Luca broke his leg on the road. How do you deal with this while traveling full-time? Here is the full story and his healing journey.
As many of you know by now, our youngest child, Luca broke his shinbone while we were exploring Mongolia. The irony of it all is that he didn’t break it while riding on horses or the reindeer in northern Mongolia, or while running around in a stadium waiting for the wrestling match to start or while riding a camel in Tunisia, or driving a quad in Tunisia. No, he broke his bone while jumping in a bouncy house!
Isn’t it incredible how you can hurt yourself seriously in the silliest ways?
After the news was out, many asked us a lot of questions: how it happened, what type of insurance we had, how was the treatment in a foreign country, and if we were going to fly back home. Let me answer all those questions and explain our Whys.
How did it happen?
It happened on the 14th of July 2022, while we were in the western part of Mongolia. We had just finished 3 unforgettable days at the Eagle Hunter’s home close to Ulgii, Mongolia. We all wanted to stay till the last minute here instead of heading to town for a tour before our flight. But unfortunately, we didn’t listen to our gut feeling and decided to leave as planned.
We arrived in town too early and most of the places were still closed. However, in the main square, there were lots of things set up for kids: bikes, little motorbikes, little cars, and a bouncy house! We let Luca pick what to do. He opted for the motorbike. Finally, once they were all done racing around the square we headed to go visit the black market…Unfortunately, most of it was still closed, so shortly after we came back to the same square.
At this point, everyone was a bit moody for the approaching departure so we decided to get lunch. The bouncy house was still there and Luca again insisted to go in. Well, why not? He had been in many in his life. We gave in. While he was bouncing around, we ordered food and drinks, until…Mass noticed that he wasn’t getting up anymore. We rushed down the stairs. I’m pretty sure we were flung down at this point. Without listening to the owner of the bouncy, Mass jumped in and grabbed Luca who was crying desperately. No one inside had noticed that he was hurt.
That was one of the saddest moments we have gone through in a long time. Luca was crying desperately while yelling “my leg is broken”. He knew right away. These are the moments when I’m truly grateful for my husband. My heart was in so much pain after hearing his desperation, that I couldn’t do anything. Mass was able to deal with everything without letting emotions show, although I know that it was extremely painful for him as well.
The worst part of it all was that we still had to get on a plane to fly bag to Ulaanbaatar.
Do we have health insurance?
Before leaving for our travels we lived 8 years in the US. After paying insurance for a few years and realizing that we were spending more than we needed it, we decided to cancel and simply pay out of pocket when we needed to go to the doctor. Luckily we don’t have any serious health issues that need continuous medical care, but probably if we did we would not have been living in the US!
However when it was time to leave I was considering getting health insurance with World Nomads. I was listening to the fears of many people around us and lost touch with what I felt was right for our family. Finally, my husband and I made various considerations and decided that we would go without.
I’m not sure if you believe in the power of your thoughts, but we do! The thought of needing insurance would inevitably bring us to the wrong state of mind based on fear of what could happen to us. So probably we would have ended up in the hospital more often than we actually did.
In the past 4 years, we received medical care just 4 times, and each time it was incredibly cheap (not worth being reimbursed by insurance) and excellent treatment. We trusted the country we were in and its care. We never had any negative experiences.
How was Luca’s hospital treatment in Mongolia?
When Luca broke his bone we were in the little town of Ulgii in western Mongolia. The hospital was very small and basic, they didn’t even have an elevator! That said our whole purpose there was to check how broken the bone was and get a cast in order to travel back to Ulaanbaatar since the accident happened just a few hours before our flight. They suggested immediate surgery, which for us was out of the question, at least until we got back to the capital. Mass asked them to simply secure his leg with a cast so he could travel and keep the leg protected.
Luca had a rough few hours, also with painkillers. All you want to do when in pain is lay down and go to bed, instead, he had to wait at the airport for a while, do a 1-hour flight across the country, and a one-hour drive to our hotel. He was a real trooper through it all!
Once we arrived in the capital instead of rushing to the international clinic SOS Medica (which was recommended to us) we decided to go to the hotel. It had been a trying day for him and he was traumatized enough so the best option was to let him get some rest.
After a week we headed to SOS Medica to check him up. We got a better scan because he wasn’t as scared of the pain in his leg anymore. Again they suggested surgery. Considering though that the bone was in place although it was broken in 2 spots, Mass insisted they simply redo his cast to keep the leg more immobilized. This time it was the full leg and he gave us a time frame of 2 months before taking it off. The whole treatment was highly professional.
How did Mass treat Luca?
Mass is a physical therapist and acupuncturist. He has rehabilitated many kids and adults through the years, this is the reason why he contradicted the doctor and preferred avoiding surgery after seeing the x-ray. In fact, he was 100% sure of the proper treatment of the bone was going to go back into place. His plan was to treat the leg to help it heal and possibly avoid the discomfort of surgery.
In the first two weeks, Mass started by simply massaging some of the pressure points on the other leg which would benefit also the broken leg. We also made sure he was getting more calcium through the food and some vitamins as well. Luckily he cooperated for the most part, especially when we reinforced the fact that this was going to make the healing process much faster.
After a few weeks, Mass started taking the cast off every other day and massaging directly the broken leg. He also let Luca sit a bit without the cast on so the blood could circulate, bring the right nourishment to the bone and rebuild it.
If you want to learn more about what Mass does you can check his page here and contact him!
Did we change our plans?
Many thought that considering what happened the most obvious reaction was to fly back “home” immediately. Mongolia was our home at that moment and we decided to make ourselves comfortable and extend our stay to give Luca time to heal.
What did we do? We rented a wheelchair so that he could move around the house and the town. We left the hotel room we were staying in and found an apartment. Simply the fact that we could cook for ourselves made all the difference and raised our moods.
It was a long month though. For the first weeks, Luca had a hard time sleeping at night because he couldn’t move freely in bed. Initially, he didn’t want to go out, but as time went by we were able to take him to the movies and also to do a bit of sightseeing.
We did however have to change our travel plans a bit. Originally we were going to fly to Vietnam and spend a month there traveling around. First of all, we moved our flight date to 3 weeks later. Then we decided to shorten our stay to just a few weeks (this would give us a chance to save the money on the visa) and then head to the US, where Mass had all the tools he needed to do Luca’s rehabilitation.
The main reason why we changed our plans was that in Vietnam it was going to be very hot and humid and we thought it would be tough for him being in a cast on a wheelchair. At the time of our decisions, we thought he was going to be in a cast for 2 months, however, things changed…
A happy turn of events
Just 2 days before leaving Mongolia we wanted to do a final check-up.
Once the doctor took off the cast, he was stunned. The bone was back in place! He did an x-ray which confirmed that Luca’s leg was healing perfectly! He could not believe it. A break that should have taken 2 months was already for the most part fixed and in less than a month!
All of Mass’s work on his leg gave the desired results and the doctor confirmed that in a few weeks Luca could start walking again. We left the hospital without the cast but with an oversized splint (they didn’t have his size).
Unfortunately at that point, we had already rescheduled our whole trip so we could not extend our stay in Vietnam, considering the positive change of events. Anyway, we were so happy about the incredible improvements!
How did we do the rehabilitation?
We did not go to any rehabilitation center if that is what you are thinking. Mass took care of that too. He started by massaging his foot daily and applying some arnica cream too. For the first week, he took him to the pool every day and made him do some exercises to strengthen the muscles and help him move the leg and the foot.
Meanwhile, at home, Luca went from crawling on the ground to moving around, getting up ad using a three-wheel scooter. He went on like this for a few weeks until he started putting his foot on the ground and walking although a bit limping. Mass continued massaging and also doing some moxa on him.
As Luca’s strength started coming back so did his confidence to start using his leg more and more. After less than a month back he was walking alone and going on a two-wheel scooter to the skate park. By the 14th of September so 2 months after the accident he was back on the move!
How do you manage not to lose your calm in those moments?
Honestly, I’m not sure how I managed to not cry the whole time! It was so sad to see him like that, my heart was in pieces. But like many who have more than one child knows, you have to put up a brave face for the others because you don’t want to scare them. Never did I have any concern about the country I was in, and never did I feel that I wasn’t going to be taken care of the right way. At that moment our only focus was our child, and what Mass did here in Mongolia he would have done anywhere else in the world.
We truly appreciate the Mongolians that took care of us and helped us throughout our situation.
We truly appreciate that wherever we have been in the world whenever we found ourselves in moments of difficulty we have always found people happy to help us. Trust the world, trust the people, there is more kindness than you may think all around you just need to be willing to open up to it!
Luca still gets tired and we do make sure he doesn’t overdo it, but for the most part, he is getting better day by day.
Thank you for all the messages, Luca appreciates them all and feels very loved.