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Monday, January 28, 2008

Medical Tourism in India:




First American Receives Liver Transplant Through WorldMed Assist
Liver transplant patient Kevin Stewart of Big Pine Key, Florida, recuperates at a bed and breakfast in Delhi, India before heading home to Miami six weeks after life-saving surgery. Stewart was the first American to have liver transplant surgery in India. The surgery cost a fraction of what he was quoted in the U.S.

Concord, Calif: WorldMed Assist, a growing company in the expanding industry of medical tourism, helped save Kevin Stewart's life.
Last November, Stewart's liver started to fail, and by February, he had to endure hospital visits every two weeks to have his belly drained of fluids his liver would no longer process. His doctor said that without a liver transplant, he would die. Worse, there was a four-month wait for a transplant, and no one was sure he had four months. He also was told it would cost about $350,000. Stewart, a retired owner of a landscaping business, had no health insurance.
Stewart now has a newly transplanted liver, courtesy of his sister, Jo-Ann Hall of Ottawa, Canada. On Friday, he lands at Miami International, arriving home from Apollo Hospital in Delhi, India, where the procedure was performed. Total cost of surgery and hospitalization there: $55,000.
Stewart is just one of an increasing number of Americans who are choosing to go overseas to get top quality medical care at comparatively affordable prices. WorldMed Assist of Concord, California – which facilitated all medical and travel arrangements for Stewart and his family – is a true medical tourism matchmaker matching patients' means and wishes with the best medical services abroad.
"Having this surgery in the U.S. would have wiped me out," Stewart said. "Having someone help me get the transplant I needed in India – with top-notch doctors in a great hospital, at a fraction of the cost – saved me so much money that I flew my girlfriend and Jo-Ann’s husband to India to help us recuperate – and still saved $275,000. The surgery has given me back a life I thought was lost."
That life looked pretty bleak when he got his diagnosis and the price tag.
"In early June, I hit the Internet, and eventually landed on the term Medical Tourism. I searched several firms, saying, 'I need a liver transplant.' Several responded, but I kept coming back to WorldMed Assist," Stewart said. “By late June, they had me on my way to India, and my surgery was finished on July 11. Pretty amazing. I heard I was the first American to have a liver transplant in India."
WorldMed Assist is a company founded by Wouter Hoeberechts to help people get skilled medical care abroad for far less than it would cost in the U.S.
"I was initially reluctant to take Kevin on as a patient," said Hoeberechts. "Live liver transplants are extremely risky, no matter where in the world they’re done. But I knew of Doctor Subhash Gupta at one of WorldMed Assist's contracted hospitals, Apollo, in Delhi, India. We did our research and gathered references – Dr. Gupta has done 120 live liver transplants with a long-term survival record that surpassed the Mayo Clinic's – the U.S.’s gold standard for liver transplants." WorldMed Assist prides itself on its depth of research to match patients’ needs with medical tourism destinations, doctors, and supporting facilities.
WorldMed Assist gave Stewart detailed information on the doctor and the hospital, and urged him to seek additional opinions from his own medical team. Once Stewart committed to have WorldMed Assist help him get the transplant, Hoeberechts’ firm transferred his medical records to India, and set up phone consultations with the surgeon. "When he asked his sister, Jo-Ann, if she would be his liver donor, she didn’t think twice," Hoeberechts said.
Hoeberechts, WorldMed Assist CEO, said countless Americans like Stewart, and Canadians like Hall, face similar medical crises. They either don't have health insurance, their insurance doesn’t cover their needs, they face long waits to get the surgery they need, or they can't pay the high price of procedures in their own country.
"When I decided to go with WorldMed Assist, first, I was impressed there was no waiting time, and they work with well-established, accredited hospitals and doctors," Stewart said. "When my medical cost came in at a seventh of what I would pay in the U.S., my choice was clear."
According to Dr. Gupta, "The long waiting time in the U.S. is because most liver transplants come from deceased people, so the organs are scarce." Stewart was fortunate his sister was a suitable – and willing – liver donor for him. Her surgery and hospital expenses were included in Stewart's $55,000 bill.
Both donor and recipient recovered faster than anticipated: Hall flew home to Ottawa just two and a half weeks after surgery; Stewart headed home after only six weeks.
Movies like Michael Moore's "Sicko" and the cadre of political candidates are feeding the debate about the future of America’s health care system. But people like Kevin Stewart are not waiting to see what happens; they're making their own choices today.
"If you are seriously ill and uninsured, you've got to find first-class medical care at a price that won't kill you," Kevin said. "I'm glad companies like WorldMed Assist can help people like me find great hospitals and great doctors in other parts of the world."


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