Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rats Under the Bed, Red Tape Overhead

The first part of my brief stay in the Hospital is sunny Sanya was no problem. It was all shits and giggles. The team were visiting me, team Directeur Sportif Patrick Jonker had a constant supply of McDonalds coming, team physio Scott even spent the first night keeping me company and dosing me with painkillers and Dicko (aka Will Dickenson) had loaned me his laptop so I had about 4 days of music to keep me sane in this most insane of situations.

But like any bizarre moment suspended from all time and reality and no matter how far from any semblance of normal life you appear to be; whoever it is in charge upstairs in life slaps you across the face with a big reality check and says

“Hey ****head, you’re in a foreign country with lots of injuries, possibly some brewing infections given you are covered in dirty scabs and scars, you are in no state to fly but the rest of your mates are leaving for the wonderful land of Oz tomorrow, if you don’t get on that flight you are so far up shit creek you can probably see Werribee”

Oh, yeh. Bugger. I crashed on Wednesday, it was now midday Thursday and my flight left at 5 pm Friday. I could not bear any weight on my legs, I could just sit myself upright in bed. I needed painkillers and a miracle.

I received a visit from the Chinese representative of the broker for the Cycling Australia travel/health/crash insurance. His plan: stay in Sanya for 3 more days, then fly to Hong Kong then stay till you are good to go back to Melbourne. That sounded plausible, except what would I do with my 2 bags and bike box? Good luck lugging those around in a wheelchair!

So after a quick consultation with my dad over the phone we decided (or maybe I stated it in a blunt manner with the addition of a few choice adjectives) we had to do everything possible to get me on the team flight. My dad had already spoken to the Australian representative for the insurance company and the plans were coming together. The major red tape barriers we struck were

1) The Doctor had to give me clearance to leave; he planned on visiting me on Friday morning which according to the hospitals regular procedure would not allow me to get on a flight the same afternoon. No reason why, just the way things were done.
That’s not good.

2) The hospital would only clear me to leave once they had been paid, in cash. For the insurance to get the money into my account and for me to get someone to withdraw it would take days.
Now that’s really not good

3) For clearance to be given I needed to upgrade my flight to business class which was mighty costly. The airline would also only accept cash. The insurance company would pay, but they could not get my money to freedom quick enough.
OK I’m screwed.

4) I needed the doctor to find me some anti-DVT injections to prevent blood clots while I was on the flight.
I’m not going anywhere am I?

5) Even if all of the above was negotiated the airline still reserved the right to not let me on the plane if they deemed me unfit to fly.
Yep I’m officially rooted.

I was amazingly, incredibly and fantastically fortunate to have my Dad in Australia hassling the insurance company non stop, and Savings and Loans team representatives Steve and Michelle Cunningham in Sanya hassling the hospital, airline and the insurance company. I guess if you make enough noise, hassle enough people, and do it with just the right amount of politeness, you can get stuff done, real quick, and in my case, against all odds.

We bypassed a minor bureaucratic hurdle when the insurance rep in Australia explained to my dad that the Chinese representative who came to visit me initially wanted me to go to Hong Kong because then they would use a certain medi-vac company who he would get extra remuneration from. So it wasn’t so much what he thought was best for me, more so what would net him the best Christmas bonus. I happily nodded but politely declined to follow his course of actions when he visited me on Friday morning.

Come Friday midday the stars had aligned, I was heading home. Steve and Michelle had got their mitts on the $7000 US cash prize pool that had been paid out to Savings and Loans and where throwing money every which way to get me home!

Business class upgrade? Tick
Hospital bill? Tick
DVT Shots? Tick
McDonald’s large chicken fillet burger meal? Big Tick

The two barriers remaining were finding an ambulance to transport me to the airport and once there convincing the airport I was OK to fly. The Australian insurance rep came to the for and made sure that there was an ambulance to get me to the airport, step one done. Then, thanks to some wheeling and dealing, the Chinese doctor who we were consulting allowed us to write up a letter of travel recommendation reading along the lines of:

“According to my medical expertise Jonathan is in a fit state to travel etc” and translated it across to Chinese as best he could for us to present to the airline.

So that was it, add in a good 30 minutes arguing with Chinese airport workers and I was in the clear.

For the following 20 hours I was wheeled, carried, lifted, and flown from good ol Sanya on the Island of Hainan back to Guangzhou in mainland China and onwards to Melbourne Australia.

Home sweet –English speaking, slightly less bureaucratic and slightly more medically competent- home.


  1. Good read LC! L now stands for lucky. The meaning of the 'C' still stands.

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  2. Holy cow! This is my first time on your blog and I'm reading about your terrible accident. I'm so glad that you are all stitched together and back home. Definitely the best place to be. Get well fast Jono and I look forward to reading more posts.


  3. damn jono that sounds like you were pretty close to not getting that flight. luck (a little bit) must have been on your side... just not when you needed it, before the crash :D

    trying to work on getting you a cookie from apte :D

  4. MMMM I need to chop the cookies up into 4 portions and hide 3 of them then eat them slowly over a week long period, my non cyclig gut is growing already! Bring on christmas food, I'm a descender in the making :-)