We tent camped a bunch in New Zealand. Most of the time it was awesome. One time it was not. The night before we took the ferry from the North Island to the South Island, something flew into my eye. Whatever it was, I could not get it out.
I was trying to be tough and thought it would just go away with time, but I was absolutely miserable during the entire ferry ride the next day. By the time we reached the South Island, I finally conceded that I needed to see a doctor. It was the first time on the whole trip that either one of us needed to seek medical treatment. We went to the nearest clinic and they told us they had no appointments available and that I could try my luck at the Emergency Room 30 minutes away. They also predicted that the cost would be some astronomical figure.
The Hospital Visit
I walked into the hospital worried about the costs I was about to incur. Then something fantastic happened. The woman working the front desk told me about something called the New Zealand ACC and that my injury sounded like it would be covered 100%.
You can read about the coverage and everything it includes on the ACC website. To sum it up, if you are in New Zealand and the accident you are being treated for occurred there, you are likely to get free coverage.
One of the things you can get free treatment for is physical injuries. They give a nice list with all the physical injuries that are included.
After waiting about 1.5 hours, I finally got into the exam room. First, the doctor tried to get the “foreign body” out of my eye with a q-tip. That was a no-go. Now it was time for the scary stuff. He took a needle and tried to use that to jab the foreign body out of my eye. That was also a no-go. I asked the doctor if it was safe to be jabbing a needle in my eye (I’d say it’s a pretty fair question). He said that the outside layer of the eye is actually pretty thick and it would be really hard to cause damage to the eye. Who knew!?
The next step was to use the needle under one of those microscopes-for-eyes. He tried and tried, but could not get it out. The whole time my insides were rolling over in fear and disgust. Because he couldn’t get it on his own, he needed to go get his supervisor to see if he could have better luck getting the object out of my eye. His supervisor came in and proceeded to try his hand at it.
The most worrisome part of this whole experience was that they kept saying I should not be feeling anything because of all of the eye numbing drops they put in my eye. This was not true – I could feel my eye being jabbed every time they put that damn needle into my eye. Whatever I had in my eye, it must have been pretty deep.
The second doctor was about to give up and told me I’d need to go see the ophthalmologist the next day to get it out when it finally happened! He managed to dislodge whatever was in my eye! I felt like I could jump with joy. The second the foreign body was removed, I felt instant relief in my eye. He examined whatever was in my eye for a minute or twom but could not figure out what it was. He gave me some antibacterial cream to use in my eye for a few days and we were off!
They gave me information to set up a follow up appointment with an ophthalmologist to make sure my eye was all set. The next day I called and set up an appointment for later that day. I got it checked out and everything looked great! This appointment was also covered by the free ACC coverage.
The ACC coverage is a pretty unbelievable benefit for visitors of New Zealand. New Zealand is a pretty outdoorsy country so I can see accidents that would be covered by the ACC coverage may happen fairly frequently. I feel like this is another great reason all by itself to visit New Zealand, but it is something I had no idea existed until I had this eye accident. I’ll never forget watching two different men jab a needle directly into my eye and hope it’s something I never have to endure again.
Have you heard of this before? Do you know any other countries that offer great free coverage for visitors of their country?