Gwen Deely’s story is an example of how not to deal with a health crisis when traveling abroad. She realizes she’s lucky to be alive.
Ms. Deely, a 66-year-old living in Manhattan, was on an overnight flight from New York to Venice in October when she developed what she thought was food poisoning, perhaps from the tuna sandwich she had eaten at home that day. She weathered the night armed with more than a dozen airsickness bags and figured it would pass.
But it didn’t, and she spent the entire week in Venice in bed staring at the ceiling in the Airbnb apartment she and her partner had rented. She attributed her low-grade fever and chills to the flu shot she had received just before the trip.
“I would have had to take a boat to get to a doctor, and I couldn’t even stand up,” she said. Her decision not to go to a hospital that was a water taxi ride away was reinforced by a reluctance to seek medical help where she didn’t speak the language. “Had I been in a hotel, I would have asked to see a doctor who spoke English,” she said.
Ms. Deely somehow managed to fly home as scheduled, trying not to act sick on the plane, and went from the airport to the emergency room, where blood tests and a CT scan revealed a ruptured appendix.
Riddled with infection, she spent five days in a hospital on intravenous antibiotics, followed by months of antibiotic treatment and abdominal drainage at home. Finally, in mid-February, she was healthy enough for her ailing appendix to be removed with laparoscopic surgery, involving several tiny incisions in the abdomen.
A ruptured appendix is a life-threatening condition. Blindsided by atypical flulike symptoms rather than the stabbing abdominal pain one usually associates with a ruptured appendix, Ms. Deely failed to realize how close she came to dying. She now knows better than to try to “tough it out” when unexplained, debilitating symptoms occur.
Appendicitis, after all, is very treatable, and surgery is no longer the only option. Patients are now increasingly being offered a trial of antibiotics instead of being rushed into surgery to remove an inflamed appendix (the suffix “-itis” in appendicitis means inflamed). Without treatment, an inflamed appendix can rupture in two to three days after symptoms develop and can spill dangerous microorganisms throughout the abdomen. Thus, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Symptoms of appendicitis vary, and fewer than half of patients have them all. They often start with abdominal bloating and pain around the navel, which then moves to the lower right side of the abdomen and becomes sharp and continuous. The abdomen is likely to be tender to the touch, and a cough, sneeze, sudden movement or deep breath can intensify the pain. Mild fever, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation may occur.
Such symptoms are a clear warning that requires prompt medical attention. However, a third to a half of people with appendicitis do not have these typical symptoms, making cases like Ms. Deely’s especially challenging.
The appendix is a finger-shaped pouch attached to the large intestine (colon), usually on the lower right side of the abdomen. Long considered a vestigial organ with no known function, many people, young and old, have theirs removed in the course of another operation.
However, there are now indications that the appendix serves as a repository of healthy bacteria that can replenish the gut after an extreme attack of diarrhea. People who have had appendectomies, for example, are more likely to experience recurrent infections with the bacterium Clostridium difficile, a debilitating intestinal infection that causes severe, difficult-to-treat diarrhea.
Appendicitis occurs most often in children and young adults, and more often in men than women, but the risk of rupture is highest in older adults. The estimated lifetime chance of developing appendicitis ranges from 7 percent to 14 percent.
Acute appendicitis is the nation’s most common surgical emergency. It is most often performed laparoscopically, which is associated with faster recovery, less pain and lower risk of infection than an open operation. Some 300,000 people in the United States undergo an appendectomy each year, but sometimes, the appendix turns out not to have been inflamed, meaning the operation was not necessary.
The results of several recent studies suggest that patients with uncomplicated appendicitis should not be rushed into surgery and instead should be offered the option of a trial of antibiotics.
In a controlled study among 540 adult patients, 72.7 percent of 257 patients randomly assigned to take antibiotics in lieu of an operation did not require subsequent surgery a year later, and those who did need surgery had no bad effects from the delay.
In another nonrandomized study of 3,236 patients who were not operated on initially, the nonsurgical treatment failed to cure the appendicitis in 5.9 percent of cases, and the inflammation recurred in 4.4 percent.
Some patients may choose an operation so they won’t have to worry about developing another attack of appendicitis, but if they aren’t told they have a choice, they can hardly make one.
Writing in JAMA last month, Dr. Dana A. Telem, a surgeon at Stony Brook University Medical Center, noted that “the notion of nonoperative treatment of appendicitis has not been well-received by the majority of the surgical community.” This is hardly surprising, because doctors, like many of us, are creatures of habit, and surgeons who don’t operate miss out on a hefty fee.
But Dr. Telem pointed out that under the Affordable Care Act, it may soon become necessary for physicians to inform patients of nonsurgical options, which may include “watch and wait,” as some cases of appendicitis disappear without any treatment, and there may be nothing wrong with the appendix in others.
“Surgeons would be well served to take a leadership role in proactively developing decision aids to inform patients about the benefits and risks for both nonoperative antibiotic treatment and surgical treatment of appendicitis,” Dr. Telem said. She added, however, that the information should include the fact that data on the long-term outcome of nonsurgical treatment is currently lacking.
Also lacking is a large controlled trial in which patients with uncomplicated appendicitis are randomly assigned to antibiotic or surgical treatment and followed for perhaps five or more years. Such a study could define exactly which patients do best with nonoperative therapy and which require immediate surgery.
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Food poisoning compensation is awarded to compensate an individual for the effects caused by the illness from consuming uncooked or poorly prepared food which is contaminated. Compensation can also be claimed for the loss of enjoyment of the holiday if the illness had an affect whilst on holiday along with other losses such as treatment or medication costs. A typical food poisoning claim might relate to uncooked food someone ate from their local takeaway, at a restaurant, hotel or from a supermarket. Most people recover quickly from food poisoning but even symptoms which last only a week are usually sufficient to be able to recover compensation with the help of a solicitor.
However, there are a few cases each year which affect people badly and who are never quite the same again after being hit with food poisoning. In some cases, someone can be affected severely and be forced to change their diet and the food they can and can’t eat because of the bacteria inflicted upon them. In cases such as this, compensation awards can be quite significant. An Aequitas Legal lawyer would be able to advise you about whether you have a good chance of recovering compensation.
How can you claim compensation after having food poisoning abroad?
If food poisoning has ruined your holiday, you may be eligible to claim financial compensation. Holiday food poisoning is often caused by:
- Bad hygiene in food preparation areas at a resort or in kitchen areas
- Contact with unfamiliar bacteria and germs;
- Warm temperatures and insects increase the risk of contamination
Of these causes of holiday food poisoning, we find at Aequitas Legal that the most common food poisoning cases comes from undercooked or inadequately prepared food. In such circumstances, it is possible to make a claim for financial compensation providing you can prove that your holiday sickness was due to the result of inadequate care and systems in preparing and cooking food on the part of the hotel or restaurant etc.
If you are planning to make a claim for financial compensation after contracting food poisoning, it is wise to collect as much information and evidence as possible about your illness and the hotel, resort or restaurant’s health and safety policy. Most importantly, report it to the Manager and insist it is logged in the accident report book. Speak to others to find out if they experienced similar symptoms, take their contact details, and try to take photographs of any examples of poor hygiene you find around the hotel, particularly in canteens, kitchens or restaurant. For example, food may be left out for long periods uncovered with flies swarming around. It is also important to seek medical advice.
If you cannot get any of the information we just mentioned, don’t worry; you can simply call our expert solicitors here at Aequitas Legal and one of our expert solicitors or new enquiries expert will be able to assist you with your claiming.
Here at Aequitas Legal we have had many cases which have been related to food poisoning. Our clients have suffered on cruise ships, holiday resorts and even their local restaurants. We have claimed full refunds for the holiday and compensation for the illness they have suffered. So if you a friend or family member has been affected by norovirus or any other illness and need some help or guidance, pick up the phone and see how we can help you.
Do you have a case?
Taking the step to ask for help after an illness whilst on holiday through no fault of your own can be difficult. We use our many years' experience in dealing with travel claims to get the compensation you deserve to recover after your injury.
- Have you suffered an illness whilst on holiday?
- Has the illness caused injury or loss? E.g. an allergic reaction, vomiting, diarrhoea, or loss of confidence
- Do you feel your illness could have been prevented?
Start your claim today
If you or a loved one have been affected by somebody else’s negligence, get in touch with Aequitas Legal today. To speak to a solicitor, simply call or fill in the contact form located on this page.
Call us for a free no obligation chat now on
0161 358 0800