Passage to India, for Surgery

With the rising sun comes the morning chores, for 60-year-old Dodie Gilmore of Caddo, Okla. She heads out to feed the cows in the fields and the catfish in the pond on her 180-acre ranch.

She then heads off to work as a real estate agent in nearby Durant. Showing property in these parts of Oklahoma isn't as easy as pulling into the driveway of a McMansion and showing someone around. It involves hopping out of the car repeatedly to open and close lots of gates on big tracts of land, something that has become increasingly difficult for Gilmore because of the arthritis in her hip.

"It's bone grating on bone ... you're never out of pain," says Gilmore.

For more on Americans going overseas to get medical procedures, watch "Nightline" tonight.

Her insurance called this a pre-existing condition and surgery to replace the hip wasn't covered, so Gilmore went online and learned about a procedure called hip resurfacing. She was given estimates of $28,000 to $40,000 for the surgery in the United States -- well beyond the wallet of her or her employer.

But she found that the surgery is performed in India at a fraction of the cost.

A trip to India, she learned, organized by an intermediary called PlanetHospital, would bring her surgical costs down to $7,000. She could even take her sister Carol from Oregon along, stay in a hotel for a few days after, and the total bill wouldn't climb past $10,500 (shopping not included). It was an idea her boss, Martin Van Meter, supported.

So earlier this month, Gilmore decided to go to India, joining a growing number of Americans who in recent years have gone overseas to get medical procedures that they can't afford at home.

On Oct.5, Gilmore and her sister flew to India, spending 30 hours in planes -- no small feat for someone who has trouble sitting or standing in one place for too long.

Arriving in India late at night, she was whisked off to Max Hospital in New Delhi, which resembles a fancy hotel, with glass doors, large sky-lit lobbies, and marble floors that seem to be constantly getting mopped and waxed.

A cadre of staff was waiting and over the next 24 hours while waiting for the surgery, more than 20 personnel would rotate through her room. There were junior and senior residents and attendings, nurses and their supervisors, internists, orthopedists, a dietitian and psychiatrist.

"They get to spend a lot of time with you, and they're genuinely concerned about your problems. In the states, all I would've gotten -- speaking from experience of having a broken leg -- is they just buzz through your room and it's just ... very quick, very impersonal treatment," Gilmore said.

The operating theater was clean and ultramodern and included a high-tech ventilation system that whisks any germs from the operating team away from the patient. The hospital says the infection rates are well below the ones tolerated by the World Health Organization and even the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gilmore's surgery at Max Hospital took place the morning of Tuesday, Oct.10. The whole procedure took less then a half an hour.

It went very well, Gilmore said. She felt great and was up and walking just two days later. She's still in New Dehli, staying at a hotel near the hospital with her sister. She goes in next week to get her stitches out and said she hopes to head back home before the end of the month.

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