A couple from BC planned to enjoy eight days in paradise in the southern Caribbean. But their plans came to a screeching halt when one of them was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with a rare condition.
Alex Robertson and his partner, Rachel Hindle, landed in Curacao on Saturday, April 29 to celebrate the birth of Robertson’s brother’s first child.
They spent their weekend snorkelling, enjoying food, and exploring the Hato caves. However, a day and a half into their trip, the couple said their vacation took a turn for the worse after a Monday morning surf.
Hindle recalled that Robertson started to feel nauseous and began to vomit.
“I knew I had swallowed more seawater than was good for me. So my body’s objective was… to just vomit out some seawater,” Robertson explained. “I would learn later… I ruptured my esophagus. That launched the entire contents of my stomach and beyond into my chest cavity.”
On a scale of one to 10, Robertson said his pain was a 14
The Whistler resident is no stranger to pain. He describes himself as a “lifelong snowboarder and mountain biker, trail builder,” and said, “I have fallen before and am well aware of emergency room protocols.”
However, when comparing the pain to past injuries, “I thought I knew what a 10 was and I did not.”
Robertson described his pain on a scale of one to 10 as a 14.
Hindle said, fortunately, Robertson was transported to the hospital within about 15 minutes. But this journey “felt like an absolute eternity,” Robertson added.
After multiple tests and scans, nine hours later, Robertson was diagnosed with a rare condition called Boerhaave Syndrome.
The syndrome is so uncommon that, according to Medscape, there is an estimated incidence of 3.1 per 1,000,000 persons per year in the US.
“One of the nurses I had in the ICU told me that in 27 years of nursing [at the hospital], she’s never seen or even heard of this condition,” Robertson told Daily Hive.
Since there was a high chance of being septic after Robertson’s esophagus ruptured, he was rushed into surgery to clean his abdominal cavity.
He would go on to undertake several more surgeries and procedures and remain in the hospital for weeks after.
$50,000 in medical expenses (so far)
As Robertson and Hindle face the stress of his recovery, they are also encountering another hurdle — medical bills and expenses that continue to stack day by day.
So far, Hindle said she’d calculated the medical expenses to be about $50,000 because Robertson does not have out-of-country healthcare insurance.
However, her estimate does not include the medical care Robertson will need in the coming days, his compassionate care, fees for staying in Curacao while he recovers and repurchasing flights.
According to Robertson, the final bill will likely cost more than the pair make in a year together.
Long recovery ahead
While there has been progress in Robertson’s case, there remains a risk of infection, and he is looking at a long recovery.
Once he is approved to fly again, the couple said they will be flying back to Canada.
Instead of heading back to Whistler, however, they will be headed directly to Toronto to stay with Robertson’s family during his recovery.
Robertson said he is looking at another six weeks in bed before he can take short walks again.
“It’ll be a while before I’m able to return to anything that would be seen as normal life,” he said.
To help Robertson and Hindle, loved ones have set up a GoFundMe to mitigate the costs they are facing.
As of Wednesday morning, more than $32,000 has been donated out of the $100,000 goal.
The financial support through this fundraiser is making a world of a difference, Robertson and Hindle admit.
“It would have been detrimental for the years to come,” Hindle said. “So now we can just worry about Alex’s recovery.”