John Herbig’s harrowing China story

It is one of those harrowing travellers’ tales which bolts one to an armchair instead of flying to explore exotic places. Mt Pleasant man, John Herbig and his wife Sandra, wanted one more overseas trip before he retired from his managerial job at the Barossa Valley Council – and it was to be China.

“I wanted  to walk on the Great Wall of China,’’ recalls John of the trip which almost cost him his life. And he did walk the Wall with his fellow tourists in the Bunnicks Tour group, before they flew to a remote part of China, a town called Durban to  xplore the lower reaches of the Himalayas.

It was on the open chairlift  for the two of them that John began to experience what he thought was indigestion – a feeling which lasted the 25 minutes the chairlift took to reach the station way up the mountain side. “I mentioned to our tour guide that I had these pains in my chest which wouldn’t go away,’’ recalls John. “She promptly packed us both back into the chairlift and sent us down the mountainside again; another 25 minutes.’’

The guide followed and John, by this time in serious pain, was bundled back onto the bus which rushed through the streets of Durban until the streets were too narrow and a taxi took John the rest of the way to a military hospital. Military doctors immediately discovered he was having a heart attack, but language problems and the general state of the hospital meant that, although Sandra, understood the word “stent’’, she thought John would get a serious infection in that hospital.

Although they administered heart drugs to save his life, Sandra refused to give permission for a stent. Instead, she contacted their Australian travel insurance company who spent a few days checking out if John’s heart attack was a pre-existing  condition. “They rang his GP and luckily there was no record of any prior problems,’’ says Sandra. “The insurers then sent a Lear jet to pick up John and fly him to Hong Kong – 1600 kilometres away – where he was admitted to St Theresa’ Hospital.’’

If anyone wants a reference for never leaving our shores until the travel insurance is stitched up, needs to read on.

John was in hospital for eight days while arrangements were made for him to fly back to Adelaide with an accompanying heart specialist. Meanwhile, their daughter (my daughter-in-law) Vanessa, flew to Hong Kong in the wake of the harrowing drama, to support her father and her mother. John continued to make progress, but unfortunately he lost a third of the capacity
of his heart muscle. ‘That part of the heart muscle  died,’’ says John. ”But I still have 61 per cent functioning and according to doctors, the heart is compensating well.’’

Cathay Pacific flew John back home in business class together with the Chinese doctor, responsible for his safe travel. He was met by ambulance at the Adelaide Airport and transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital cardiac unit where he stayed for another few days until discharge. While his damaged heart will demand adjustments to lifestyle, – and John has no returned
to work – he can expect many more years of life, but he will be on medication from now on.

“Sandra has  the right idea when she said, “Let’s buy a caravan and see our own country.’’ Had they not taken out travel experience, the medical care John received wouldhave cost them thousands of Australian dollars, even before one thinks (shock, horror!) of the cost of the Lear Jet.

No wonder we not only celebrated Olivier’s birthday at our grand dinner party, we also celebrated John’s safe return after his life-threatening experience.





Be Sociable, Share!

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply