he ambulance parked in front of Kelly and Paul DeRocco’s home on Anna Marie Road signals some sort of medical emergency. It was. Kelly and Paul had just returned from a nightmare experience in Mexico and the stress has left her vulnerable to heart palpitations. That was what she was experiencing on March 11 just days after returning from what was supposed to be a 10th wedding anniversary trip.
Kelly was diagnosed with a condition called SVT 15 years ago and has taken pills ever since with no occurrence until her trip to Playa del Carmen in Mexico at the end of February.
That’s when the nightmare began.
After going for a swim, after two glorious days of having a lot of fun, Kelly started getting heart palpitations.
“You need to call the doctor,” said Kelly to Paul.
Her heart rate was close to 200 beats per minute and this lasted more than 50 minutes before she made it to the closest hospital about five minutes from the hotel. Kelly said her heart condition hadn’t caused her any problems in the past but as she is getting older it can worsen. Kelly is in her mid-40s.
“That level is dangerous, it could turn into a heart attack,” she said.
That’s when she realized that her life was worth just $2,000 US. The couple had purchased travel insurance, as they had done so many times in the past, but the private hospital they went to would not accept any insurance cards. They demanded the $2,000 up front even before a doctor would see her. It was up to the couple to get reimbursed by the insurance company once they arrived home. Luckily their credit card went through and she was admitted.
“I don’t remember too much,” said Kelly.
It was discovered she had tachycardia caused by dehydration. Her heart rate was stabilized and her enzymes brought down and her hospital stay extended for another 24 hours because of the risk of a heart attack. Another $1,000. They never thought they would have to “fork out” for insurance – never told they would have to pay in advance. Phone calls to the phone numbers on the back of the insurance card were unreachable, the service unacceptable.
All Kelly wanted was to go home.
“That’s what we’re trying to get through to people,” said Paul. Some Mexican hospitals won’t accept insurance cards – only cash or credit card as in this case.
Their final bill at the hospital was $3,189.00 USD. They were not going to discharge Kelly until the final amount was paid in full. They had money for a second week at the all-inclusive resort but that went to pay the medical bills. So they were stuck. No money, no place to stay and no flight out on Air Transat until the 14th of March.
They were told they would have to find their own way home if they couldn’t made the March 14 flight. Needless to say, they will not fly with Air Transat ever again.
In the end it was WestJet that came to the rescue. The couple had Westjet dollars saved for a flight to Toronto in the summer and they were able to use these and another $900 to fly home to Victoria.
“At WestJet they said, ‘don’t worry, we’ll get you home,’” said Paul. A stewardess named Katrina, when told of their ordeal, gave them a $500 credit towards their Toronto flight. The stewardess said that, “as WestJet employees we can do this.”
“Now I won’t deal with anyone else,” said Paul of WestJet.
“It caused a lot of anxiety, I got a lot of grey hairs over it and I don’t want others to go through this,” said Kelly.
The story isn’t about the money, they said, it is about the need to be informed.
They want people to be aware that just because they have travel insurance it doesn’t mean they are covered. It’s not the insurance, it’s the hospitals.
They have been helped by people and find it hard to take rather than give as they usually do.
“We’re not used to it, it’s hard to accept anything,” said Paul.
Kelly said it has always been just her and Paul and they get by.
“It’s life,” she said. “It happens.”
For now they are taking it easy, trying not to worry and stress themselves out. They hope they have opened people’s eyes to what can happen — and most of all they are appreciative of our medical system where they have to treat you no matter what.
“Here they have to treat you no matter what, in Mexico they don’t care, my life was worth $2,000. I won’t travel out of the country anymore,” said Kelly.
“I hope our experience has opened people’s eyes,” said Paul.