The Day That Ruined My Travel Plans For 6 Months

Note from Editors: In view of the current situation, please avoid all unnecessary travel and try to stay home. Don’t worry, like all things, it will end at some point and you’ll be able to travel again. In the meantime, check out what you can do while staying at home.

The Day When the Accident Happened…

On Thursday the 4th of July, I was looking forward 11:20am when I would finish work at the kindergarten for the day and could resume preparations for my Japan cycling trip. Unfortunately, I did not come back home this day – I have not been home since – I had an accident during one of my morning classes.

The hospital in Dalang, Dongguan
The hospital in Dalang, Dongguan where I was taken right after the accident

I teach English, 2-6 years old Chinese kids, and as you may imagine I have to be very active to attract and retain their attention during the classes. I don’t speak Chinese at the level where I could explain new words, so I have to illustrate them.

I was in front of twenty 4-year-olds making them laugh. I turned around and my foot got stuck to the floor. I felt bones in my left knee separate and crack. I lost all control over my left leg and fell to the ground.

It apparently didn’t look as dramatic as it felt. Kids thought I was playing with them so they fell to the floor, pushed their way to jump on me and as I was protecting the knee with hands, they wanted to touch it more. The two teachers who accompanied me during the class were laughing and teasing kids, Even me shouting to them didn’t help (they don’t speak English). It took very long 5 minutes before they realised I was not joking, asked kids to sit down, and called Agness.

All the way to hospital, nobody took it seriously, I even thought that I’m exaggerating, but I simply couldn’t move my leg and was in excruciating pain.

First Impression of Chinese Hospitals

The building of Dalang hospital
The building of Dalang hospital

Dalang Hospital was the closest one and the doctor was the first person to finally take me seriously. I was rolled in from the parking lot to the reception on a hospital bed. My knee was bent and I couldn’t move it. I had to take few x-ray scans, which were useless in the long term, but showed the doctor I can have my leg straighten up.

The view from Dalang Hospital
The view from my balcony

The doctor had to put the bones back in place. Two men held me down while he forced my leg to straighten up. I certainly don’t want to have that done to me ever again.

Few hours later I was able to go on a wheelchair and start the second round of scans, 9 in total. Looking at them, the doctor said that I may have a surgery, but there’s a good chance I will not need one.

Hospital corridors and reception of Dalang Hospital
Hospital corridors and reception

They took great care of me in Dalang Hospital. All the staff was amazing, with nurses worrying about me being so far from home. They were all coming to talk to me and take photos. Whatever I need, I got it before even asking. I had my own wheelchair to go around the ward and beyond. Some of my students’ parents work in Dalang Hospital, so they were visiting me, it was convenient for Agness and all my other friends to come over.

Chinese nurse and foreigner patient
One of the nurses who was looking after me

Dalang Hospital does not specialise in treating this type of injuries, they recommended to me that I should go to Dongguan Hospital of Chinese Medicine. That’s the hospital where I am now, it’s a one hour taxi ride from my home in Dalang. They have totally different approach to the patient here, i.e. patient is a source of money, no need to care too much. When we arrived at the hospital by school bus (so that I can lay on the floor), I was not allowed to be rolled in on a wheelchair, because this privilege applies after being seen by a doctor and paying for the first night in the hospital. Not to mention that 8 wheelchairs were chained just few metres away. My boss had to bribe the doctor, for him to see me (no details, but a lot of money). There were few other unusual in Western countries behaviors, but that’s enough to paint the picture.

The Shocking Diagnosis

The most annoying aspect of being in a Chinese hospital is that nobody tells you anything. It’s not only the case of language barrier. My doctors speak English, however they are very reluctant to tell me bad news.

Cez in the wheelchair
My first day on the wheelchair

I thought it was something minor, few weeks with a leg in a cast, a bit of pain and that’s all. It only crossed my mind after few days to ask how long I will not be able to walk. Then, reluctantly, the doctor said “several months”. It blew me away. I asked for specifics, just to be told “6 months or so”.

The news rushed to my head, I was speechless. That wasn’t the answer I ever expected to hear. I was devastated. What if I cannot cycle long distance again? What if it doesn’t heal well? Nobody can answer this, and I’m not sure if I really want to know.

Bitter Sweet Truth about Chinese Medical Care

It won’t shock anyone that Asia is cheap – as long as you are healthy. Hospitals certainly are not cheap in China. This applies to foreigners even more than to locals, which is understandable.

Chinese patient having a lunch
One of Chinese patients I shared my room with

One night stay in a hospital can cost up to $300, as it is in my case. Then, they try to keep me here as long as they possibly can. Whereas in Dalang Hospital I had injections daily and understood I need to be there, in Dongguan Hospital I had no attention or any medical assistance up to now. I might have gone home and come back for surgery, and it would not change a thing. However, they have me hospitalised, because I pay cash.

Food in the hospital, snacks
Food and drink Agness and my Chinese friends brought me the other day

If you ever have to stay in hospital in China, please remember to take cash with you, because you need to buy food. I think this is because normally Chinese people are surrounded with friends and relatives all day long in hospitals, so they don’t need food served by hospital staff.

The good side of Chinese hospitals is that the nurses are usually friendly and helpful, water is free and microwaves available. The doctors will make a thorough assessment through all kinds of examinations.

Chinese patient sleeping
One of Chinese patients after his surgery

The downside is that when you get transferred, as I was, you need to undergo all the tests again – and pay for them. The new doctor will not approve of the previous results and needs to check again.

Enormous Support

Throughout my stay in hospital I had an enormous support from everyone around. I had my friends visiting me daily and cooking for me amazing Chinese dumplings. I received so many fruits that I could feed entire ward. My work was very supportive and provided me with anything I needed. My co-teachers visited me to say that students missed me. Even some parents came along to see how I was doing.

A boy and a girl in the hospital
Agness who was always by my side

I had a limited contact with my family, who’d want me to come home. I truly would love to, especially now. They are with me all along.

Agness was cooking for me all the time and we had lunch and dinner together at the balcony

Agness was amazing support to me, keeping me sane here. She also told me about all the amazing messages from you all on Facebook, twitter and emails.

 speed recovery wishes , text message
Lovely text message from a nurse

I would like to thank you all for the support – it means a lot to me! 

Recovery

I’m awaiting surgery next week, after which I will stay in bed for some time. Then I will need to exercise the knee, probably for a long time, and I hope to regain full capabilities as soon as possible. Doctors say it will take long time, but I’m positive and determined to get back to cycling and traveling.

A boy is resting in the hospital
Getting some rest

Of course, this accident will not kill the spirit of travel. I don’t know how feasible it will be for me travel, but I certainly won’t give up. You will soon probably read a few “disabled-friendly” articles on eTramping.

Final Reflections

On the 27th July 2013 I was going to board a ferry in Shanghai, which would then take me to Osaka in Japan. Then I wanted to cycle around this beautiful country. I wanted to fulfill my passion of cycling, fulfill my childhood dreams of seeing Japan, and raise money for charity.

I did not make it official, although I was about to when the accident happened. I have gathered most of the gear I needed: bicycle specially prepared for the length of the trip and my individual needs, camp cooking kit so that I can eat cheaply, tent and everything I need to survive without hotels, and everything else in between. I also managed to sketch the route and had few days of training behind me. The goals of the trip were as follows:

  • to cycle 2000 km or more
  • to raise a minimum of $2000 for a charity in Cambodia
  • to explore Japan from a different perspective
  • to travel for 30 days in Japan and spend less than $25 a day (on average, since entrance tickets were to be included in the calculation)
  • to understand myself better by traveling and camping solo
  • to prepare for a much longer trip in the future (cycling the whole continent)

I wanted to cover the whole trip in details and thus make it easier for others to follow in a similar –inexpensive – fashion.

What’s next? New experience! I will now get a chance to experience life from a much different perspective. Now, it’s my chance to see how many obstacles wait for people who are not as mobile as most of us. Although I do not make any plans for this summer, I want to try and show that disability should not stop people from pursuing dreams. It should only make them do it in a different way.

When it comes to Japan, it’s my mission to travel Japan more than ever.

I think that everything happens for a reason. Maybe there was something much worse cooking up and the knee injury saved me from something worse in Japan. I will not know – life is life – and I want to take it as it is. Now it’s time for me to experience life from a much different perspective.

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Cez Krol
Cez Krol
I’m always positive and never bored – there’s just so much more to see and experience! I began my journey around the world in 2011 with just $400 and one-way ticket to Asia. Still going and blogging today. You can typically spot me working on a laptop or rock climbing.
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105 thoughts on “The Day That Ruined My Travel Plans For 6 Months”

  1. I’m so so sorry to hear this dude. What a nightmare thing to have happen. :(

    Best wishes and here’s hoping for the fastest recovery possible!

  2. Bennett - The Further Adventures of Bennett

    Couldn’t believe the message Agness sent to me the morning I got back from visiting you both. Not many of us have experienced this different perspective, so it’ll be interesting to hear about it.

    I’ve not doubt you’ll conquer Japan though – your bike will be waiting for you on the other side!

    1. Yeah, it’s very funny that the day before we cycling together and then when you were in the bus on your way back this happened to me. Well, that’s life – unexpected at all times.

      Bike is haunting me at home every day :( Still I would never get rid of it :)

  3. Dear Cez
    I follow your blogs and am sorry to be informed about your accident. As you wrote it at the end, I also believe that everything has a cause and who knows maybe you had escaped from a worse accident. I wish you courage and quick recovery. With my best regards. Goccia

  4. What a bummer Cez. I hope that you recover soon and try and enjoy the summer. One day Japan will happen for you.

  5. Teresa Roberts

    Hi, Cez,
    I am just heartsick about your accident. If anybody can rise above this unfortunate setback, it is you, however. Your spirit of determination, positive outlook and creative ability to solve problems wil serve you well. Just as in the past you have found ways to accomplish great things, you will go on to surprise all of your loyal fans, friends and family once again. Every day, I send positive thought waves your direction, Cez!

    Love ya, buddy!

    1. Your words are very uplifting – thank you Teresa. I am semi-bedridden, but I still struggle to find time to do all the things I have to do. I will get you all a few nice posts soon :)

  6. Stef - Food & Photos around the world

    We don’t each other but nontheless I only wanted to send you best wishes and a fast recovery!! Good luck!

    Regards,
    Stef

  7. Oh my heavens! How did your foot stick to the floor to the point your knee separated?! I hope you will be okay. (I jumped over a baby gate 3 years ago gave myself a nice spiral fracture in my foot that required 3 pins and no walking for a month). Does this mean Agnes isn’t going to Amsterdam?

    1. It was very unfortunate step – I have no clue how it could have happened. Your spiral fracture sounds really serious, I’m happy you recovered quickly.

      Agness went to Europe and she’s having great time. I would be really unhappy if she didn’t. She was hesitant, but she couldn’t really help me much by staying, so there’s no point she wouldn’t go.

  8. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs

    Hey Cez! I have to admit I didn’t see anything on Facebook, I’m travelling in Azerbaijan and not much time but I was shocked after I have got an update about the new post! I hope you not only recover fast but fully, and that one day you will cycle trough Japan! I like to say that things that are postponed are not lost!

  9. I’m sorry to hear about what happened to your knee, Cez :(
    I wish you a speedy recovery and hopefully you’ll be able to travel again soon. Good to know that someone as kindhearted as Agness is taking care of you there. Hugs for both of you :)

  10. Hey Cez! I heard about this by Agness, and you have all my support! but you are right about one thing: Everything happens for a reason, and i tried something very similar in my life. You will get out of this, much much stronger. I will be more patient, more determined that you already are now! And you are blessed to have friends and support all the time. This is priceless! being far away from home in your situation is not easy. You will see! in a way you will thank the destiny for what happened. As everything after this nightmare will look a thousand times more valuable and amazing!
    Hang in there, you have all our support! and japan is not going anywhere soon…it will be still awaiting for you! :)
    A big big hug for a great recovery!

      1. I fully agree with everything you said! It took me few days after surgery to get out of bed and on a wheelchair – and I tell you one thing – I never thought I would be so happy to be in a wheelchair! It’s the little things that make us happy, and bad things that make us appreciate more these little things.

        Thanks!

  11. Jason's Travels

    That’s a very interesting look. I was fascinated by your story. I hope the surgery goes well and you get better soon!

  12. Nothing will stop you from traveling!
    As you said, things happening for a reason and maybe some life lessons are waiting for you!
    Just take it easy and make sure that your knee is fully recover so this won’t happen again. If you can fly home after your surgery, do it, better be surrounding by familiar than can take care after you (Especially if Agness is going to Europe)
    I hope I would live closer again to go and visit you! -_-
    Take care Cez, I send you all my love and good vibes from Europe!

    1. Thank you Noelia. I have a intensive learning course here. It’s actually great to learn so much about yourself, people around you and what others go through daily. Invaluable lessons.

      I don’t think I will go to Europe, but can’t say for certain, because I don’t make plans no more.

      How are you doing in Europe? Thank you for the good vibes, I can feel them :D:D:D

  13. Cez, this is terrible! I’m still flabbergasted this happened to you and by the poor treatment you’ve received. What a crazy experience! You’re right, though, everything happens for a reason so it will be interesting to see what comes of this. Wishing you a speedy recovery!!

    1. Cheers Heather. It wasn’t that bad (although I need to confirm the outcome of the surgery with a foreign doctor in Hong Kong before I can say for certain). I’m also interested what will come out of all of this.

  14. Daniel McBane

    I’m really sorry to hear about your accident and I hope you recover fully and are able to embark on your tour of Japan when your leg is better. I love that country, although I would never consider getting around there by bike–it’s like 80% mountains and I get tired cycling to the corner store.

    I admire your semi-positive outlook on Chinese hospitals. I only went to one once, but I absolutely hated it. I went to get some vaccinations and they kept trying to up-sell me. It was kind of like Amazon.com, “Customers who purchased Hepatitis vaccinations also enjoy…” My visit was just one sales pitch after another. That said, it only cost me $7 to see a doctor, so I guess I shouldn’t really complain. I know their base salaries are ridiculously low and they basically work on commission. Probably not the best business model for a hospital, though.

    Anyway, get better soon and postpone your trip to Japan, don’t cancel it. And if you have any questions about traveling cheaply there, feel free to ask.

    1. Thank you Daniel. I find cycling uphill and downhill much more rewarding than on a flat terrain, so I enjoy mountain cycling more. Yes, it is more effort going up, but then you get to roll down, which compensates it well. Flat road can get boring after few hours.

      I must say, that they pitched to me a variety of “products and services” and funnily enough, I got to choose what’s the best for me. All I wanted was to get my knee fixed, but well – that’s the way it works here.

  15. Crazy sexy fun traveler

    Wish you a very fast recovery, Cez! Not fun at all what happened to you but glad to see so many people supported you and helped out with nice words and better food :)

  16. I always love the positivity that radiates from you two! A positive attitude will get you through :) Speedy recovery!

  17. ‘I think that everything happens for a reason’ This is sooo true! I had a knee injury last year and I know how devastating that feels, but keep that positive outlook! I wish you a very fast recovery!

  18. Brendon @ NerdTravels

    Hey Cez, Glad to hear that you are having a positive approach to this. I think your right that everything happens for a reason. With your kind of determination I am sure you will be back on your feet in no time.

    Wishing you all the best for a swift recovery and look forward to reading more about your journey ahead.

  19. Kristin Addis

    Poor Cez! I had a shoulder surgery almost 2 years ago and was recovering for a whole year, so I can understand the frustration. The good news is it will put you on a new path – the one you were meant to be on. It may seem like a door closed but another one has opened. I wish you a speedy recovery!

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