What is Medical Tourism? More and more people are seeking healthcare in foreign countries to obtain a higher quality of care, cutting edge technologies, an absence of overly burdensome governmental regulations and dramatically reduced costs, sometimes as low as ten to twelve percent of inferior care in the United States.  Elizabeth Robbie Neely shares the stories of some she has helped obtain lifesaving medical treatments elsewhere.

Why Do Patients Travel Abroad For Medical Care? Six Tell Their Stories – By Elizabeth Robbie Neely

Medical tourism–high quality, low cost medical care away from one’s home country–has given many North Americans a new lease on life by helping them get treatment they either couldn’t get access to or couldn’t afford near home.

This digest of six patients shows how far medical tourism has come since its popular roots in North America as an inexpensive alternative for cosmetic and dental procedures. They all saved thousands of dollars and many avoided life-threatening years on a waiting list for nearby health care.

Florida Landscaper: First American Liver Transplant Patient in India

Kevin Stewart’s liver was failing, and no one was sure he could hold out for a liver to become available anywhere in the U.S. Kevin was sure of one thing: “The $350,000 I was quoted for liver transplant surgery in the U.S. would wipe me out,” he said. Stewart is a self-employed landscaper, and with the cost of insurance for small businesses, he took the risk to forego health insurance several years earlier. Little did he know then that in August 2007, he’d become the first American to have a liver transplant in India.

Stewart searched the internet for options when it became clear that both the expense and the long waiting list for a liver transplant were prohibitive, but without it, he would die. He found a reliable, reputable medical travel facilitator and immediately sent them an e-mail saying little more than “I need a liver transplant.”

The global health care facilitator contacted Stewart to get more information, and within days, sent Stewart a set of carefully researched options for having his transplant overseas. Stewart’s sister, Jo-Ann Hall from Ottawa, Canada, generously offered to donate a lobe of her liver to save her brother’s life.

In June 2007, Stewart and Hall departed for India. The total cost of the surgery for both donor and recipient: $55,000–a savings of $295,000.

Both patients flew home far ahead of schedule, full of strength and vigor. They’re still singing the praises of what they dubbed their “dream team” of surgeons, medical team and their facilitators back home, who stayed in constant contact from initial contact through full recovery.

Ohio Media Producer: Travels for Heart Surgery Overseas with U.S.-Trained Doctor

When Henry Konczak first learned that his heart’s mitral valve had been seriously damaged, he had no idea his condition would lead him to have heart surgery at Apollo Hospital in India.

Any reservations about leaving the U.S. for surgery were quickly allayed when his U.S. cardiologist told him he could do no better anywhere in the world than with Dr. Naresh Trehan in Delhi. A medical tourism facilitator transferred all Konczak’s medical records to Dr. Trehan, and then set up a conference call so he could get his few remaining medical questions answered. The minute Konczak said, “let’s get going,” his facilitators scheduled his surgery, booked flights and his hotel,and even arranged for his visa.

Konczak and his partner spent less than $20,000 for all his medical expenses and their combined travel and lodging bills. In the U.S. he’d been quoted $130,000 just for the hospital stay, and he knew by the time the surgeon’s fee and other add-ons were totaled, the bill would be well beyond his means.

As soon as Konczak arrived at Apollo Hospital, Dr. Trehan began with a battery of tests. “During the angiogram, he discovered his mitral valve was beyond repair and would need to be replaced because bacteria had eaten a hole through it. The surgery was a matter of a few small incisions—he didn’t have to cut me open. I was walking around by the fifth day and back home in less than three weeks.”

Konczak acknowledged that excellent care is available in the U.S., but his experience in India was unlike anything he’d have expected at home. An entire team of doctors, nurses, administrative and housekeeping staff, plus his team of facilitators, were all at his beck and call, frequently checking on his progress and making sure all his needs were met.

When Konczak was bidding his farewells and thanking his Apollo team, Dr. Trehan told him he should include the U.S. in his thanks: “I learned everything in the U.S., and now I’m propagating all the knowledge I acquired there from my very accomplished teachers.”

New Orleans Telecom Installer: Has Hip Resurfaced in Belgium by World Renowned Surgeon

Maurice Moreau, an uninsured self-employed phone systems installer, flew home to New Orleans after his hip resurfacing surgery in Belgium, with none of the chronic hip pain he’d suffered for two years. While researching hip replacement in the U.S., he discovered the alternative procedure of hip resurfacing, but learned that because the procedure had only been approved by the FDA in 2006, U.S. doctors did not have a solid enough track record to instill him with confidence.

In looking for a company to handle his arrangements, he settled on the one whose website had the most detail about hip resurfacing. Moreau chose Belgium as his destination, then learned his surgeon is a world renowned expert who’d performed more than 2100 hip resurfacings. “The doctor was great. A fellow patient from Belgium told me he’s the best in the world, and I believe it! I give both the hospital and the recuperation villa five stars,” said Moreau.

The total cost including travel and lodging both for him and his wife was less than $20,000—about a third the U.S. price.

British Columbia Retiree: Saves Three Year Waiting Line For Gastric Bypass

Bill Moore finally reached the point where he knew he could not solve his weight issues with traditional methods. He told his doctor in Canada that he had some money coming due and was researching overseas alternatives to the three-year wait it would take to get gastric bypass surgery at home.

He too sought the help of a medical travel facilitator, and settled on one that completely understood he didn’t want a frilly vacation, and needed to get the surgery and get home quickly. Two weeks after the initial discussion with his facilitator, Moore was on a plane to India. The much slimmer Bill Moore today praises every aspect of his experience.

Two Americans: Strike Up An Unlikely Friendship in India While Getting Hips Replaced

Jerry Mead and Robert Lupo both made their careers in construction, but apart from that, had little else in common. Until April, that is, when they found themselves next door neighbors at internationally accredited Wockhardt Hospital in Bangalore, India, both recuperating from Total Hip Replacement surgery in India. They both chose the same facilitator, who netted them a combined savings of $130,000. The two became tight friends during their stay.

“They’re as different as night and day,” said Wouter Hoeberechts who facilitated their trips. “Robert is a funny, out-there guy; Jerry is someone who is very interested in the spiritual traditions of India. Who’d have guessed they’d become friends in a hospital in India, a place that only a few months earlier neither had imagined as a destination for surgery.”

Lupo had never been on an airplane; Mead had never been in a hospital; and neither had ever imagined a trip to India for surgery. Mead learned about medical tourism through an NPR segment and jumped on the internet to find a facilitator as soon as his hip pain made construction work impossible. After carefully researching the options they provided, he chose Wockhardt Hospital and was on a plane two weeks later for bilateral hip replacement in Bangalore India.

Lupo discovered the value a medical tourism facilitator can provide after spending months investigating international options on his own. “It’s too hard to try to do it alone,” he said. “There are too many variables–country, hospital, doctor, flights, hotels. Both men sing high praises for Dr. Sanjay Pai, who had done more than 3500 joint replacements before they arrived.

Despite the 2300 miles separating their hometowns, Lupo and Mead have stayed in touch since their return, and are equally sold on the benefits of working through a reputable medical travel company to get high quality, affordable surgery outside the U.S.

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Elizabeth Neely is communications director at WorldMed Assist, facilitators for patients needing high quality treatment abroad at affordable prices. I interview many patients to learn what inspired their travel, hear their experiences, and check on their recovery at home.

To learn more about medical travel: http://www.worldmedassist.com. For more patient stories: http://www.worldmedassist.com/medical_tourism_testimonials.htm