Friday, May 18, 2012

Medical Tourism – My Adventures in India

Friday, May 18, 2012 Here is the text of the below 4 pages:

Healthcare and Medical Tourism

By C. W. Harris, (Atlanta Metro area), Georgia USA (Consumer2010@aol. com)

Are you one of the 46 million Americans that are either not insured or are you under insured?

Well, I am, although I like to sugar coat it by saying that I am ‘self insured’. I am in that large group who has too much money to be a charity case, but not enough money to easily pay $150-230,000 from retirement savings for a heart valve replacement operation.

Four years ago I discovered the problem and for 3 1/2 years it was under reasonable control with a series of prescribed medications. But finally a very bad reading on a yearly test mandated a valve replacement ASAP.

Fortunately I had put away a 4 page long article on “medical tourism” in Time Magazine’s May 29, 2006 issue and I was aware that there were many firms which can assist in finding patients medical care overseas, at greatly reduced prices from what they find in the USA for us ‘self pay’ patients.

After extensive on-line research with google and other search engines and after contacting several firms, I settled on one health referral firm called Healthbase. com in Newton, Mass. and I faxed them my medical records, they in turn sent them on to a top heart specialist in India Dr. Naresh Trehan whose surgical team works at the Apollo Hospital in Delhi, India.

Medical Tourism firms are a bit more than travel agents, but like them, they will arrange for your passport/visa, flights to and from your destination and even airport pickup and later return. They kept in touch by phone even when I was in the hospital in Delhi. It is always nice to get a call from ‘home’ when you are in the hospital overseas.

The quote provided by Healthbase. com, for a 12 day hospital stay and operation, in the ‘Joint Commission International’ accredited Apollo Hospital in Delhi, India was $13,172, less than 10% of the costs I would incur in the U. S. The 12 day stay was quoted at $7,608 (USD), Valve cost of $2,359 and the Professional fee for Dr. Trehan and his Team was $3,205. Even with the $1,200 R/T air fare my costs would be only about $15,000, a savings of over 90%!

Costs for using the medical tourism firm would have been a $250 fee, but as I already had my passport I opted to obtain my visa from the Indian Consulate General in Houston and book my own flights and the cost then was down to only $99. If I had it to do over I would have just paid the extra as my Visa application sat on someone’s desk for weeks and it began to look like it was lost or misplaced. Had I opted for the ‘full service’ the firm would have had a runner walk it through the Indian Consulate in New York City and gotten the visa stamped into my passport the same day.

So after 2 months of organizing things I flew on KLM Airlines from Atlanta, the 16 hours to India, with a 4 hour layover in Amsterdam to change planes. At 8,362 miles it is a long trip but actually shorter than other destinations that offer similar care for somewhat higher, but still inexpensive, prices.

I considered treatment options in: Thailand at $10,500, Singapore $13,000 and the Philippines, before settling on India which was still less expensive, with the Time Magazine Article estimate of $9,500, but my cost was slightly higher than average due to my advanced condition.

Initially I had thought that something closer to home would be possible but inquiries about such services in South and Central America indicated that those areas were more into cosmetic and dental surgery and not particularly well known for their heart operations.

Next week. My unexpected adventures in India


Healthcare and Medical Tourism

Part 2 – My unexpected adventures in India

By C. W. Harris, Kennesaw, Georgia USA

In last weeks article I discussed my choice to save money on my heart valve replacement and take a trip to India for ‘medical tourism’ and how my total costs of $15,000 were less than 10% of what I would have had to pay without insurance in the US.

This week, I will finish the story:

Flights to Delhi, India arrive and depart in the late evening or early morning hours, so I arrived after midnight on KLM (Atlanta – Amsterdam – Delhi) after a 16 hour 8,300 mile trip.

I was met at the arrivals area of the Delhi airport by Mr. Anup Handa, a representative of the Apollo Hospitals ‘Trehan Team’ who would soon be replacing my defective heart valve. The hospital is a 30 minute taxi ride away and even at night Delhi is a busy city. It is also a very poor city with people sleeping in the median strip of the highway and on sidewalks and in doorways. You don’t want to be poor in India!

Upon arrival my assigned assistant began the routine of getting me checked into a private room. Even at 2 a. m. there were 30+ people in the waiting room and I noticed that I was by far the largest person in the room at my height of 6’4”. Most Indians are of much shorter stature so I always seem to attract attention for both my height and being obviously a ‘westerner’.

The following day I met with Dr. Naresh Trehan MBBS in his office with members of his team and he told me about his 18 years working in New York City hospitals and he went into detail as to what would soon happen in my surgery. Various tests were required beforehand to verify and update the medical records which were already on file.

Thankfully, I do not remember the operation, in fact I have no memory at all even of leaving my room for the surgical theater. I woke up in the recovery room where Dr. Trehan was on hand to inform me that my operation was a success and there were no complications.

After half a day in a noisy ‘recovery room’ I was back on my floor but at a different room, unfortunately next to a stairwell which led to the lobby and a quick exit from the hospital.

3 days after the operation the hospital PR people asked me if I felt up to doing an interview for French TV, a reporter and camera man were doing interviews on various Apollo patients and I agreed. I spent an interesting 45 minutes in the atrium answering questions as to how I chose this hospital and my impressions of the treatment.

That is the ‘good news’, the very bad news is that upon the return to my room, only around the corner and 60 ft. from where we had done the interview, I immediately noted that a cabinet that had been locked when I left the room was now open. A quick check showed that my briefcase was gone and in it were 2 cameras, travelers checks, cash and all my ID including my brand new passport.

Hospital security was there at once but it was of course too late, the stairway next to my room was handy for more than emergency evacuations, it also would get a thief to the ground floor and out of the hospital in less than 2 minutes. This incident was a major embarrassment to the hospital and they spared no effort to try and find the thief.

I of course made as many notifications to card companies and travelers check companies as I could. Getting hold of Mastercard proved impossible but I got help from American Express in both blocking the 2 cards and finding out where they had been used. Charges started just 2 hours after the theft! From restaurants to jewelry stores. The hospital security together with one of my doctors actually took the time and effort to go to the various stores where Amexp charges were made and even located video footage of the person attempting to use the card. Unfortunately no one in the hospital who saw the video was able to identify the person and even though I was able to see my cat burglar I was not able to identify him.

End of that story right? Wrong! The next morning I phoned the U. S. Embassy a few minutes after it opened to report the circumstances of the theft of the passport. I wrongly thought that someone might be interested. I was told to come down to the Embassy and file a report. Of course I was by then only 4 days off the operation table, had no identification at all and not one cent in any currency on the face of the earth, but I was expected to drop by the Embassy to do paperwork!

The Director of the Apollo Hospital is the only American employed there, he assured me that he would get someone from the embassy to come to the hospital to take up the matter but things did drag on a bit until by some fortunate eventuality an Indian morning newspaper printed details of the theft.

This did not make the Apollo Hospital happy, as it made them look bad in having one of their foreign patients robbed while in their hospital, but it did have the effect of getting me a phone call from the embassy and after that wheels got set in motion. All US Consulates and Embassies keep an eagle eye on news reports for anything involving US interests or US citizens, unfortunately they don’t seem to care unless it gets in the papers, then they pretty much have to do something.

If it hadn’t been for that report in the newspaper I might still be in India trying to get a replacement passport! FYI, what you get is not free, you pay another $97 for it and the replacement passport is only good for one year. And you can forget that old chestnut about getting any loan from some mythical Embassy/Consulate fund so you can buy a ticket back to the USA and repay them later. If you don’t have some relative or bank that can wire you money then you can just live in a cardboard box or swim home. They are not going to do anything for you.

A 12 day hospital stay ended up as a 22 day stay but eventually I arrived ‘home’, and checked in with my local cardiologist. He was less than pleased to hear of my operation. I reminded him that he had told me that he had given me a six month window of opportunity to get the replacement. His reply was “Well, I never told you to go to India!”

Shortly after my return and before I could return to my condo in Panama City Beach, I developed a very serious infection of the incision. Heart patients are unfortunately prone to picking up infections and I picked up a real rare one. I was taken by ambulance to a Marietta Hospital and was transferred 2 days later to Emory Crawford Long Hospital in downtown Atlanta where I remained another 14 days with a 2nd operation to ‘debride’ the wound.

That is a fancy way of saying they dig a trench in your chest along the original incision and take out the infected flesh. It is somewhat unnerving to look down at a 7″ long open wound, which I had for 3 months as it slowly closed up. I told my plastics doctor that since it looked like raw hamburger we should put some ‘hamburger helper’ on it. Another invaluable lesson was learned: “Doctors have no sense of humor!”

I think David Letterman said it best when he opined: “If someone tells you that you need a heart operation – immediately run in the opposite direction.”

In the past few months I have had some tests and it seems that the area around the mechanical valve is ‘leaking’ and the valve needs replacement, also another valve is reported to have too high a pressure, so probably 2 valves need to be replaced. Pig valves this time. For the moment I remain on medication and I am hoping to keep it that way for as long as possible. Eventually an operation will be required but I am not looking forward to this.


Medi Bridge India is a leading medical travel facilitator based in Bangalore. We are a team of committed and passionate people who are eager to assist your medical trip to India.

Medi Bridge India maintains close network with doctors and JCI accredited hospitals in India. Using our close ties with hospitals, healthcare agencies, we provide the best quote, excellent support and genuine care.

In short, you can be assured of every support when you come to India. We also provide visa assistance, comfortable stay, travel, and pre-hospitalization visits. Also, we arrange nurses to attend to your needs after the treatment.

Why India is a popular destination for Medical Tourists?

One primary advantage of India is the availability of world-class treatment facilities and highly qualified doctors. Also, you can save on treatment cost – 30 to 60% savings.

The hospitals here are well equipped with the latest medical technology, and supported by highly qualified physicians and nurses. Most senior doctors in these hospitals have International medical degrees and have experience of working in leading hospitals abroad.

How Medi Bridge India Assists Medical Tourists?

We ensure complete transparency from the start to the finish of your medical trip to India. Our medical coordinators provide all assistance, right from the trip planning stage till the completion of your treatment.

Personal Care | Quality Treatment | Affordable Price

We assure you a safe and stress-free medical tourism experience in India. We help you in all aspects of your medical trip to India – from pre-travel planning, to your return to your home country. Besides, you can even plan a short vacation during your stay in India.


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