Repatriation from Bangkok

Werner Seiler, a restaurateur from Davos, had pictured his holiday to Thailand in 2012 somewhat differently. Due to acute heart problems, he had to be quickly repatriated. Once back in Switzerland, however, his tale of woe was still a long way from being over.


“During the winter before my holiday to Thailand, my breathing had already been causing me problems. The doctors told me that I was likely suffering from asthma. For this reason, I did not give it any more thought”, explains Werner Seiler. Just like every year, he therefore travelled to Thailand in April 2012. While preparing for a sailing trip, he fell. He put the fact that his breathing difficulties subsequently worsened down to the fall. He was now hardly able to walk further than ten metres at a time. Due to his concerns he went to hospital. The doctor discovered that four litres of water had collected in his lungs. Further examinations revealed that his left aortic valve was now only working at 25% of its capacity. “I have had a heart valve defect since birth. However, it had never caused me problems before”, explains Seiler.

Accompanied return flight

The doctors in Bangkok recommended that he had an operation there. But this was never an option for Werner Seiler. Firstly, he did not speak Thai. And, secondly, the high levels of exhaust fumes in the city and the air conditioned rooms made breathing difficult for him. “How am I going to get healthy again?”, he asked himself. He got in touch with his GP who immediately contacted the Helsana Emergency Call Centre. From this point onwards, everything moved very quickly. “I didn’t have to worry about anything. I was extremely grateful for this”, says Seiler, who has been insured with Helsana since his childhood. Only a short time later, a doctor from Switzerland arrived in Bangkok. On the return flight, a seat in the business class section was converted into a bed so that Seiler could sleep. The doctor sat next to him for the entire flight and provided him with oxygen. “When somebody isn’t feeling well, it does no end of good if somebody sits next to them and helps”, explains Seiler. The medical staff were already waiting for him at Zurich Airport. A few days later, the Graubünden local was operated on. He received a new heart valve. All’s well that end well – you might think. However, his suffering continued.

Second operation and rehabilitation

Three months later, on the day before Seiler had to attend hospital for his final examination, he suddenly experienced pain in his limbs and chills. Upon examining him, the doctors identified a dark shadow on the new heart valve: bacteria had quite literally eaten a hole into it. Three days later, the newly inserted heart valve was replaced again. Following the operation, Seiler was given antibiotics. He suddenly experienced impaired vision and found walking difficult. “I felt like I was on a boat”, he recalls. Tests revealed that his vestibular nerve had been completely destroyed. He then had to undergo five weeks of rehabilitation in Valens in Graubünden – here, Werner Seiler had to learn to walk again from scratch.

Unadulterated love of travelling

Seiler now finds walking easier again even if he does still sway sometimes. Dazzling sunlight, darkness, too little sleep and stress accentuate his problems with balancing. However, the Davos native is a fighter: he completes his balancing exercises on a daily basis. He also continues to help out at his restaurant. And when he isn’t working, he continues to travel the world. He recently cycled across Denmark with his recumbent bike. “The bike means I have a much better quality of life. It allows me to enjoy my surroundings and get some exercise at the same time”, he enthuses. This isn’t the case when on foot as he has to focus on the ground. Despite his bad experiences, Seiler still enjoys travelling abroad. “Other countries also have well-functioning healthcare systems”, he says. “And should I nevertheless once again urgently require help, I know that Helsana is there for me”.

Werner Seiler, 58, Davos

The restaurateur spent spring 2012 in Thailand. When his aortic valve suddenly started working at only 25% capacity, his life was in danger. Accompanied by a doctor, Seiler was repatriated to Switzerland in an airliner.

Costs for the accompanied return flight:
CHF 18,500

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