The wife of a man seriously injured in an off-road motorcycle crash in Sharjah has been forced to sell jewellery and prized possessions to pay care costs that could top Dh1.3 million.
Nihal Hingst, 36, came off his motorcycle on October 29 and fell down a cliff near Al Dhaid after braking on a steep corner at speed.
He suffered severe injuries including a broken back, only to find out his health insurance does not pay out for motor accidents. Now his family face a huge medical bill at Burjeel Speciality Hospital, Sharjah.
No other vehicles were involved in the incident where Mr Hingst’s bike skidded, causing him to fall on to hard rocks, shattering his right leg, hand and ribs, and breaking three bones in his neck.
An emergency alert sent from his Apple Watch notified his wife, Candida Karthikeyan, that he was in urgent need of medical support and an ambulance was called.
Although he has now been taken off life-support and is breathing on his own, Mr Hingst faces months and possibly years of rehabilitation and support.
“We are a young family with two daughters aged 10 and 6,” said Ms Karthikeyan. “When the hospital gave us the final report, I was shocked to read he needed life-saving surgery on his neck.“These moments are precious and require me to be at the hospital at all times.
“The last few weeks I have been struggling between my husband fighting for his life and running around requesting the insurance company's support.
“The hospital bills are increasing every day and the billing department keeps chasing me for payments. I have nowhere to go.
“My husband’s employer, friends and relatives have done their part, but he will be in the hospital for a while.”
Mr Hingst underwent a nine-hour life-saving operation, which was completed on October 31.
He then developed pneumonia and doctors were forced to conduct a tracheostomy throat operation to manage his breathing.
“I have exhausted all my savings, sold my jewellery and his friend’s financial support and I have only managed to cover 20 per cent of the bill so far,” said Ms Karthikeyan.
“While there is hope on the horizon for his recovery, it is a long road ahead.”
Several infections post-surgery have delayed recovery and skin graft procedures are due on December 6 to repair the damage.
Mr Hingst, who works for a financial technology company in Dubai, was taken to a hospital in Al Dhaid before being moved to Burjeel Speciality Hospital.
He is expected to remain in hospital for at least another 3 to 4 weeks.
“My biggest worry is his long-term care,” said Ms Karthikeyan. “He can’t even sit properly and only recognises names and faces occasionally.
“There are things I ask him that he does not remember.”
Ms Karthikeyan has been in Dubai for 20 years and has not been to the family home in Al Qusais for more than a week so she can stay at her husband’s bedside.
Dr Jean Andary, a critical care consultant at Burjeel Speciality Hospital, treated Mr Hingst when he was first admitted.
“It was a horrific high-velocity accident, and caused multiple injuries,” he said.
“It was horrible during the first week as he had a lot of surgical interventions. He was put to sleep and sedated as he was confused and not lucid. His oxygen levels dropped, and we had to put him on a ventilator for 10 days. Now he is stable.”
Mr Hingst can move his feet, but is unable to stand or walk.
“It will take time, but Nihal is a fighter and has the will to move again,” said Dr Andary.
“He is progressing very fast and will walk again, but he will not leave hospital for at least two weeks.”
Insurance companies must follow certain criteria and regulations before agreeing to pay out on a policy.
Basic health insurance policies may be more affordable for companies, which must provide them by law, but they rarely provide comprehensive health cover.
“This could be one of the largest claims I have seen under these circumstances,” said Stephen Maclaren, a director at Seven Insurance Brokers in Dubai.
“Companies want to get the price of health insurance for employees down to what is affordable and manageable, particularly in difficult times.
“Anything can be insured, but it costs money. This is an example of keeping costs down for employers, and most insurers will have this [motorcycle] exclusion under a basic health policy.”
Mr Maclaren said that employees often do not know what their insurance covers or they do not want to pay extra for additional coverage.
“If there is no one else involved in the accident, there will be a gap in the cover. People think it will never happen to them until it is too late,” he said.
Many hospitals allow members of the public to help families in need with payment. Burjeel's can be contacted on 06 5075071.