A long time gone..

Hello, everyone! It’s been a long time since I’ve even logged in here – and I won’t blame the pandemic. Well, it wasn’t entirely the pandemic.

As my previous subscribers know, I’ve been working and researching surgery, and medical travel options since 2010. It’s not just a passion, it’s something extremely serious to me (even though I am often very light-hearted over here!)

In late 2019, I finally took the leap to do what we all knew I needed to do. I always said, I’m just the researcher, I’m here to evaluate, I’m not here to run a medical travel company. But the longer I went around interviewing, observing and evaluating surgeons, hospitals and surgical practices, the more I realized that I was literally, the only person out there doing what I do. I was a one-woman Quality Assurance program; focused patient safety, and post-operative outcomes.

For everyone else, it’s just a job. It’s not that they were all heartless, hateful individuals – but they were not in a position to be able to care. They are travel agents, not medical providers (you’ve heard this part of the speech before) so they didn’t even know what they should be concerned about. You have to be aware of all the risks to understand them.

That’s not a dig at anyone, that’s a reality. If you aren’t trained and don’t have extensive experience in medicine and surgery, then you really aren’t qualified to be referring any potential patient/ client/ or even a friend to a surgeon. And even then – all that training doesn’t matter, if you don’t go thru the proper steps to fully evaluate someone.

A person can be a fantastic surgeon – maybe even your husband’s heart surgeon, but that doesn’t mean they know who the best surgeon is for your breast cancer. I might know some surgeons from around the hospital where I work – but if I don’t go into their operating room – and they are just a golfing partner, or a workplace acquaintance, then my recommendation really isn’t worth very much. A lot of medicine functions in exactly that. Referrals are made out of friendships, not merit.

It’s the same with a referral from a close friend. That isn’t because your friend isn’t a kind, caring person, but even if she had the exact same procedure that you want or need – her experience is not necessarily your experience. Great surgeons can have patients with terrible complications (often because they take care of sicker patients). Very mediocre, sloppy or unsafe surgeons can have good outcomes because if everyone they operated on died or had catastrophic complications, well, they (hopefully) wouldn’t be a surgeon for very long.

This is about training, techniques, protocols and odds rations. We have all run a red light, whether by accident,, because you were in a hurry or whatever. We don’t all get t-boned in the intersection, because sometimes we get lucky, and sometimes we get away with it.

But careful and safe drivers who pay attention, slow down when they seen the light turn yellow are much much less likely to run a red light, which in turn means that their risk of getting in that accident in the intersection is much less than someone else who routinely hits the gas when that light turns yellow.

What I do is look for the safe drivers. The people who do things the correct and proper way every single time. So that when you are unconscious, and powerless on that operating room, you don’t have to be lucky.

With that in mind, I started my own travel company in late 2019. I knew I would never get rich doing it – but I knew that I could really help some people. I set my personal goal at having a very small exclusive clientele – and having 5 to 10 clients per year for the first five years.

Now that doesn’t even cover overhead – so it means I’d be doing my “day job” for at least another decade. But that’s okay – not everything in life is about money. Sometimes it’s just about doing the job right and helping people, As a health care provider, that is something that I already do. This is just taking it to another level.

So – I opened the company, and our maiden voyage so to speak, I have four clients. (As part of quality control program to ensure that all the nonmedical aspects come together in a timely fashion, I had decided to do the first two years of operating as very small group travel. As a trial and error process to streamline the process (hotel, luggage, meals, sightseeing, all the things that go with traveling but are not related to patient safety). You can never make sure that all the logistics are perfect with out a couple trial runs. With that in mind, our first clients were offered our services as at fraction of the price. (My accountant was screaming and so was my wallet – but that’s just how it has to be sometimes.)

All that hard work paid off – not only did ALL of our clients get excellent care, they had a good time too! We saw off the last client just a week before Christmas 2019. It was exhausting, but I was exhilarated. I also realized that it was very unlikely that I’d ever make money doing this. To make money, I’d have to charge more, a lot more. So much of the money I collected went to enhance the client experience, that there was very little left over.

I wouldn’t make money the way other medical travel companies do – they make money two ways:

-sheer volume

-kickbacks on front/ and back end. They get paid by the hospitals, the providers and sometimes even by hotels, restaurants and such for steering the clients in a specific direction. A lot of times, they are actually a front for a hospital – b ut pretend to be an independent entity.

Obviously, my loyal readers know that this wouldn’t work for me. It violates everything I believe. In fact, it’s part of the mission statement on my “official” company page.

But in the meantime, Covid did happen. So I have had a year and a half to think about it. The company is closed, and I’,m at a decision point.. Carry on or shutter entirely.

Now this blog was undercover for about that long too – and that’s not a coincidence. That’s because I was worried that if people read this blog, and read about Colombian food, my various adventures and even just the random absurd little things that happen sometimes, that they wouldn’t think I was professional – and thus wouldn’t want to be a client.

But people are multi-faceted. You can be a nuclear physicist AND a mom. Electrical engineers play musical instruments. We all have the abilities, interests and talents to do more than one thing. So as I stayed inside, and watched the entire world stop, I had plenty of time to think, and make decisions about my own life and the life of my company.

My goals are the same. I want to come out of this pandemic and be able to help five to ten people each year.

My goals are the same, but my perceptions have changed. Now, I’m okay if it’s never more than five or ten people a year.

It’s okay that I won’t get wealthy doing this – and that I will never be able to surrender my day job. I don’t know if I could do that anyway – it’s too much a part of who I am. I just want to be able to help five or ten people every year without losing money. I’ll write off my time as being basically free – but I still need to make enough money to do all the nice things for the clients that I feel are important, and to be able to pay the people that help make it possible. That’s not an impossible goal, and I don’t feel it’s a foolish one. I’ve been fortunate in life, so I can decide to do something just because it makes me feel good. So that’s what I am doing.

And lastly, it’s okay if people seeing and reading this realize that I’m a person, a fully rounded person, who likes to take pictures, loves to travel, and to have new experiences. It’s okay if they know that I’m a cat lady, and I love to sew, especially dutch wax prints in bright colors. It’s even fine if they know I love to sing – but I’m always terribly off-key. It’s okay because I will be here to help the people who want my help. People who recognize my expertise and still see me as a professional (despite my singing) and not a servant. People who know me, friends, family and people who trust me, respect my abilities – and know that I will always put their health and safety first.

So, I’m back!

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