In late July 2016, 55-year-old Mats Öberg from the little town Swedish town Eslöv travelled to Bangkok. His past travels have always been with his family or friends, but this time he decided to go by himself. Before leaving Sweden, Mr Öberg went to the doctor because he had been coughing and feeling a little feverish. The doctor gave him some antibiotics for a light pneumonia but did not warn him from travelling. Yet, the moment Mr Öberg arrived in Bangkok he started coughing blood and collapsed. At first, he was taken care of at the airport before he was taken to a local hospital in Bangkok.
Back in Sweden his three children were waiting for their father to tell them that he was in Bangkok, safe and sound. But they heard nothing. It was not until the next day that the hospital staff got in touch with the children through their father’s phone. The children were met with broken English on the other line, but luckily, the daughter along with her mother and Mr Öberg’s ex-wife are nurses in Sweden, so they understood most of the medical terms they were presented.
The family immediately contacted his insurance company, Trygg-Hansa, in the hope that they would help them out. But to the family’s disappointment, Trygg-Hansa was not willing to pay for the health or travel expenses. Their reason was that Mr Öberg already was ill when he left Sweden. The family also tried contacting the Foreign Ministry, the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok, SOS International.
“For two days we were in constant contact with all four instances, and they all just referred to each other and none of them wanted to take any responsibility whatsoever,” says the oldest son, Rasmus Öberg.
Håkan Franzen, insurance expert from Trygg-Hansa explains that the insurance company has a thorough and comprehensive picture of Mr Öberg’s medical conditions on departure on which they based their decision.
“Basically, the insurance does not apply if you are ill and have a need for care even before the journey begins,” says Håkan Franzen.
Travelled to Bangkok
The family, consisting of the three children, Rasmus, Ida and Jonathan and their mother, Birgitta, decided to get the first flight to Bangkok to help and be with their critically ill father. When they got to the Thai capital, they immediately got him transferred to Bumrungrad International Hospital, the most expensive private hospital in all of Thailand, knowing that they would not be able to pay the bill.
“It was terrible, but we just did what we had to do,” says Rasmus. He explains that they kept hoping that the insurance company would realise that they had made a mistake and change their decision. But as the days went by, so did their hope, and they started looking for loans to apply for. Apart from the hospital bill, the family also had to pay for the medical transportation Mats Öberg needed to get home safely along with their own transportation.
Help from the Swedish Church
During their time in the Thai capital, the family got help from the Swedish Church in Bangkok. The Swedish Church cannot help families like the Öbergs economically, but they can contribute to being a socially and psychologically important support for the family during their time of crisis.
The church helped the Öbergs by sending a volunteer to help the family figuring out what to do and how to do it. This volunteer has been living with her family in Thailand for five years and therefore, she could also work as an interpreter. She is used to dealing with this and has experience in law and has been involved in the groups that before have visited Swedes who have ended up in a Thai hospital due to illnesses and accidents in Thailand.
More and more complications
In all his time in Bangkok, Mr Öberg was in need of a respirator to breathe. Since he got to Thailand, he has had a stroke and a number of blood clots in his legs. Furthermore, his heart started to beat out of rhythm which resulted in him receiving heart medicine. That is only some of the battles the father of three fought in the Thai hospital.
“It has been excruciating. We did not know anything. We did not know what was happening, and we did not know how long he would survive,” says Rasmus.
Fundraising through Facebook
Without help from the insurance company Mr Öberg could not afford to get home or pay the hospital bills. In the Swede’s condition, he needed to be transported back to Sweden with air ambulance, while the hospital bill was rising by the day due to his condition deteriorating.
Some of the family’s friends had started talking about raising money to help them, but the Öbergs wanted to do it themselves. After a couple of days, the family started a fundraising through Facebook updates reaching out to all their friends. This turned out to be more helpful than the family had ever dared to hope. Friends and family started sending them money, and all of a sudden, the family also received money from people they did not know.
Also local Swedish businesses started helping the family raising money. Among others the table tennis club, where Mr Öberg is a member, was trying to raise money to help him. Therefore, Sunday 7 August 2016, the club made an event to raise more money. They made a table tennis show and made around 60,000 SEK. All the profit from the fundraising was donated directly to the family.
For three weeks the family was stuck in Bangkok not knowing what to do, or what was going to happen. They had no idea if their fundraisings would be enough to get their father home. Then one day, their luck changed. In mid August the family had managed to raise the significant amount of 800,000 SEK which was almost enough to pay the hospital bill and the ambulance flight for their father. The family now only had to pay around 100,000 SEK themselves.
In mid August, the entire family was on their way home to Sweden. For three weeks they had been living in constant fear and uncertainty. As the family sat on their flight home, they still did not know whether or not Mr Öberg would make it, since transporting him home was very risky due to his condition.
Mr Öberg landed in Copenhagen on 17 August 2016 and from there he was transported by ambulance directly to a hospital in Lund in Sweden. Already after a couple of days he could breathe without the help from his respirator which he had been breathing through ever since he was embedded in Bangkok.
On 30 August 2016, Mats Öberg wrote on Facebook that he had been released from the hospital and that it seems he is going to be alright. He writes that medically speaking, everything looks to be going in the right direction, but that there are some tests to be done during his rehab period. He is very grateful for all the help he has received and wants to thank both his family for helping him through this and all the people who have donated money to the family.
The next step for the family is to make an appeal for the insurance company to reopen the case and pay the hospital bill as well as the medical transportation he needed to get home to Sweden.