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My Husband Got Bit by a Stray Dog Abroad - Here's What We Learned

The threat of rabies came to mind and, much to our dismay, we saw a puncture wound and blood. We knew Chris would need to get treatment.

Mar 24, 2017, 09:51 AM

IMG has compensated the author for providing this article.

The hair on my arms stood up as I heard dogs fighting outside the building where my husband, Chris, and I were visiting. We were traveling in Thailand and were at a Buddhist temple. Chris was already outside, and when I emerged, he was standing there and said one of the stray dogs just bit the back of his leg. Fearing the worst, we knew our plans for the day had just changed. 

We quickly moved away from the dogs to take a look at the bite. Lifting Chris’ pant leg, we held our breath in hope that the skin had not been punctured. The threat of rabies came to mind and, much to our dismay, we saw a puncture wound and blood. We knew Chris would need to get treatment. In many cases, getting injured while away from home is a traveler’s worst fear. Knowing we had good travel medical insurance to cover unexpected events just like this, however, we felt relieved. We were prepared to tackle whatever steps would be necessary to get through this situation. Here’s what we learned from our experience handling Chris’ injury:

Get International Medical Insurance so you can Stay Calm

When an incident happens, either at home or abroad, it’s easy to let our minds run wild. Taking a deep breath, we looked at each other and said, “Well, let’s head back to our guest house now.” 

I narrowed my focus on what I had to do in order to figure out the best way to move forward. Staying calm in unnerving situations is key when you’re facing medical and financial decisions. 

Make a Plan

As we walked to the guest house, we quickly made our action plan. Chris would research hospitals and I would call IMG, while getting all of our important documents together. 

In our room, Chris began an online search of local hospitals. In the past, I have used IMG’s International Provider Access database to search for providers, although given Phuket, Thailand, had such a strong expat community, Chris just did a quick online search for the top three hospitals in the area. 

Meanwhile, I gathered our IMG ID cards, passports, credit and debit cards, snacks and books to keep ourselves busy. Our hotel concierge provided us directions to the hospital, so we hopped on a bus and arrived shortly thereafter.

Check in with Your Insurance

Even though I read my insurance plans word for word, when a situation arises, I always call to make sure I am not forgetting any important steps, and to ask if IMG has any tips or advice on how to proceed. 
Our Hospital in Thailand
I could not remember if we needed to precertify the hospital visit, so I called IMG via Skype to find out. I was immediately connected to a representative who kindly informed me that, with our plan, we did not need precertification for this situation and we were good to go.  

I also asked how much time I had to follow up with filing the claim. It’s important to note that each time you seek medical treatment, you need to file a claim before you or the medical provider can be reimbursed. The IMG representative reminded me that the claim had to be filed within 60 days of Chris’ treatment. With one simple form submission, we were reimbursed the amount in accordance with our plan in about 30 days with no hassle.

Additionally, the IMG representative gave me important reminders, such as ensuring any receipts I got had the hospital address on them. It’s easy to overlook small details like this when your adrenaline is pumping — another reason it’s key to check in with your insurance company when an incident takes place. 

Go with the Flow

Going to a new doctor can be nerve-racking, let alone visiting one in another country. Fortunately, when we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted by medical staff, many of whom spoke basic English. Much to our delight, Chris saw a doctor within about 15 minutes, and was advised to get a series of five rabies shots as well as a tetanus shot. 

The doctor filled out a card in both Thai and English, clearly stating the recommended vaccinations and dates each dose needed to be administered. He said we would be able to go to virtually any hospital in Thailand or elsewhere, show them that card and they would have the information needed to administer the shots. 

Aside from the reason we were there in the first place, our visit to the hospital was quick and painless! In fact, for each of the visits we made for Chris’ shots, we were in and out of the hospitals in under an hour almost every time. 

Despite our worries, the process of seeking and receiving care abroad went smoother than we could have imagined. Everyone we interacted with during this ordeal was kind and caring – from the hotel concierge to our insurance company to our doctors. 

Learn from Your Experience

Looking back on it now, we can’t help but laugh a bit thinking that Chris got bit by a grouchy old dog at a Buddist temple while I was inside using the bathroom! 

Most importantly, though, the situation reminded us that we are indeed capable of handling any obstacles, and we will never let anything stand in our way of traveling. 

Before, I would read about others’ experiences with stray dogs abroad, and was terrified of going through it with Chris. But after it happened to us, the whole process reminded me that incidents — when handled calmly, with a clear mind and with excellent travel medical insurance — can be manageable events that ultimately turn into part of your travel journey.  

For over a decade, Tiffany Soukup has traveled to more than 35 countries with her husband Chris, hiking into remote jungles, looking for endangered wildlife and seeking adventures.

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