Guest post by Vivian Harvey. Vivian has lived in Mexico for 15 years and has traveled extensively through this country as well as Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala. She now spends four months each winter in Panajachel, Guatemala and travels with her dog, Sadie. You can find out about her educational travel seminars by going to her website.
I’ve been spending the winters in Guatemala, after living in Mexico for a number of years. For the past 20 years or so, I’ve been leading travel programs through Mexico and Central America for groups, and for each of these group travelers I insist on the completion of a health/emergency form which I keep with me until I put them safely on the plane to fly home.
But I have never filled out a similar form for myself.
Why would I?
I’m never sick, and, completely discounting the fact that I’m now 75, it never occurred to me that I would need to have this information on hand. But last winter a couple of things happened that forced reality on me; two friends suffered what appeared to be strokes and were taken to hospital in Guatemala City (they turned out to be OK, but it was worrisome) and just before I was to fly home to Ohio, I tripped over my dog’s steps in the middle of the night, crashed to the tile floor giving myself a nasty gash on my leg and head (very bloody!), as well a concussion.
I realized that if I’d really hurt myself, no one in Panajachel (the town where I stay in Guatemala) would have the slightest idea about my overall health status, or how to get in touch with my sons or my doctor. They would have no knowledge of allergies I have, or what medicine I might be taking. So I have developed what I hope is a comprehensive one-page form, with one copy in my passport holder and one to give to the hotel where I’ve stayed for years.
Many friends are coming to visit me in Panajachel this winter, and I’m suggesting that they do the same. Even with friends whom I’ve known for a long time, if they become seriously ill, I don’t know the names of their doctors or how to contact their family members. I’m sending the same information to my sons and also keeping a copy in my car with my Ohio registration. (For the form to keep in Ohio I’m including information that my dog may be home alone; this idea comes from a friend who is equally devoted to her dog.)
What to put on the form
The things I’m suggesting should be on the form are, in addition to my name, address, phone number, passport number and birth date, are:
— Names of family members and a couple of friends at home along with email address and phone numbers
— Name of primary physician and attorney, and their phone numbers
— Allergies to food/medicine and recent immunizations, like tetanus, hepatitis, rabies, etc.
— Medicines taken regularly, including a couple of OTC ones
— Information about travel insurance companies, including policy and telephone numbers (I never had travel insurance in the past, but now I have two insurance policies which say they will cover many of the primary big ticket items if I would need to be hospitalized or (worst case) airlifted to the United States. As with all insurance, I hope I never need it.
If you plan to do any travel in the future, having this form placed in with your passport will prevent confusion to those who may need to provide assistance to you. It will also give you comfort to know that those who care about you will be notified.