In January 2017, Drew Riviere and a friend drove to Florida for a winter escape. On their way home to Calgary, they went through South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore. “We were an hour and a half away when we had a head-on collision at highway speed,” says Drew, who was 23 at the time. “Both cars were totalled.”
Though his friend was able to walk away from the crash, Drew wasn’t so lucky: “Both my ankles were shattered, and I suffered a burst fracture to the L3 vertebrae in my lower back, which in layman’s terms means it exploded.”
START THEM EARLY
Fortunately, Drew had travel medical insurance; buying insurance coverage is part of his routine when preparing for a trip.
AMA members with young-adult children who love to travel—be it for rock-climbing in B.C. or a post-grad trip to Australia—can ensure they aren’t burdened with unexpected medical bills by taking care of their kids’ travel medical insurance.
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Even when travelling within Canada, some costs, such as ambulance rides, the return of a vehicle and air-ambulance expenses, aren’t covered by provincial health plans. “If a person is unable to fly home commercially, an air ambulance ride can cost $50,000 from a North American location to more than $200,000 from Australia, Asia or Europe,” advises Pam Murray, travel insurance sales manager at AMA.
BE BY THEIR SIDE
In addition to medical expenses, policies also cover travel expenses for you to assist and support your loved one. “This is especially important for a young person, who may be unfamiliar with this type of situation.” Murray says. “They’ll need help to make sure they understand the treatment being proposed.”
“The day it happened, we spoke to a state trooper, as well as medical staff and Drew’s friend,” says Dave Riviere, Drew’s father. “But we weren’t able to talk to Drew until 10 p.m.” Dave and his wife Jackie flew to Sioux Falls the next day to be with their son. The couple is thankful for the seamless support provided by their AMA travel counsellor, as well as the Assistance team at Orion Travel Insurance*, who helped them navigate Drew’s medical situation and their own travel needs.
“We flew down, not knowing if Drew was paralyzed,” Jackie says. “That was hard. You just don’t know what to expect.”
CONFIDENCE IN COVERAGE
“Before that day, I’d never even broken a bone and I was never in any accidents,” Drew says. “I didn’t think something like that could happen to me this early in my life.” But it did happen, and the aftermath was serious.
After the collision, Drew was transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital, where he received emergency care. Later he was airlifted to Sioux Falls. He underwent back surgery and remained hospitalized for nine days before being airlifted back to Calgary.
The total estimated cost? Nearly $300,000. “A $60 policy saved us hundreds of thousands,” Drew says.
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All members of the Riviere family consider themselves lucky that Drew had that policy. “Without insurance, the medical costs would’ve been devastating for us financially,” Dave says.
More good news: Following months of rehab, Drew is now able to walk without using a cane. To celebrate his recovery, Drew and his friend are planning a repeat trip to Florida—with travel medical insurance policies in hand, naturally. “The only difference,” Drew laughs, “is that we’ll be flying this time.”
*AMA Travel Insurance is underwritten by Orion Travel Insurance. CAA Assistance is provided by Active Care Management Inc.