What to do if you are taken ill while on holiday in Florida

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Paramount Walk in ClinicRecently whilst on holiday in Florida I became ill – this blog is to share everything I learned from this experience. I am from the UK so it will probably be more useful for those who are travelling from outside the USA.

When I was first ill and it became obvious I wasn’t getting better with over the counter medication I went along to our nearest walk in medical centre which was actually at Cagan Crossings. We spoke to our insurance first to ensure we would be covered and to find out what we needed to do re payment etc.

We were there at opening so we were the first to be seen – that doesn’t mean that it was a quick visit. You will have to fill in forms and provide evidence of payment before you are seen. I was taken to an examination room where a paramedic came in and checked my forms and took my blood pressure. He then left me and the doctor came in and examined me. He provided a diagnosis and then left me in the examination room for the pharmacist. The pharmacist came and advised what had been prescribed and then went to dispense the medicines. I was advised that I would start to feel better in 4-5 days.

After day 4 it became very clear that I was not getting better, in fact I was very ill. My husband called the travel insurance and after a discussion about whether I needed an ambulance it was agreed that we would go to the nearest Emergency Room. We were about equidistant from Celebration and from the Heart of Florida medical centres. The wait time at Heart of Florida was lowest so we went there.

The reception was empty, however, the welcome was not welcoming. I needed to lay down but there was nowhere to do so and absolutely no empathy. After checking in – lots more forms and evidence of payment capability I was admitted to the ER (A&E). While my husband was dealing with hospital administration and calling the travel insurance in the UK regarding payment – he ended up handing over the credit card to ensure I started to receive treatment (at this point we were already looking at a $9k bill) – I did start to get diagnosis, intravenous fluids and antibiotics and treatment.

The end result was that I was admitted and operated on that day and then had 6 days (including my birthday) in hospital. I’ll do another blog about some of my experiences during those 6 days – it was a very different cultural experience.

So, what did I learn and what are my top tips to you?

Firstly, always, always make sure you have travel insurance – there is no NHS and the cost is astronomical.
Secondly, if you feel unwell go to Publix pharmacy first – they have an examination room and if you get them to check you out and you need a prescription we are told that they are free.
Thirdly, if you need to go to hospital make sure you have all your documentation and credit cards with you. Don’t be afraid to say what you want/don’t want either.