A foreign tourist hospitalized with serious leg infection after falling into open sewer in Thailand

A foreign tourist hospitalized with serious leg infection after falling into open sewer in Thailand

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Version française de l’article ici.

Article update on 20th June 2023

In a distressing incident that unfolded on May 20, a 34-year-old French tourist suffered serious injuries after falling into a 2.5-meter-high drain in Ao Nang, Krabi Province, reigniting concerns about the safety of sidewalks in Thailand. The incident following a similar story with an American tourist in Pattaya one week earlier has raised the question: Are Thailand sidewalks safe ?

The tourist, identified as Melissa, had arrived in Thailand merely three days prior to the unfortunate accident. After visiting the Ao Nang Night Market, she booked a Grab taxi to return to her hotel, the Poonsiri Resort Aonang. However, her journey took an unexpected turn when the Grab driver deviated from the correct route. Melissa alerted the driver, but his response was anger, leading to the cancellation of the ride and a demand for her to exit the vehicle.

Left stranded on the sidewalk, Melissa faced a daunting 20-minute walk back to her hotel. As she approached her destination in the dark, tragedy struck. Approximately 200 meters before reaching her hotel, she stumbled into an open drain without any protective barrier or cover. Melissa fell 2.5 meters into the deep and murky drain, where she remained for 20 minutes until rescued by locals. The incident occurred around 8:15 pm.

Left: The hole the next morning / Right: The hole after Melissa’s rescue

The fall resulted in severe injuries for Melissa, including a profusely bleeding mouth, several broken teeth, and a deep laceration on her leg. She was swiftly taken to Krabi Hospital for medical attention. However, her dismay grew as she received only superficial care at the hospital, with no effort made to clean her body or provide fresh clothes before sending her back to her hotel.

The following day, Melissa sought alternative medical assistance at Wattanapat Hospital due to the intense pain she experienced throughout the night. Medical staff at Wattanapat Hospital discovered a concerning infection near the bone in her leg. After just one night, her accumulating medical bill had already reached a staggering 140,000 THB (4.000 USD).

Desperate for assistance and guidance, Melissa turned to a French Facebook group dedicated to advising and helping French travelers in Thailand. Some expats visited her in the hospital, offering support and aid. After the administrator of the Facebook group warned them, the Ao Nang Tourist Police promptly visited Melissa in her hospital room, interviewing her and inspecting the drain to ensure it was secured. Melissa is now waiting for an official police report stating that the accident was not her responsibility. A crucial document to support her case if there are complications.

Medical staff are particularly concerned about the infection in Melissa’s leg, which has reached the bone and is still progressing after five days of treatment. As of May 31, the cost of hospital care had already reached THB 461,252. (13.333 USD), and she is expected to remain in the hospital for at least another 10 to 14 days. Doctors are awaiting the results of bacteria culture tests to determine the most effective antibiotics for targeting the infection. Melissa may also require surgery. The repair of his teeth will be at her expense because his insurance company does not cover “cometic treatment”.

Update June 2, 2023:
Unfortunately, on Thursday, Melissas’s wound was very swollen, hot and with a lot of stink, so the medical staff decided on a “debridement procedure” in the operating room to clean it up and start again on a healthier base and reduce the risk of the infection spreading further. This morning (June 2), the day after the procedure, I spoke with the doctor, who was rather reassuring and explained that the wound and infection are not that deep and that the bone is not actually affected. There is, however, an area of skin that is turning black which is not a good sign.

On Monday June 29, agents from the Tourist Assistance Center (another body independent of the Tourist Police) came to see her, and the next day they returned with employees of a construction company who must be considered responsible for the sewer left open, even if this was never clearly stated. And the day after that, the company offered him compensation of THB 20,000 (€537) which, compared to what happened to her and her hospital bills is very low.

Update June 10, 2023:
Today marks 3 weeks since Melissa was hospitalized. After changing hospitals a week ago, she underwent a 2nd and then a 3rd operation on her leg to remove all the necrotic tissue caused by the infection, and is now left with a large hole in her leg. The bacteria infecting her is quite resistant to antibiotics. She is also benefiting from a VAC (Vacum-Assisted Closure) machine at her new hospital, Bangkok Hospital in Phuket, a device that lowers the pressure around the wound and gently removes fluid from the wound, helping to clean the wound and eliminate bacteria.
It’s a race against time between the effectiveness of antibiotics and the VAC device’s work against the progression of the bacteria. For the moment, it’s impossible to say who has the advantage. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the bacteria will be defeated!

Update 20th June 2023:
Good news ! Melissa’s battle against infection “well under way”, she was repatriated to France on 19th June (arrived on 20th June). She was reunited with her family and friends. She will need nursing care once every 2 days to clean her wound, as well as physiotherapy sessions and continued medication for a few more days. The flesh removed must regenerate. All this will take a few weeks, but all signs are now optimistic!

Mélissa is still unable to obtain an official police report stating that the accident was not her fault. This document is of vital importance to support her case in the event of any subsequent complications. She is asked to come to the police station in person to get it, which she is obviously unable to do. We are trying to obtain it, but so far without success.

This incident follows another recent case involving an American tourist who fell into an manhole in Pattaya on May 12. Fortunately, unlike the French tourist, the American, rescued after four hours did not sustain major injuries. Melissa’s experience serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers not only for tourists but for everybody walking on Thailand’s sidewalks.

As Thailand is aiming to welcome more and more tourists after COVID-19 stopped the industry, it may become imperative for local authorities to prioritize the safety of pedestrians, particularly in popular tourist areas. The installation and maintenance of well-kept sidewalks with adequate lighting can significantly reduce the occurrence of such accidents.

Apart from her leg infection, Melissa’s main concern is about her hospital bills exceeding her insurance coverage. It was her very first trip to Thailand.

P.S.: For journalists seeking further information, photographs of her injuries, the latest hospital bill, or contact details for Melissa, please reach out Thailandee.com privately on Messenger. It is essential to share Melissa’s story, as depending on the progression of her health condition, she may require additional assistance and aims to guarantee comprehensive coverage for all expenses incurred.