Lucky faces his worst fear…

There are two things in life I’m deathly afraid of — paper cuts and hospitals (sadly enough, probably in that order). I know I need to grow up, but I live in absolute fear of hospitals. The last time I’ve visited one is when I was born, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to visit one again till I die. I hate the smell. I hate needles. I hate the monitor that makes that beeping noise that’s the difference between you being dead and alive. I hate all of it.

I’m in Seattle for a couple of days after my quick Aeroplan round the world trip, and I was spending Monday night at the Four Seasons Seattle. I almost always stay at Hyatt, InterContinental, or Starwood properties, though I’ve heard amazing things about the Four Seasons Seattle, and it’s one of the more reasonably priced properties in the chain. So I figured why the heck not for one night, especially since it included a $100 food and beverage credit, breakfast, a room upgrade, and late check-out.

Unfortunately I awoke at 6:30AM yesterday with an awful pain in my lower abdomen. I almost never complain about pain, though in this case I couldn’t see out of my eyes, I couldn’t breath, and I felt like someone was doing surgery on my stomach while I was fully awake. While hospitals are one of my biggest fears, my even bigger fear is going to a hospital in a city without family. Fortunately Seattle has great hospitals, and there could be much worse places to get sick alone, like Vietnam, the Maldives, or in the middle of an 18 hour flight.

So after the pain went on for about 30 minutes I called the front desk and asked them where the nearest hospital was. I feared it was appendicitis, and one of the reasons I didn’t wait longer is because my dad’s appendix nearly burst about 10 years ago because he waited too long.

The front desk agent asked me if I needed an ambulance, and I said a cab would be alright. Two minutes later the manager on duty and security were at my door to take me downstairs to the waiting cab that already knew which hospital to go to. The manager said she’d extend my stay by a night in case I needed it, and asked if there’s anything else she could do.

Anyway, both the people at the Four Seasons and at the hospital were far too nice (I guess they better be with how much they charge), and the nurse taking care of me, Don, had a great sense of humor. They hooked me up to an IV and thought I had either appendicitis or kidney stones, though after nearly three hours of tests it turned out I didn’t have either.

Anyway, I’ll avoid all the other details, but I did take away the following:

  • On the plus side, I’m not totally terrified of hospitals anymore. They’re not that bad, and sitting in one of those beds for a few hours with the potential to be minutes from surgery eased my fear a bit for the future.
  • Unfortunately I’m now mildly terrified of having something happen on an airplane. I’m kind of scared to get on a longhaul flight and be the reason for a diversion. I’d never get on a longhaul flight if I wasn’t feeling well, but this was something that hit me from one moment to the next. I realize the chances are small, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.
  • The folks at the Four Seasons really were incredibly hospitable and I can’t say enough good things about them. Perhaps that’s something that should be expected at a Four Seasons, but they were hospitable without being overbearing. I’ll have a full review of the hotel soon, though I think it’s an incredible hotel that’s actually a very good value as well.

Lastly, I appreciate that you guys always make me laugh. I tweeted a picture of my hospital bed, and some of my favorite responses included:

  • “Worst. First Class Lounge. Ever.”
  • “Is that angled-flat or fully flat there?”
  • “any miles to be earned from the visit?”

Yes, I have a feeling I’ll be earning a few miles for the visit…

Oh, and you know how to tell that I’m totally obsessed with miles and points? When I went to the pharmacy in the hospital to pay for some meds they prescribed me, I took a few seconds to ponder if any credit card would earn me a bonus for that spend category. Yes, that’s despite being heavily drugged up.

Filed Under: Travel
  1. Don’t be afraid of getting sick on the plane. Be afraid of where the plane diverts to as that is the country you will get care in. (OK maybe I just gave you one more fear to add to the list!) 😉

  2. Glad everything is ok!

    Now of only there was a 100% mile bonus. Does that count as five points thank you points or Double Chase ultimate reward points? 😉

  3. Premier Rewards Gold for pharmacy in case it’s coded as grocery!

    Glad you are feeling better.. Now you have me freaked out about my upcoming HKG-JFK!

  4. Glad you ended up being okay.

    I’ve never stayed at a Four Seasons (not reach for sympathy honestly).

    But I’d like to think the people who helped you mainly did so out of being good people. Rather than thinking about future business, or retaining you as a customer.

  5. Indeed, the country of diversion can often make the difference between life and death.

    I recall an instance about 5 years ago of a Nigerian passenger who experienced severe abdominal pains while on a flight from Sierra Leone to London. The crew took a decision to divert to Palma de Mallorca in Spain.

    Unfortunately, the Nigerian passenger did not have a visa for Spain and despite his critical condition, the Spanish authorities refused to let him be removed from the aircraft for treatment. Only after he passed away (with the aircraft on the tarmac for 30 minutes already) was his body allowed to be removed.

    Subsequently it emerged that the reason for the abdominal pains was that he was a drug mule who had swallowed multiple condoms of drugs and these were beginning to leak. So the matter did not escalate into the huge controversy that it might have otherwise. However, I knew the captain and one of the cabin crew on that flight and they were very distraught about the entire situation.

    Granted this is more of the exception than the rule, but if you are experiencing pain inflight, always check to see where you are overflying before making your situation known to the crew. Once you report your discomfort, unfortunately the matter is often taken out of your hands.

  6. A reasonably priced Four Seasons in Seattle? How much would that be? Need 3 nights there and looking around for my options. Other favorite hotels in Seattle you recommend?

  7. Glad you are OK. I got really sick on my first trip to Thailand and had to spend a night in the hospital. It was some kind of food poisoning I think. I was barfing all over the beach. Everyone was staring at me saying I had too much to drink. There happened to be an American doctor there at the beach who recommended I go to the hospital ASAP. For sure being all alone in a foreign country like that is not a lot of fun. But Thai hospitality and hospitals are great.

  8. Reading this after having spent the past 2 days curled up in the fetal position and/or running to the toilet at my $15 a night hostel in the Philippines. Just ate my first solid food in 2 days, woo-hoo! The less glamorous side of traveling in third world countries eh? Haha

  9. Dang! Glad you’re okay at least. What did you have for dinner the night before? 😉

  10. If you haven’t done so already, take a serious look at travel insurance. Most “regular” health insurance policies don’t cover international travel . There are year-long travel medical policies as well as one-trip policies.

  11. @ The Points Guy — Hah, good point, hadn’t thought of that. It was part of a hospital so I suspect it doesn’t count as “grocery,” though I guess we’ll see. Enjoy your flight back!

    @ gpapadop — Their rates start at $265-$285 in the off season. I was staying for one night, and my rate included a $100 food and beverage credit plus free breakfast ($52 credit), as well as a room upgrade and late check-out. So that’s $152 in credit on a $285 stay. And trust me, the service makes it well worth it.

    @ HoKo — So sorry to hear! Hope you feel better.

    @ Travel and Credit — Hah, actually a very reasonable dinner at the Four Seasons, so can’t imagine that had much to do with it.

  12. @ Divyesh — To be honest I’m still not sure, and they didn’t seem to have a definitive answer. Just a stomach issue, apparently.

  13. As for the concern for something happening when you are flying, unless your particular issue raises explicit and imminent concern, you’re better off choosing to live life, rather than take counsel of fears. Life is to short to worry about the unlikely stuff.

    Can’t help with the paper cuts. You’ll want to avoid those at all costs. :^)

  14. Sorry to hear about your medical issue. That is always a fear of mine – Getting sick overseas and away from family and friends.

    Hope everything is well.

    My brother waited a while before going to the hospital and then they took their time before taking him to surgery. Unfortunately for him his appendix burst on the way to surgery and he was in the hospital for 12 days due to the infection risk (he was a healthy 40 yr old at the time).

    Get Well.

  15. Glad you are feeling better. Medical emergencies while traveling is one of my absolute fears (so are my parents, who are MDs).

  16. Lucky – have your doctor test you for diverticulitis. It can mimic kidney stone pain and appendicitis. It comes and goes and if that’s what you had, it’ll be back.

  17. glad you are all right and didn’t need surgery, and as you mentioned, you weren’t airborne.

    regarding spending at pharmacies…sadly i’ve actually considered how to maximize spending at one (in a non-emergency situation of course), and I typically buy my drugs at a Safeway pharmacy (grocery store). I’ve never actually checked how the purchases are coded, because they are done through a different register than the front end ones, but I figured it would be considered a grocery store purchase, and as such, I use my AME Premier Rewards Gold

  18. Glad you were in Seattle and not some far off place that doesn’t have the medical services we are accustomed to. Hope you are feeling much better soon. Since you asked, the Hilton Amex is 6x at drugstores (as I’m sure you know), but not 100% sure how that plays out in a hospital setting. 😉

  19. brahms77 — your parents are one of your worst fears? 🙂

    Lucky — at least you got to face one of your worst fears head on — so that you can realize, it’s not that bad. Or at least, you can now trip out about how it could be much worse if you need care in a third world country.

    Glad you’re feeling better.

  20. I think everyone is afraid of being sick in a strange place without family nearby. Sounds like your experience wasn’t as scary as it could’ve been — glad you’re ok!

    You should do a post about the best credit cards for hospital stays. 🙂

  21. @LIH Prem – yes! Love BBT and I just watched that episode the other day. 🙂

    Glad you’re feeling better Lucky.

  22. Wow, you were ailing and still took the time to answer my award ticket enquiry??? You are a real trooper Ben and glad to see you made a quick recovery!

  23. I had terrible abdominal pains once while traveling for business in Vietnam. It was the night before my flight home and I was in the hotel deciding whether or not to go to the hospital. I eventually decided not to, and spent the next 12 hours flying home in airplane lavatory. Worst flight of my life.

  24. I too have had massive stomach pains in Seattle, but since it wasn’t my first time, I didn’t visit the hospital. Turns out – I am allergic to oregano. Causes about 6 hours of intense stomach cramps. Someone else will need to visit Italy and Greece for me.

  25. I was staying at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City and was hit with a horrible case of food poisoning (Not from hotel food). I took a cab to the hospital – didn’t even tell the hotel which one I was going to – the next day I received a basket of flowers from the hotel – I was in the hospital for 4 days and they took care of extending my room automatically. To be far away from home and sick in the hospital I have to tell you it really was nice touch to get those flowers. Even my office didn’t send any!

  26. We have a similar problem down here Ben in Portland…but we call it Excess VOODOO DONUT syndrome hehehe…glad you are okay!

  27. Glad to hear that the hospital/experience was less scary than you anticipated. Yesterday I just got released from a 24 hour stay @ a hospital near JFK, as I was enroute from LIM-BOS. As a mature middle aged individual with left shoulder pain, and serious dizziness, I decided to ask the AAngel @ the Admirals club to call 911(interesting transport on the tarmac by ambulance, since they decided not to take me all the way back through terminal 8). I got the full work up for a heart attack, with fortunately everything coming back negative. In a three week trip this was the only part of my travel where I was traveling by myself! On the plus side, I work in a hospital as a nurse practitioner, so am more comfortable in that environment than many other people, but still no fun (my blood pressure was through the roof for the first 12 or so hours I was in the ER/observation area). Having traveled internationally now for over 40 years, it has always been a fear that I would be stuck in the back of beyond and be seriously ill. In that time I have taken trips as long as four months, and until a couple of days ago never had to visit a hospital(which isn’t to say I have not gotten sick on the road, just not as potentially seriously as the other day). I have bought medical/evacuation coverage for travel in developing countries in the past, but had not done it for this three week trip to S. America. (At least I did not have any problems until I landed back on US soil). I will be certain to buy it in the future though, after this very recent experience.

  28. Glad to hear you are okay Lucky.

    I recently had surgery on my left elbow and my first thought was the miles I’m earning from the surgeon, anaesthetist and hospital fees.

  29. Coins, My honeymooning son is in the Maldives. Now you’ve got me worried. Hope you’re ok. FYI, they’re going home SQ MAL/SIN/ICN OZ ICN/JFK in C.

  30. Sorry to read this Ben. Hope you’re now OK. I spent last Monday to Thursday in hospital. I feel as you do towards them. never fun.

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