Expat life – the not so pretty side

On Wednesday, I had had a really lousy day. In my head, I had written a lengthy but also humorous post about my continuous battle with Fastweb and my foiled first meeting with my new lawyer, you know, Uma!

I would then go on about how I was rudely awoken by Coco hacking up food at 5:30 a.m. Once back to sleep, she decided to show her satisfaction by kneading her razor like claws into my head. Or, better yet, that I arrived at my English lesson with the wrong books. Yes, very professional of me, I know! Did I mention this all happened before noon?

But no, this post is going to take a somewhat serious turn because I feel that it is necessary to forget my trivial problems for a moment and write about the bigger picture.

The bigger picture of Expat life that is. Here is the scenario. My mom lives on an island in the Caribbean, I live in Italy and the more sensible family members all stayed in Canada. My mom is 67. A few days ago she took a bad fall and broke her ankle. At first, we all thought this to be nothing too serious. An inconvenience for sure, but hardly life threatening. My mom is a young 67 after all.

We were getting our ‘news’ from a friend because my mom was a bit out of it from the pain medication and she wasn’t making much sense. Within a few days, she fell Monday, we learned that her break was very bad and her bones broke skin. If you are cringing now, well so am I! Ouch!

Today is Friday and my mom has since been transferred to another hospital on another island and she is going in for surgery. How did this escalate so fast? My sister and I are now very concerned and are debating who should fly out there. My sister cannot drive on the left side of the road and I can. My sister is a Registered nurse, the sight of blood makes me ill. My sister lives geographically closer, I am across the Atlantic ocean. I can get time off from work easier than my sister. The debating went back and forth, both of us wanting to desperately get to our mom but trying to figure out the best scenario.

This is Expat life. My mom chose to live alone on a beautiful island but the reality is that the care she will get there is not at the same level or standards she would get if she were still in Canada. And, she has to pay for it.

I too, live so far away that I cannot offer much in the way of assistance to my mom or for that matter my sister. When I spent hours searching for a flight, I only came up with €3,000 tickets and 52 hours in transit. I don’t live in the Japan for God’s sake! So even if I had the money, I would still be looking at a ridiculous journey of two days to get to her.

I may still be getting on a plane, but for now, my sister has agreed to go for the first few weeks and I will anticipate maybe the second half.

Being an expatriate is exciting and adventurous. I am lucky that I have my husband’s family here in Italy and that there is an Italian health plan. The risks are many when you decide to live abroad. The distance from elderly parents is a painful one, if one becomes ill or has an accident. But it isn’t just the expense of traveling but time too. What if my mother didn’t have 52 hours to wait before I got there?

I will keep my fingers crossed that her surgery goes well today and that she will be home soon to recover. If you have ever thought about living the Expat life just remember that not all sides are glamorous. And don’t take your health for granted, ever. Accidents can happen to anyone.

One last thing. My lawyer doesn’t look like Uma but at least she’s the right gender to seriously kick some Fastweb ass 🙂


About lmarmstrong66

I'm a blogger, painter, writer, singer. For the love of all things in nature and creativity.
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13 Responses to Expat life – the not so pretty side

  1. katecrimmins says:

    You blogged about your mother recently and I really admired her gumption to up and move to a wonderful tropical isle. I wish that I had that kind of adventure spirit. I am always the practical one who worries about healthcare, food, etc. so I end up being quite dull. Hope things work out for your mother. I will be thinking of her and keep us posted.

    • Hi Kate,
      Yes indeed, my mom is a free spirit and she believes in fulfilling all dreams 🙂
      I just spoke to her, I think the pain meds are working, she sounded good on the phone, said she has been sleeping most of the day. We will get a better picture of what’s ahead when she speaks to the doctor tomorrow with a less foggy head.
      Thanks for your concern, hugs, Leah

    • Loca Gringa says:

      Hi Kate, I’m a Canadian expat in Dominican Republic. You are wise to worry about healthcare. Since living here, I have learned that DR has superior healthcare to what I have experienced in Canada. I have no doubts that had I stayed in Canada I’ld be dead within 2 years. Here in DR due to the superb doctors, I will get to live and live more comfortably. Food is also superior at a fraction of the cost.

      Just a little food for thought 🙂

      • Wow, you are very lucky. My mom couldn’t even get a glass of water at the hospital in Nevis!

        I never had any medical emergencies while living in Grand Cayman but I think they are ok. Never heard otherwise.

        Thanks for sharing 🙂

      • Loca Gringa says:

        It also would depend on the facility here and whether or not you have medical insurance. But in Canada, you wait 8 months for an MRI, here it’s within 24 hours and you get your results within a very short time as well. Also as you pay for them, whether through insurance or cash, you own them so you keep the pictures and the test results are handed to you.

        I can believe the glass of water. Poor hospitals here also have very little care, but family here is important and family will attend to their own in poor hospitals as well.

        There’s good and bad. So far my own experience has been excellent.

      • Can you recommend a private insurance company?

      • Loca Gringa says:

        Try Humano if they have there. Here they are the tops. There are several others as well… Simag, Yunen …

      • Loca Gringa says:


        there are a few others as well. send some emails and get some quotes. if she has no insurance she is at great risk at her age, frankly at any age. there are some companies that offer some very good comprehensive plans 80 – 100% coverage. The higher the coverage the more your premium is of course. Google: Nevis medical insurance…

  2. Ann De Simoni says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I sure hope that everything soon falls quickly into place for the 3 of you. What island is your mom on? I’m looking to move out of Italy and I’m a RN. Maybe I could create a new job for myself. Hang in there, I know it’s hard as my own mom has been on the downside of life with her health issues for 10 years now. I’m lucky I have a brother that can help her sometimes. Ciao Ann

  3. Loca Gringa says:

    Glad your mum is doing well!

  4. Cyndy says:

    Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear all of this!! Your poor Mom and poor you! I’ll try to reach you tomorrow for a live update! Sending love and hugs!!!

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