A backpacker's trip to Thailand turned into a "holiday from hell" after she crashed a moped through a window and sliced her face open, needing 56 stitches.
Emma Lewis, 24, was driving when she lost control of the moped and crashed into a house window while on the way to go snorkeling in Ko Pha-ngan. Her injuries included five centimetre cuts on her left shoulder, right thigh and knee - as well as the wound on her face and a severed tendons in her right foot.
However Emma dodged a £20,000 medical bill after taking out a £200 travel insurance policy before her trip. And she urged other travellers to do the same - to avoid a huge bill in the worst case scenario.
She said: “It only cost £200 to take the policy out, and it saved me over £20,000 in medical bills.“ I posted it on TikTok in the hopes that someone might see it and decide to buy travel insurance, too.
“If you’re going to be riding mopeds in Thailand - make sure you’re covered. Always wear a helmet, and make sure you’re renting. It might seem like a lot at first, but £200 is so worth it when it comes to situations like this.”
Emma’s horror crash happened on the way to a snorkelling trip in Ko Pha-ngan. She smashed through a window, cutting her face, shoulder, right leg and foot. A taxi driver came quickly to her aid when he witnessed the aftermath of the crash and drove her to a local medical clinic.
She was "x-rayed and packed with gauze" before being rushed to Bangkok Hospital, Samui, in two ambulances and a speedboat. Emma was treated with 56 stitches, before returning to the UK for a skin graft on her foot. Four months later, she is now almost-fully recovered. Her scarring wasn't permanent - but she'll have to use factor 30 sunscreen on her face whenever she leaves the house for the rest of the year.
Emma, a student, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, said: "The glass window shattered and that's how I got all my injuries. The glass cut the top of my right foot and there was complete skin loss.
"The wound was five-centimetres-by-five-centimetres deep - you could see inside. They needed to take skin from my left hip to cover it. It was like something out of Halloween - it was horrible. The operation in Thailand alone would've cost £10,000, as well as the stitches and seven-day stay.
"The nurses were really nice, but they'd keep coming into my room at 2am with a card machine." After coming down from the "adrenaline," Emma struggled with the language barrier.
"The communication barrier was quite hard - there was a lot of Google Translate going on," she said. "As a vegetarian, I struggled with the food as well. It was a struggle having to eat tofu and rice every single meal."
While waiting to be flown back to London for surgery, the added pressure of a potential £20k medical bill added "a lot of stress" to Emma's situation.
She said: "Every day it was like, 'you need to pay this bill, you need to pay that bill.' I did have insurance, but the company was really bad at communicating." With the help of her dad, Dave Lewis, 56, Emma was able to cover the bills - before being reimbursed by the travel company.