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Amsterdam disaster--and the silver lining

So, just returned from the worst European trip in my history. Had to go to Amsterdam for a week of business meetings--my fourth week over there since mid-December. I was excited because my wife and her sister were accompanying me. Always great to have family along. As it turns out, it was a lifesaver.

Arrived Saturday, did a lot of sights over the weekend. Mind you, we managed to be there for the coldest weather in over 20 years. By week's end, the locals were skating on some of the canals. ANYWAY.....things went great until Tuesday night, when we decided to go for a walk. I showed them the 9 Streets area and we checked out the state of the canals for skating. As we were returning, we encountered what looked like a golf cart that the owner decided to park on the sidewalk, almost completely blocking it. I went to step around it, and slipped off the curb. Turned my ankle, and went tumbling onto the street. Long story short--3 broken ribs!!!

A silver lining you say? Yep--while I've been in complete agony ever since, the reaction of the Dutch have been amazing. A complete stranger stopped her car (well, I was lying in the street completely blocking it) and insisted on driving us back to our hotel (DoubleTree Centraal). A resident saw me fall, came running out of his house (no shoes!) and helped me get into the car. Back at the hotel, I was surrounded by at least 6 employees. I knew I was in serious trouble here (yep, I actually felt and heard the snap when I landed), so I opted for an ambulance to the hospital The paramedics were fabulous, carefully explaining everything and my options. Emergency room staff, nurses, doctors were phenomenal. Explained everything, very little waiting, X rays, ultrasound (they were concerned about internal damage), provided meds, prescriptions, and excellent post-instructions....and basically treated me like gold. Would not let me leave until I could walk around for a bit. BTW, a couple of days later, two of the Hilton employees knocked on my hotel room door and handed me a large bag full of goodies and again offered any help I needed.

I think some of the credit for this experience has to do with Rick's "travel as a political act" theme. I could have adopted a "me me me" attitude (seriously, the pain was off the charts), bitched about the inconsiderate person who blocked the sidewalk (other carts were seen, but they were parked in normal parking spots), and generally just been a royal PITA. Instead, nearly every other word out of my mouth was "Thank you" and "please", tried to smile (kinda looked more like gritting my teeth, but I think they understood), and just tried in general to not be a burden. After all, none of this were their fault--they were all being good people offering assistance.

I wish I had gotten the woman driver's name, so I won't be able to adequately thank her. I do plan, however, to let Hilton know about their staff. The pain will eventually fade, but the memories of my treatment are permanently filed in the "good" file.

Posted by
6360 posts

Wow! Thanks for the great story Jack. Hope you're on the mend.

Your comment about people skating on the canals caught my eye. I've been watching the temperatures in Amsterdam, because we're going to be there next month, and they certainly seemed much lower than normal.

Thanks for the upbeat (mostly) story and your thoughtful comments.

Posted by
1229 posts

Go Netherlands! I would say that another silver lining was getting to experience Amsterdam having a real winter and getting to see people skate on the canals.
My elderly mother is Dutch and has lived the second half of her life back in Holland and as a child of an aging parent (who broke her hip in a bicycle fall last summer!), I can say that the care she receives by all the systems in that country make her and my life better.
Sorry about the accident - sounds excruciating

Posted by
15975 posts

Jack, I'm so sorry that you had such a rough go of it! At the same time, it's great to hear stories from travelers in trouble who've found that humanity is very much alive and well all over the world. Bless your heart for finding it in you to be such a sport while in so much pain! Hope you are feeling a bit better?

Here's to Better Angels everywhere! ^O^

PS: the last time we were in Amsterdam, it felt like the entire CITY was under one sort of construction or another. A lot of streets and sidewalks were torn up, scaffolding everywhere, bikes and motorcycles riding in pedestrian lanes, etc. It was a pretty unsafe situation, and a relief that we got out of there in one piece.

Posted by
3961 posts

So sorry to read about your accident. Nothing worse than fractured rib injuries.

Appreciated your positive story of the care you received from the wonderful people of Amsterdam. It reminds us all of the true meaning of "Travel as a Political Act!" That says it all.

Get well soon and keep on traveling!

Posted by
129 posts

Oh, and to add salt to the wound, our Saturday return flight was cancelled and Sunday's was 3 hours late. Again, seeing the silver lining, my client (without my asking) contacted me and told me that they would approve the extra expenditure to upgrade to business class. Turned an unbearable flight into merely an excruciatingly painful one.

Would have loved to pop into town and do a video of the folks skating on the Prinsengracht. The people were incredibly excited about the prospect, and the city started banning the tour boats early in the week so that the canals could freeze over. Absolutely cool.

Posted by
2252 posts

Jack, thanks for posting this (basically-injuries to yourself aside) relatively heart warming and positive story. I can only imagine your physical pain but happy there have been silver linings. Your story is a nice reminder to travel with a positive attitude and leave that "me me me" attitude at home. My sister broke her wrist slipping on a wet tile bathroom floor in Palermo. She received the same gold star treatment at the local hospital as you did.

Posted by
3240 posts

I'm sorry for your accident. Ribs are painful for quite a while. Don't laugh! That being said, I don't think this is travel as a political act. Saying 'please and thank you' should be standard procedure where ever one is, IMO. My observation is medical professionals will prefer to give attention to polite and cooperative patients. Who wouldn't?

Posted by
489 posts

I am so sorry about your accident. On two trips to Europe, we have had two people also fall. Once in Crete and another in Vienna. Both broke bones and one actually had to had surgery in Vienna.

Other than dealing with the travel insurance folks our friends while in Crete were treated excellent.
The other in Vienna fell while trying to get off a river boat (very complicated story), but our boat was docked next to another and the other boat did not have the plank safely secured to the dock. Needless to say, our cruise director spent all night with the family in the hospital, while also doing his day job.
I am glad you shared this story! Heal well, so you can travel more!

Posted by
1443 posts

Ug, I feel your pain. I only ever had bruised ribs but you feel it every time you take a breath. Sleeping is all but impossible without the good stuff. Glad things worked out.

Posted by
11439 posts

The kindness of strangers. What a wonderful outcome to a horrible experience! Sorry for your injury, but you have a great attitude and a story to dine out on for years.

Posted by
11350 posts

So sorry this happened to you but your story is so heartwarming. We have been ill and had accidents in foreign countries too. And your take away is just like ours. These incidents in France and Greece connected us to so many wonderful and helpful people and those memories are why we think so
positively of those places years later.

Posted by
6613 posts

So sorry about your injury. I broke a rib a couple of years ago and I can't imagine how painful three must be -- plus the ankle. Good of you to post this uplifting story about the kindness of strangers and the quality of medical care. We had an experience in Hungary with great short-notice care for my wife in a less traumatic but still painful situation.

Do you know whether to expect a bill for any part of your treatment? Or will the Dutch health care system just absorb the cost? I expect a Dutch person having such an experience in a US city would encounter kind strangers and good care, but also a hefty bill!

Posted by
1307 posts

Wow, Jack! What an experience.
I know that the painful bits are not over yet, but thank you so much for sharing your experience with such a positive attitude.
May we all have memories of the “kindness of strangers.”
And continued good healing!

Posted by
129 posts

@Dick...nobody ever asked for my insurance info; the hospital hit me for a 250EUR "pro forma" invoice which will be deducted from the final bill, which they will send me. Suspect it will be substantial. I will then have to deal with my insurance company, which should be joyful. My company, however, has already treated it like a Workers Comp accident (true, since I was in Amsterdam on business), so that should grease the skids, so to say. I do expect bureaucracy to rear its ugly head at some point.

I also paid out of pocket for my prescriptions. The price--48EUR for four meds--was reasonable in my opinion. The pharmacist also recommended a topical ointment. Don't know what it is (all in Dutch), don't know if it is even legal in the US, but I don't care. The pain subsided nearly instantaneously after applying it. All I know is, next trip I am buying several tubes of the stuff. My sister in law bought a tube and put some on her sore back--same result.

Never did consider the medical marijuana route :) even though I was in the right place!

Posted by
996 posts

Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I'm so sorry that it happened to you, but it's heartwarming these days to hear that kindness still exists.

I hope that your next trip isn't quite as exciting! (Y'know what I mean...)

Posted by
440 posts

Bloody hell Jack what a nightmare, hope you are recovering well.

Posted by
4 posts

Wow! I'm glad your injuries were not worse and you are recovering. I am wondering, as another mentioned, about the cost of your care. Did you have travel medical insurance? Will their health care system cover you? Thanks!

Posted by
2 posts

I looked up the definition of "Disaster" on Google and it was just what I thought it meant: a sudden accident or a natural catastrophe that causes great damage or loss of life; as in "159 people died in the disaster."
The title "Amsterdam disaster" certainly caught my attention, and got me to read the article, but it was a cheat. When instead of a terror attack I read that Jack fell down I was relieved (Sorry Jack).

Posted by
12 posts

We had wonderful treatment from people in Sorrento when my husband hurt his knee to the point of not being able to walk . Our driver met us at the train station in Naples and we were supposed to spend a few hours in Pompei and then going on to Sorrento. Although it cut his day short he never let on that that was of any consequence . He was very attentive, took care of our bags, got us water, and asked if my husband was up to some touring along the way. He gave us a wonderful ride, stopped so I could take pictures, etc.
When we arrived at the B n B, my husband went to bed right away (2:30pm!!) and they were very attentive there also, brought him large bag of ice, offered to call a doctor — it was amazing.
Like Jack, my husband never complained and was very gracious even if our few days on the Amalfi Coadt were not how we had planned. I did forget to cancel a boat tour for the following day and “lost” all our money, but they depend on it for their livelihood... Upon arriving home he scheduled knee surgery which he had hoped would not be necessary.!

Posted by
1 posts

my husband and i were groaning about the impact of the french rail strike and the last minute need to modify our travel plans. your story puts our "misery" in perspective. thanks, jack for putting a positive spin on life's events and revealing the basic goodness of our fellow man. wishing you continued good healing. valerie from lancaster, pa

Posted by
1 posts

My husband contracted shingles while we were in Italy, specifically in Amalfi on a Friday evening. Our hotel concierge directed us to a hospital about a 5-minute walk away where shingles were confirmed, and we got a prescription filled--something powerful enough that he didn't suffer much (and we found out it was not available in the US). When we inquired about billing, we were told to come back to the business office on Monday morning, but since we would be leaving the country by then, they essentially said to forget it. Two years later, we did receive a bill--for $50--which seemed a bargain to us (compared to US prices). We've told this story many, many times wondering what an Italian would think if the situation were reversed.