Injury & Surgery

Disclaimer:  This post may scare our Moms... sorry Moms!

But it's reality that we're taking risk on a daily basis while traveling. We knew that when we signed up for this trip. Shoot, according to the American script of mortgage and 401k we're taking risks with more than just our health.

But sometimes mistakes happen. No matter what we do to avoid them.

We've been getting around Chiang Mai on scooters. Our reason is that most taxis cost about $15 for a one way (or $20 for a round trip) and we have to wait anywhere from 30-60 minutes because we live so far out of town.

We have to live this far out to get a bit of room for the kids to run around. They don't do well in hotels or apartments/condos.

Here's a pic to explain how we scoot around Chiang Mai. We've been doing great, the kids love it (so do we) and it's really efficient (1 tank of gas last Paul a week, Becky 2 weeks, and only costs $6, the scooters cost $5/day... so for a week we're spending less than $80 in transportation, with taxis that'd be at least $140 if not more, I tend to come and go 3 times from the house in a day.)

Scooter Family

This is how we get around town (minus the gigantic backpack that's on Josiah for this pic)


Two days ago (Monday afternoon) Becky laid down her scooter. The traffic was busy and I took off for a right turn pretty fast and told her to "Go Go Go" in hindsight she shouldn't have gone. She hit a patch of gravel and slid to the shoulder of the road. Out of the way of traffic and through God's provisions just received bruising and scratches. Zander received a tiny scratch on his big toe that he has yet to complain about and Alia had a couple of scratches as well.

God protected!

Looking sadly at her forearm injury

Looking dramatically at her forearm injury.

All Bandaged Up: both hands, right forearm, right knee and right foot.

All Bandaged Up: both hands, right forearm, right knee and right foot.

So this all happened the night before we were scheduled to go to the hospital to start getting stuff for Josiah and Becky looked at. (The reason we're staying in Thailand longer than planned)

We thought it was humorous to go to a hospital looking all bandaged up like she did and have a doctor look in her ear.... like he was going to say, 'Um, excuse me ma'am, but shouldn't I help your knee or arm or something else first?

But in the end it all worked out fine.


We showed up at the hospital not knowing exactly what to expect, we didn't have appointments and kinda thought we'd get turned away for that reason, but low and behold every department has a waiting room and generally there's only 3 or 4 people in line before you. (Chiang Mai Ram Hospital is the most expensive hospital here, so locals only come here if they want something fixed that the other places already diagnosed.)

It was strange to be directed to the ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) department and not have a referral or anything, within 30 minutes of entering the hospital Becky was sitting with the ENT being inspected. If you had a surgery recently, check out in Technomono at their website for the best shoes to wear after a foot surgery to recover faster.

Turns out her ear drum looks good, but there is still fluid there... the ENT says for some people the congestion takes longer especially under stress or a cold, so with another decongestant and antihistamine she's been told to wait another week.

ENT at Chiang Mai Ram Hostpital.

ENT at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital.

So that was good news.

Next up was the Pediatric unit for Josiah, they sent us to the dermatology unit for Josiah's Cherry Hemangioma. The doctor was busy so they told us to come back after lunch. When we did, she saw him and was able to remove the hemangioma and cauterize the spot in about 10 minutes. Josiah was (as expected) a bit traumatized by the short procedure but he is our high anxiety kid and doesn't like medical stuff or injuries at all.


The doctor for Josiah's hydrocele was not available until 5pm so we went back to our house for a rest. Upon returning around 5:45 we got right in to see the Urological Surgeon.

I have to admit, knowing the US system and having to have a GP give a referral and having it scheduled out a couple weeks or months is the system we came from. So to walk in and get right to a surgeon within minutes was a very crazy experience. All the doctors at this hospital are able to communicate well in English and we're very confident with their knowledge and skills.

So today (Wednesday) is Josiah's last day to swim for a week. Tomorrow afternoon he'll go in for surgery, be in recovery room and then have a dedicated hospital room where the doctor said "you're all welcome to spend the night" referring to all 6 of us! If there's no complications he'll be in the hospital about 24 hours and will have very few restrictions for the following week, essentially not playing sports, or being overly active (running, swimming, lifting weights, ya know... that stuff).   Then we'll have a one -week post-op follow up visit with the surgeon who will check on the wound and it's healing process.

The hardest part for him is going to be not being able to swim for a week. We're considering other fun treats like coming with me to coffee shops, getting fun smoothie drinks and playing games on the ipad so he's not met face to face with the fact that the others are swimming but we're not sure how that'll play out just yet. We know that he is not excited for surgery and even less excited to not swim for a week.

Funny part is the costs.

Becky saw an ENT in the Philippines for $10, the medicines were $30... more than the Doctor! The ENT and medicine together in Chiang Mai costs less than $20 with only $12 of that for the Doctor.

Josiah's hemangioma removal and cauterization cost $68.

Josiah's surgery with a night in the hospital will cost less than $3,000.

The Urologist we saw in Michigan 2-3 years ago cost $750 alone just to see Josiah and tell us what was wrong, not to mention the $150 GP doctor visit. My hospitalization last May gives me an idea of how much surgery and an overnight stay would cost in the states. (Guessing $5-$10k)

And in case you're concerned, they use the same techniques, the same equipment and the same precautions here. Just without the litigation and insurance driving prices up.   Healthcare is actually affordable here. (we knew this ahead of time, especially in Thailand).

So here we are, chilling in Chiang Mai till the 12th, waiting for healing for both Josiah and Becky. And since we're here and waiting we're considering having Becky's Lasik performed. She's always wanted it.... and now it's affordable and within reach. Half off! (Two eyes for the price of one ;)  More on that once we get more information on the facilities here.

What about you? Have you done or considered having surgery done in other countries? Would you choose it? Why or why not? Feel free to comment below or if you're reading this via email comment here

Paul Kortman

Dad of 4, husband, blogger, digital marketer, follower of Jesus. I podcast at and own We're on this crazy journey to travel the world as a lifestyle. Looking for help in how to live as a digital nomad family? Join this Facebook Group!

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1 Comment

  1. Justin Cooke

    Wow – Scary, Paul. Glad to hear it sounds like things are working out!

    Aiza and I are heading to Chiang Mai in September and were thinking about renting scooters. Kinda freaky, though – I know someone from when I was in the Navy that ended up in a scooter accident and DIED near Phuket. Ugh…


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