Before leaving to go to America, the prospective exchange students were made to go to a meeting titled ‘it won’t happen to me’, where we had to sit through a PowerPoint of horrific incidences which previous exchange students had been involved in, e.g. being caught up in natural disasters or deported for underage drinking. The aim of the PowerPoint was to encourage us students to be vigilant whilst on exchange and consequently, I completely ignored any advice that was given. ‘Nothing like that is going to happen to me’, came my irritatingly annoying thoughts, ‘nothing like that ever happens to me’. When I saw the price of health insurance for one semester ($1200) I very nearly refused to get it, purely as a matter of principal. Thankfully though, I was eventually persuaded, and I cannot begin to articulate how thankful I am for that.
A few weeks into my stay in New Jersey I went on a university organised day skiing trip. Not many of the others in our group had skied much before, if ever, so my arrogance took over and I decided to attempt to show off my mediocre skills. Terrible decision. I have been skiing since I was five and never in all that time have, I ever injured myself. ‘You wear my waterproof gloves’, I told my roommate, who, with it being her first time on the slopes, didn’t have any proper kit and had spent a considerable portion of the morning on the floor. ‘I’m not going to fall over so you need them more than I do’. Ten minutes later I was face first in the snow, screaming in pain with my elbow twisted at a very disturbing looking angle.
A few of us had decided to challenge ourselves by going down a black slope and had taken the incredibly embarrassing liberty to photograph ourselves with the ‘experts only’ sign that was situated at the top of the slope before careering off down the piste. By this point, it was nearing the end of the day so the snow had begun to melt and become extremely slushy. As I made my way towards the bottom of the mountain, my ski got caught in a lump of snow, propelling me into the air. I crashed down onto the ice and felt a sharp pain in my right elbow. ‘I need to go to the hospital’, I thought instinctively.
Being lowered down a mountain, strapped to a sledge pulled by a man on skis is terrifying. Primarily, this is because it is pretty much impossible to ski at a speed slower than about a million miles per hour. Once we’d reached the bottom, I was transferred on to another stretcher, this one on wheels, and taken into the emergency room. A woman named Tammy felt around my arm for a bit, much to my protestations, an ever more concerning look on her face.
‘Girl we need to get you to the ER’
In the ambulance on the way to the hospital the paramedic ran some tests.
‘Your blood pressure is pretty high, are you feeling stressed?’
I was in fact, very stressed, my chief concern being that outdoor activities wouldn’t be included under my health insurance. The thought of thousands of dollars of crippling debt is the last thing you want to be thinking about when you’ve just suffered a severe injury and I suddenly felt a surge of pride towards the NHS.
After spending a traumatising six hours in the hospital, consisting of X rays, pain killers and a lot of screaming, my arm was finally put back in to place and slotted in to a sling. The doctors wheeled me out into the waiting room where my friends had laboriously waited for me (thanks guys) and helped to load my dysfunctional body into the mini van which was taking us home.
That night, two of my flatmates had to use scissors to cut me out of my t shirt since moving my arm was so excruciating. The process took about half an hour and when the top was finally removed, we discovered that my entire arm was covered in a deep purple bruise.
The next few weeks constituted of Doctors appointments, ibuprofen and me realising how insanely useful having two functioning hands is (have you ever tried grating cheese with one hand? Absolute nightmare.)
My bill for the hospital was over 10 thousand dollars, not counting the ambulance bill which was an extra $1500, for a 20 minute journey. I’m not entirely sure how much of this bill will be covered by my insurance but it will cost me a lot less than if I hadn’t bothered to take out insurance at all. Essentially, the moral of this story is, take the meeting seriously, don’t be arrogant and definitely take out health insurance because it could in fact, happen to you!