signing in helps with safety.... if you're travelling on your own it could be weeks before anyone notices you've gone missing!

#14 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by TerroirTravel on 11/8/2016 at 23:28

Hey Antonia,

I've been thinking of your ordeal- how are you healing up?

#15 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76

Posted by antoniamitchell on 12/8/2016 at 08:33

Hi TerroirTravel,

I'm improving, thanks for asking. I'm back at work pretty-much full time now (my job is in marketing, so as long as my brain is functioning and I have a computer, I'm good to work), and doing my daily physio. The nerve damage has improved quite a bit: I still have some numbness in a few areas and a little weakness in my right leg, but it's loads better than it was.

I have a month to go before I can stop wearing the massive spinal brace all the time, and then I can start working with my physiotherapist to re-learn how to bend, which I'm really looking forward to, Having to use my feet to pick up things I drop can be quite frustrating. I had no idea how clumsy I was before this, but I've now realised that I drop stuff all the time!

They've told me the total healing time for this sort of injury is about 12 months, but I have a very good chance of making a complete recovery. So hopefully by next summer, I'll be back to "normal" and travelling like mad, just with a pound or two of extra steel setting off the airport metal detectors!!!

#16 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

Posted by TerroirTravel on 17/8/2016 at 00:32

Glad to hear you are on the mend. I won't wish a speedy recovery, because, well, it is what it is. I'm still learning to walk properly after my Zim accident. And the "speedy" comment always makes me feel like I'm not healing fast enough. I prefer to heal properly. And so I wish you that :)

#17 TerroirTravel has been a member since 1/2/2014. Posts: 76

Posted by antoniamitchell on 19/8/2016 at 09:09

Thanks, TerroirTravel. The slow rate of healing is frustrating, isn't it (I want to be "fixed" now). Wishing you likewise a completely recovery for your ankle.

#18 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 569

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