“He was a genuinely nice guy of the traditional school, loved crap jokes, loved his partner Natty, his daughter Laura, and loved life with all his heart.”
Martin died at Eastbourne General Hospital in England at 5pm on 16th February 2018, his partner Natty and his daughter Laura at his side. Martin and I had often joked about death, I guess when you get to a certain age that’s all you can do. We agreed that whoever died first would wait to meet the other, wherever that was, we didn’t profess to know. We did agree that all organised religion was a crazy manmade invention, designed to control populations and that we were going to rise above that.
He was a genuinely nice guy of the traditional school, loved crap jokes, loved his partner Natty, his daughter Laura, and loved life with all his heart. He was intrigued by the idea of writing and always interested in what I was working on next, often contributing ideas when I was stuck with an imagination that knew no bounds. I often told him that if he went first, I’d write about him, he’d laugh, I can still see the smile, hear the chuckle. “What’s to write about?” he’d say, little knowing that his last 6 months would provide a story that could save the lives of others, if only I could get the message across.
So, the $10,000 question now is, if Martin had had medical insurance, would he still be with us today? Maybe, maybe not, you decide… (he’d have liked that). Martin had been with Natty for nearly 3 years, meeting on the internet, as my wife and I had 10 years before. She was from the Philippines, mine from Yorkshire, very similar cultures and food, so I’m told! Like any couple they went out, often with us, had fun, smiled a lot, enjoyed holidays and looked forward, as many do, to a future full of things that make life worth living.
After a visit to England, Martin was delighted that his family seemed to have accepted Natty and he’d also decided that Bangkok would be his future home as he loved it here. He had dozens of friends made mainly through the Bangkok English Speakers Lunch Group, where he was an ever popular Event Host. Decisions we make every day can affect the rest of our lives, we all know that.
Some of those decisions seem so minor at the time, not even fully thought out, even though they can go on to have long-term catastrophic consequences. So, when Martin had a bad cough, after delaying perhaps a little longer than he should have, he decided to get checked out at his nearest hospital, also knowing that it was far less expensive than many others nearby. His cough, became a chest infection, then pneumonia and in a surprisingly short time, he was hooked up on life support, knowing he had no medical insurance, but hoping he would get better, soon.
Natty and I were with him when his heart stopped, the monitor flatlined and the alarm came on. He was essentially dead for a few minutes before the doctors brought him back, we were in a state of shock, unable to take in what had just happened, I’ll never forget that! The worse part about that hospital were the accountants, the most important department in any hospital here because you have to pay if you want treatment to continue. They would come to his bed every Friday to take his credit card, like uncaring robots, maybe they were! Martin’s daughter Laura flew over to support Natty and began the long process of trying to get her father better while trying to fund the process; something that proved extremely arduous.
A family decision was made to move Martin to a better hospital, even though far more expensive, a place with a specialist chest unit. Nobody was aware until that point that the hospital he was in was not equipped to look after someone in his condition! It’s alright to say in hindsight that Martin should have gone to this better hospital first, but he didn’t and I would have probably done the same given the circumstances, but at least now his chances of recovery would surely improve? He did recover and was eventually discharged, though extremely weak and still looking very unwell.
He wanted to be fit enough to fly back to England where he could not only have free treatment under the National Health Service but could also be closer to friends and family. This came about eventually and he and Natty flew back to a bitter winter in England but a very warm welcome from his daughter Laura, who had singlehandedly refurbished his flat as a welcome home surprise. Martin was over the moon! He started the process to ensure Natty’s visa and was soon making plans for a return to Bangkok, convinced he could now get the best treatment and make a full recovery.
The cost to Martin of his experience in Bangkok was over 2 million Baht, and would later also cost him his life, because on his return to his home country he was constantly in and out of hospital, struggling to regain health, tragically, eventually losing that battle. Natty stayed for the funeral, over a month after Martin’s death, such are the winter queues at the crematoriums. Her visa would have run out soon after so she was lucky in many ways not to have that as an added problem.
However, back in the Philippines now, trying to pick up the pieces of her life, she has discovered that she wasn’t even named in Martin’s will. She’s shocked, bewildered and mainly lost for words as she comes to terms with her situation, best described as dire, the past 3 years just fond memories. Martin often told me that if anything happened to him, Natty would be well taken care of, and I know he loved her and meant that, so what went wrong? I guess it was just one of those things that we all intend to do, but don’t ever get around to, because it never becomes top of our list, and hey, we’re never going to die, are we? Solicitors in England are now trying to sort out some support for Natty from Martin’s estate, and are hopeful of a good outcome, but until then, she has to rely on friends and relatives for essential support.
Martin, now’s your chance, come on, what advice would you give anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to what you’ve just experienced? “Daniel me old mate, firstly they should at least have some basic medical cover, but if they haven’t, as many expats don’t, still avoid going for the cheapest hospital, it could work out far more expensive in the long term.
Secondly, if they have a partner who they love and care about deeply, make sure they provide for them in their will; especially if they have nothing! Thirdly, thanks for the promised write up, I’ll do the same for you one day if I ever get out of this place!” Don’t worry Martin, we’ll look after Natty, take a rest and hang around for me, though I might be some time yet; I hope!