World Ovarian Cancer Day takes place on May 8th, 2015 this year. Women around the world will be uniting in raising awareness about the disease, as all women are at some degree of risk, no matter their background or where in the world they live. Long distance medical travel, also known as medical tourism, frequently is required when treatments or surgery are necessary. I, myself, will be traveling from Singapore to San Antonio, Texas, for my own preventive surgeries this year.

Why I Travel Long Distance for Medical Care

Photo Credit: Angelo DeSantis/WikimediaCommons

Photo Credit: Angelo DeSantis/WikimediaCommons

Why would I travel to San Antonio, Texas for my surgery, when Singapore is known to be a medical destination? This is a question I’m often asked. For myself, the answer was clear. I researched extensively and interviewed many professionals, which helped me make my decision to fly to the United States.  I chose to go to PRMA in San Antonio, Texas to be under the care of Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo.

With that decision comes a lot of pre-planning and expenses. Look into your medical tax deductions clause and see if you can write off your lodging, car and possibly even flights.

So, what are some of the challenges one faces when traveling long distances for medical care?

Finding Affordable Flights for Medical Tourism

Planning ahead, if you’re able, is key to finding lower priced flights. We were begging insurance to come to an approval decision as soon as they were able as we had a lot to plan, including flights for a family of five. After five and a half weeks of waiting, we finally got the approval from insurance and we booked our flights.

Depending on your recovery, your doctor will require you to stay for a certain amount of time. The best advice we were given was to pay a little more money for a flexible return ticket just in case something happened requiring us to stay an extra few days.

Also, ask about a wheelchair at the airports; you’ll be happy to have it when you feel the lack of energy or increase in pain during travel. I will be restricted from carrying anything over 10 pounds for six weeks post operation, so having a wheelchair will help in wheeling myself along with my carry-on.

Photo Credit: By MesserWoland [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Lodging after the Surgery

My doctor is requiring me to stay in town for two weeks, and we decided to push out our time another two weeks just to be safe. We have a 21-hour return flight, so I want to be as healed as possible.

That leaves us four weeks paying for somewhere else to live. We’ll be staying a total of 15 days in an Airbnb. That allows my mother-in-law to visit and help take care of the children. It also provides the immediate comforts of home while I am in the initial stages of recovery.

We located a home near the medical center, which put us all at ease. This was the most cost effective option for us as we could cook, the kids have a yard for play, there are many areas in the house for everyone to have their own “away” space and we won’t need to worry about paying for additional hotel rooms for everyone.

The second part of our stay will be in hotels. This was a bit of a splurge for us, as I really wanted to treat myself, my husband and the kids to some amenities not found in an Airbnb, such as a pool, kids club, maid service and daily breakfast. After two weeks of taking care of me, the kids and a house, my husband will surely appreciate having some of the pressure alleviated.

Renting a Car for Medical Tourism

We currently live in Singapore, a country where public transportation runs effortlessly, so we don’t need a car. We are heading to San Antonio, Texas, a place where public transport isn’t as easy. That means we need a car while there.

My mother-in-law and my husband plan on taking the kids out sightseeing, and I’ll have doctor appointments, so a car is a must. Another cost to add on to the bill. We had heard about a car sharing company called Getaround.com, even finding a van through it, but when we went to book, the van was gone, as well as the rest of the inventory. Hello summer!  So, we landed on RelayRides.

Your need for transportation will depend on where you’re heading for your surgery. Just remember to think about places you’ll need to go, the comfort of getting to and from, the smoothness of the ride and accommodating anyone else accompanying you on the trip.

Planning for the Extras for Medical Tourism

According to other friends who have traveled for surgeries, there are a few things you’ll wish you had and it would do you well to look into them before you book your location for lodging. Some of these things include:

  • Grocery nearby
  • Pharmacy nearby
  • WiFi
  • restaurants nearby
  • cable/entertainment
  • recliner for recovery if you can’t handle getting in out out of  a bed (either delivered or borrowed from the hotel)
Photo Credit: Tomasz Sienicki/WikimediaCommons

Photo Credit: Tomasz Sienicki/WikimediaCommons

Packing for Medical Tourism

This list is only for the immediate air travel portions of the journey. I have much longer lists for actually packing for the entire journey for a surgery like mine. Remember, keep your carry-on light if, like in my case, you won’t be lifting more than 10 pounds.

My list of must-haves for my carry-on includes:

  • compression socks
  • sleeping mask and ear plugs
  • reading materials
  • travel size toothbrush
  • travel blanket
  • sleep aid (ask for prior permission)
  • glasses/contacts

Traveling a long distance for medical travel isn’t for everyone. You might find that you’d like to remain in the comforts of your surroundings with family and friends nearby. You may also find that the best of the best doctors are right in your backyard. However, for many, travel for surgery is a must, and therefore, it’s nice to have a little help in a process that can become all too overwhelming.

No matter what country you’re flying to, I hope these medical tourism tips help. Have you traveled for medical care? Would you?