A medical emergency during travels can be a bit scary. Unfortunately, this past year, I have experienced the care given to a hotel guest that requires medical attention across three different hotels; Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Ritz Carlton Portland. This post will be about my experience with a medical emergency at Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
To pre-face the article, ultimately, this was just a medical scare. Everyone is doing great, and this was probably my single, best, service experience I have had anywhere in the world. It was at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
What happens when you fall ill during a vacation?
This is not a question I really think about. My worst illness during a vacation was a stomach upset, with travel to India. Sure, I have travel insurance, but I never looked at the intricacies of travel insurance. I just assumed, quite incorrectly I must say, when I needed it, I’ll know everything about it and life will be great again.
Until, you go through the situation the first time.
I can assure you; the first time is a bit surreal. And even though I learnt a lot about that experience, I did not learn enough. Which is also why, I started writing a guide about credit card travel insurance. Had I known the offerings extended by the different credit cards, I would have saved at least $1,000 if not more by my cumulative experiences dealing with a medical issue during my travels.
Medical Emergency at Fairmont Chateau Whistler
With one of the coldest weathers in Whistler last year, my entire family alongside with close friends, decided to make the trek to Whistler. We thought we got extremely lucky, when Vancouver and Whistler were freezing, we were cozying up in our luxury Fairmont rooms, seated by the public fireplace.
As the night approached, my mother was feeling a bit uneasy. But, when you are a bit uneasy, you just assume it’s the freezing weather, your body is not adapted to it, get some sleep, and you will be fine.
Except, the next thing I know, I hear my mum vomiting and she feels sick enough that she calls out for help. For those of us lucky and privileged to have a mother, I think one of the most common themes are, there is no person stronger than your mother. And when she calls for help, you know it is not just a regular flu. Something is horribly wrong.
Going to Whistler Hospital… or actually, the Whistler Health Care Center
I ask my mum if she wanted an ambulance. She refused it outright. Me and my father encouraged her to head over to the hospital, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
I call up the hotel and ask the cost of having a doctor visit us in the room. The cost was a bit prohibitive. I figure, if it was an emergency, we would call 911. Right now, we just wanted an urgent consult with the doctor, but not serious enough to call 911. We decided going to the health care center was the right thing to do.
This is about 2am, the temperature outside is beyond freezing. Probably the coldest I have experienced in my life. And the coldest night of the Whistler winter. I wouldn’t be surprised if the temperature is -30 degrees Celsius or even colder. Rest assured; my entire family was unprepared to be stepping outside.
So, we call downstairs for a taxi. We decided not to take the car, because I did not want to figure out parking, in this freezing weather with a mum who needs to see a doctor.
Calling a taxi
By this time, the overnight staff is aware that there is a room requesting some sort of medical assistance. Calls about a 24/7 doctor, about the Whistler health care center. At this point in time, they don’t’ quite know it is us. As we go downstairs, I see my taxi taking another guest. I quickly run to the front desk, asking to call for another taxi urgently for the Whistler health care center.
Their first question, are you the room whose been seeking medical assistance? I say yes.
Immediately, the person working the night shift, says, let me turn the heat on in our SUV and we will take you to the Whistler health care center. He said, while the car warms up, I just need to let someone know that I’m taking a trip over to the health care center.
Just to remind everyone of the context, the temperature is -30 degrees Celsius outside, and the staff member, who is helping us, is in a light indoor sweater and khaki pants. He is running around trying to get himself out of his duties to help us out for the night.
He does not have time to pick up his winter jacket.
Reaching the Whistler Health Care Center
Fun fact, at 2am, the Whistler Health Care Center has a doctor on call, but they are inside, and you have to call up the doctor through a speakerphone. The doctor speaks to you about the nature of the emergency then asks security to open the door.
There is no protection against the weather as you go through this step.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler staff suggests it is quite slippery out here, so he will start the conversation with the doctor, while we stay seated in the car to keep ourselves warm.
He steps outside, slides his way to the speakerphone, in -30 degrees Celsius weather and is patiently (and shivering) talking with the doctor. After about 15 minutes, the doctor asks security to open the door.
At this point in time, the Fairmont Whistler staff, comes up to my mother. And me holding my mum on one side, and the staff holding her on the other side, we gently walk her through to the health care center.
Of course, when we got to the health care center, they did some tests to confirm it was just the flu, and everything came out normal and we were asked to head back home and just rest a lot without any exertion.
Let’s be honest. No human voluntarily stands outside at -30 degrees Celsius (feels like temperature) during a snowstorm in a khaki pants and a light fleece for the indoors. And he did, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler car service ends in the late evening. But at that point in time, it did not matter for Fairmont nor the staff.
They did everything they could to make my mother feel comfortable.
And that was not expected by anyone. Nobody needed to do that. But the Fairmont Chateau Whistler did.
I can never forget that experience. And only because of that, I typically tend to prefer to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler rather than Four Seasons. From my experiences at any other hotel in the world, nobody would freeze themselves and put them in harm’s way for a guest. (I want to add there have been a few moments in history in exceptional circumstances where hotel hospitality literally put themselves on the front-line to protect their guests).
But the Fairmont did. For me. And I will never forget that.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the person at the center of the story no longer works at the Fairmont Whistler. He left a few months ago as of the time of his writing.
I hope, wherever he is, he recognizes, that his effort did not go unrecognized.
I won’t go into details, but I believe that Fairmont Staff was very generously appreciated for his efforts. In addition to probably one of the most comprehensive positive feedback I sent the hotel.