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In June, my husband and I were in St. Pete Beach, Florida and decided to try our hand at stand-up paddle boarding. He went first, and then I gave it a go, only to discover it is harder than it looks, and more of a workout than I had expected.

Having to remain in front of the resort at which we were staying, we couldn’t go very far in any one direction. It got a bit boring, so we decided to share a board – one sitting, one paddling.

Pushing our boundaries while laughing like kids, eventually we were both standing on the board, competing to see who could keep their balance longer. I was the first to fall. Standing in chest-deep water, I was wiping the salt out of my eyes when he tumbled off in the other direction and the force of his weight falling away caused the board to come – with equal force – right at me. I opened my eyes for a split second before it hit me square in the face.

The pain was instant. The impact was on the bridge of my nose and I was sure it was broken…I didn’t want to open my eyes. As my husband was leading me out of the water, I heard someone say, “She’s bleeding!”

When I finally opened my eyes after we made our way to the beach, I felt the pain in my nose, but I was cut deeply under my right eyebrow. A nurse who happened to be nearby gave me some ice and told me we could fix it with steri-strips...maybe...but after she heard that I was covered by out-of-country medical, she said, “Get to the ER.”

The experience was amazing, considering the circumstances. There was not a soul in the waiting room when we arrived, and I had my choice of beds. After calling Allianz Global Assistance – our insurance company – and being reassured that everything would be covered, there was really nothing to do but laugh about the whole thing. By some miracle, nothing was broken or out of place, and the cut was on the brow bone, meaning the resulting scar wouldn’t cause my eyebrow to grow strangely as it healed.

I left just over an hour after arriving, with seven stitches, a tetanus shot, and a really black eye. The nurses and the physician’s assistant who stitched me up had been friendly and were happy to joke with us. They even gave me an honorary pirate name (Decayin’ Mae Hawkins, in case you were wondering).

The swelling went down in a few days and the black eye was gone in just over two weeks. Today, the scar is a fading pink line that’s barely noticeable and while it’s still tender to the touch, all things considered, I was lucky; my eyesight wasn’t affected,

I didn’t break any bones or lose any teeth, and the cost of medical care was covered, which was a blessing considering the total bill paid by Allianz Global Assistance was $5,700. Five thousand-seven hundred dollars for a split-second accident in a moment of fun and laughter that surely would have ruined the rest of our summer, had we had to pay it out of pocket.

What made me sad was discussing my options for treatment that included steri-strips and glue; thinking that people have to live with unnecessary scarring or less-than-the-best treatment because they can’t afford it is heartbreaking.

So please, please don’t set foot outside of Canada, even for a day trip, without making sure you’ve invested in proper travel insurance. An accident can happen in a split second – tripping, burns, bladder infections – heck, even a mishap caused by a couple of amateurs playing on a paddleboard where people are swimming. I guarantee you’ll never be more grateful to have paid the relatively minor premium should you ever suddenly find yourself in need of care.


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