This story was narrated to us by Zest Chia, whose client (Alex) had to be warded all of a sudden.
Luckily it all turned out just fine, due to a prudent financial decision made in the past. We relive the story from Alex’s eyes.
The longest Monday of my life
18th September 2017.
I woke up that morning with a vague sense that something was amiss. (And not just because it was a Monday morning)
There was a dull ache at the bottom right of my tummy when I woke up, and by the time I reached office around 9 in the morning, it had degenerated into a sharp stab that made me wince each time I had to draw a deep breath.
I toughed it out till the work day ended, but that was nearly my own undoing. By nightfall the pain was simply unbearable, and my wife insisted that I checked myself into a hospital for treatment.
It took me all the self control I could muster to stop myself from crying out in pain. I didn’t want my kids to worry. Amy tucked them before rushing me down to Mount Alvernia A&E, which was the nearest to us.
I learnt about appendicitis the hard way
Looking back upon the whole episode, I can now afford to be relaxed about it. Even read up leisurely upon the condition that could have ended my life.
The doctor at Mount Alvernia suspected that I had appendicitis and required emergency treatment.
What is appendicitis? A casual search on google yields this explanation:
Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes blocked, often by stool, a foreign body, or cancer. Blockage may also occur from infection, since the appendix can swell in response to any infection in the body
In other words, I couldn’t have seen it coming.
Left untreated, an inflamed appendix will eventually burst, or perforate, spilling infectious materials into the abdominal cavity. This can lead to peritonitis, a serious inflammation of the abdominal cavity’s lining (the peritoneum) that can be fatal unless it is treated quickly with strong antibiotics.
Appendicitis is a medical emergency that almost always requires prompt surgery to remove the appendix.
Translation: I could have died.
Surgery to remove the appendix, which is called an appendectomy, is the standard treatment for almost all cases of appendicitis.
It was the surgery that I eventually needed.
Running out of wards IS a thing. And options can be scarce in an emergency
At first, my first reaction to his diagnosis was: Get it done right here, right now. Please.
But as luck would have it, they were running out of wards that night at Mount Alvernia. (Editor: Mount Alvernia is a privately operated, but not-for-profit centre.)
The doctor recommended that I be warded at nearby Mount Elizabeth Novena instead for immediate surgery. (It was about a 20 min drive away from Mount Alvernia)
Though it was right next to Tan Tock Seng hospital, he did not express much optimism that Tan Tock Seng A&E could have accommodated me right there and then.
I had several agonizing minutes to make a decision. If all I was concerned about was for my life, then Mount Elizabeth was a no-brainer. But I balked at the potential cost. Did I really want to plunge my family into medical debt?
A quick call to my financial planner, Zest, proved to be the decider. He picked up my call (bless him!) and confirmed with me that my hospitalization plan allowed me to be fully covered, even in a private hospital. Cost was not an issue.
And so I was whisked away.
I went into surgery with the assurance that everything would be covered
Zest informed me that I had to tell the nurses to do an E-filing to let the insurer know that I was warded, so they (NTUC Income) could issue a letter of guarantee.
(Ed: This letter of Guarantee is supposed to signal to the hospital that the insured would be good for his bills, based on the financial standing of the Insurer)
At around 2.30 am, I went under the knife with a sense of relief. The initial apprehension about bills not was totally unfounded, as I was presented with a bill of nearly 23,000 after 2 days. Thank goodness for my coverage.
(Ed: We found out that the typical recovery time for a “normal” appendectomy was closer to a week. But the operation performed on Alex was a key-hole one, so the recovery time was far shorter. Later Zest revealed that he had his appendix removed too. Now that is another story for another day.)
All bills were claimed for in due time, even those incurred after hospitalization
I was discharged on 20th September, after 2 being warded for 2 days. Zest helped me to submit the claims and I received this letter.
There were also subsequent check ups after the operation, and my shield plan took care of them all. Shortly after I received the confirmation from my insurer, the hospital sent me a refund cheque. I remember taking a picture of it because I was so grateful. Talk about having a memory of a lifetime!
Life is what happens when you are busy living
It surprising how things can turn out.
2 weeks ago I was having a good time at Lego Land with my 2 boys, during the September holidays.
Who would have thought I needed emergency medical attention barely a fortnight later? I certainly didn’t.
To be honest, I didn’t really see a need to take up the plan in the first place. It covered me up for all costs in private hospitals, and it seemed like an unnecessary expense to incur.
Today it is unthinkable that anyone should go without it. Not because we deliberately want to inflate medical costs, but because when an emergency strikes, sometimes we have little choice where we have to seek treatment.
Are you ready when Life throws you a curve ball?
About the Contributor
This article was contributed by Zest Chia, and he represents an independent Financial Advisory firm. He has been a regular contributor to our site because he believes in educating more people and assisting them in their finances.
He also happens to be appendix-less. You can reach out to him at 9675 9587.
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