The phone rang at 5 a.m. but I am an early riser. April Travel Insurance told me of a lady with a cough at the Residence Inn in Manhattan Beach. Vacationers hate to get sick, so even a bad cold produces wee-hour calls.
This sounded easy. It was a fifteen mile drive, but the freeways were clear, and I would return before the rush hour.
Guest often feel obligated to demonstrate how miserable they feel, and this lady coughed loudly from the time I walked in. Listening to her lungs was difficult because she wouldn’t stop, but what I heard was not reassuring. A bad cough doesn’t necessarily mean a bad disease, but this patient had one ominous sign: she was my age.
Long ago, pneumonia was called, perhaps sarcastically, the old man’s friend. Nowadays, we usually treat it as an outpatient but not in the elderly who are, I say with reluctance, too fragile.
I phoned April's office to explain that the lady needed a chest x-ray and possible hospitalization. This is bad news for an insurer. An ordinary emergency room visit costs over a thousand dollars, an admission for pneumonia twenty times that. Some travel services work hard over their fine print to avoid responsibility for expensive incidents, and I occasionally urge guests to go to the hospital after they’ve learned that their insurance won’t pay.
April doesn’t do that. The dispatcher quickly agreed to arrange matters. Later that day, the husband informed me that his wife had been admitted for pneumonia. That undoubtedly meant I had saved her life. I don’t save a life often, and it makes me feel good.