Photo - Tuoi Tre newspaper

On 28 November 2011, the Tuoi Tre newspaper published an article on .

Below is an extract from this article that makes for very sober reading in the lead up to the festive season.

When Lisa Hamilton received a phone call from Vietnam informing her that her son, Ryan Gallaher, had been involved in a motorbike accident, she says her first reaction was that he had broken a leg or had some other minor injury. But after her son’s friend explained the seriousness of the accident, she was in shock.

Gallaher, 35, sustained severe head injuries when he crashed his motorbike while not wearing a helmet. He had been out drinking alcohol in the southern coastal city of Vung Tau, where he had been teaching English.

Over the next five days, Hamilton struggled to get to Vietnam. She had to apply for a visa and a passport, which she did not have at the time since she had only been out of her native Canada once, before she could get on a plane. She arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on June 9 2010, five days after her son’s accident.

“I guess I must have been naive,” she says. “I thought all I had to do was get to my son and everything would be taken care of, we would come back home and everything would be fine.”

As it turned out, getting her visa and passport then travelling half way across the world was only the beginning. When she arrived in the city her son, who was in a coma, had been transported from the poorly supplied Ba Ria Hospital just outside of Vung Tau to District 5’s perpetually busy Cho Ray Hospital. She found him in the head trauma unit, a large cluttered room with around 40 beds, usually full of patients, from young children to adults. She says she found the conditions horrifying and wanted to get her son out before he became infected.

A team from Family Medical Practice in HCMC helped Hamilton make flight arrangements to Bangkok, where there were better facilities at Samitvej Hospital, and cut red tape that would allow them to get on a plane with medical equipment.

A flight was arranged five days after Hamilton’s arrival. At that point she says she had already spent US$1,800 for the ambulance from Ba Ria to HCMC, US$500 at Cho Ray and US$15,000 for the flight to Bangkok. Gallaher’s friends covered the Ba Ria Hospital bills. Her son did not have any medical insurance.