Family’s Weekend Getaway Ends in Tragedy: A Crucial Lesson on Travel Insurance

Imagine going on a trip as a family of four, and returning as a family of three. That’s what happened to Philip Goh* and his family. What was supposed to be a fun vacation turned into a devastating experience.

Philip was sent to Seoul for a two week-long work trip. His wife, Jane*, decided that she would bring their two kids to surprise him during his last weekend in the Korean capital. It was meant to be a short 3D2N vacation to give the kids some exposure to Korean culture.

While exploring Seoul’s palace grounds with her kids, Jane suddenly felt dizzy and told her eldest son that she needed to sit down to rest.

“Mommy said her eyes were very painful and that there were knives in her head,” her fourteen-year-old son recounted.

Unable to bear the pain any longer, Jane called her husband, who rushed down from his work site and brought her to a local hospital that also attended to foreigners.

Before the doctors could assess Jane’s sudden head pains, Jane slipped into unconsciousness. A team of specialists were brought onboard to Jane’s case, and eventually identified that Jane had suffered a sudden brain aneurysm.

“How was it even possible? She exercises regularly and is a huge believer in leading a healthy lifestyle. She goes for long distance runs even without breaking a sweat. She hardly even eats any chocolates. I couldn’t understand any of it,” Philip said with frustration.

The doctors explained that immediate treatment was crucial to Jane’s recovery and survival. A blood vessel had ruptured in her brain and she was hemorrhaging.

“I didn’t have time to seek a second opinion. We were in a foreign country. My mind was everywhere. I didn’t really know what to think. I just wanted her to wake up and be okay,” Philip said in despair.

I didn’t have time to seek a second opinion. We were in a foreign country. My mind was everywhere. I didn’t really know what to think. I just wanted her to wake up and be okay,

Philip’s parents flew to Seoul to take care of their grandchildren and to prepare them for the flight back home to Singapore, while Philip remained by Jane’s side in the hospital.

However, even after the surgery, Jane still did not regain consciousness. Her condition worsened and she remained in a coma for one more week. To make matters worse, it turns out that Jane did not purchase any travel insurance for this 3D2N trip to Seoul. She must have thought it would be a short vacation and that nothing bad could happen.

“At that time, I told myself that the worst case scenario would be to drain our savings. Her life meant and still means everything to me,” confessed Philip.

Unfortunately, Jane passed away on the 15th day of her hospitalisation, leaving Philip as the sole caregiver for their two children.

The hospital could not release Jane’s body until the medical bills were paid. This amount was in the hundreds of thousands. Not only were his savings insufficient to pay for the hospital bills as a foreigner, he also had to pay for Jane’s repatriation which cost about $25,000. Philip was distraught. To add to his worries, his corporate employee insurance policy did not cover his spouse’s death while on a vacation. He was at a loss, and had no choice but to turn to family to raise the money.

“I didn’t care how anyone saw me. I would beg if I needed to. I just wanted her to come home so that we can send her off properly,” Philip recounted.

It is important we learn from this harrowing experience. No matter how short a trip is, travel insurance, as well as other forms of insurance policies, is extremely important. Because as we all know, the unexpected can happen anytime. 

Some names and descriptions have been changed to protect privacy. The information contained herein is not presented with the intention of diagnosing or prescribing, but is offered only as information for use in maintaining and promoting health in cooperation with a physician.

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