Fri, 12/01/2023 - 11:52pm

It Could Happen to You, Too!

David Miller shares his cautionary tale of getting injured while judging abroad

I am writing this article to forewarn judges and the canine community of the need for adequate insurance coverage while judging out of the country. I recently had an accident on a judging assignment outside the United States. It is my wish to make sure the canine community is adequately insured for such a mishap, because it could happen to you!

On October 16, 2023, at a canine event in Pereira, Colombia, after an intense rain the night before, I slipped and fell during the second day of shows. After intense pain after the fall, I was rushed to a hospital in Pereira, where it was diagnosed that I had fractured the neck of my femur. I was transferred to the Clinica Comfamiliar, which specialized in this type of injury in the same city. At the Clinica Comfamiliar, it was determined that my injury necessitated a complete right hip replacement.

There was some problem with the administration at the Clinica Comfamiliar not being familiar with my AXA travel insurance. I remained there for three days with the fracture unattended while they initially decided not to accept the document of guarantee of payment tendered by my AXA insurance company, which was in daily direct correspondence with them. I was urged by my insurance company to seek another medical establishment that would accept this guarantee of payment.

In the meantime, through my association with worldwide canine events, I knew a doctor who was also a canine judge who practiced at the Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá: Dr. Fabian Daza, a world-renowned FCI judge, is the head of urology at the Fundación. Dr. Daza suggested that I be transferred immediately to the Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá to be immediately treated. I set this all in motion through my AXA insurance company, thanks to a plan offered by the American Dog Show Judges organization.

The day the transfer to be medically flown to Bogotá was approved by AXA, interestingly enough, the Clinica Comfamiliar in Pereira approved AXA’s document of guarantee of payment. However, having waited for three days without immediate treatment of the fracture, I decided that it would be best to be transferred to a medical institution that accepted a document of guarantee of payment without reservation and where a friend, a medical professional, was waiting for me.

On October 20, I was placed on a short medical flight arranged by AXA to Bogotá to seek immediate treatment for my injury.

At the time, I would have preferred to be transferred directly to my doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, but medical officials in both Pereira and Bogotá warned me that this would not be a wise medical decision. There was a chance for a pulmonary embolism during a prolonged flight, and the level of pain would have been intolerable. Therefore, I decided on treatment in Colombia.

After the short medical flight to Bogotá, I was taken by ambulance to the Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá. Whisked through the emergency waiting room, I was taken to the admitting area, where I informed the admitting doctor of my insurance status. She seemed unphased about the issue of insurance. She concerned herself with my state of being and medical history. As I looked up from the admitting gurney, my eyes welcomed the familiar face of Dr. Daza, who held in his hand the AXA document of guarantee of payment. I was quickly and expeditiously admitted. In a matter of minutes, I was in X-ray, where a series of images was taken. From there, another area attended to an EKG. A series of medical tests was conducted for preparation for surgery until I was assigned a bay area in the emergency-room section.

In all my years, I had never experienced an overnight stay in a medical facility. This was all new to me, especially trying to communicate in another language. I speak French, German, Italian and English. Spanish was not on my list. Therefore, the translation application on my phone was constantly in use until I could communicate somewhat better in Spanish after several days. Compounded by my loss of the sense of the word “modesty” while in the emergency bay, this was by far the most difficult time of my hospital stay. I endured a whole night and a major part of the next day waiting to be cleared for surgery. Having to use a bedpan was probably the most disconcerting and foreign part of this time at the Fundación!

The next day I met my surgeon, Dr. Rodrigo Pesantez, an orthopedic specialist who discussed the operation. He spoke perfect English, and finding out that my regular doctors in the States were Cleveland Clinic doctors, he assured me that he knew several doctors in orthopedics in Cleveland.

I marveled at the efficiency of this medical institution. Having had a hip nerve block the first evening in the surgery section, I knew the surgery bays were immaculate and chock full of the latest medical equipment. Witnessing people who were completely on task was a welcome sight. Many times, I told myself that this was by far equal to or superior to the Cleveland Clinic. I did not hold back in sharing this impression with the doctors and staff.

Finally, several people appeared in my emergency bay. The trip to surgery was happening. My friend Dr. Daza met me there. I was relieved to know that my injury would be fixed. Wheeling me to the surgery block were the same assistants who met me in the admitting room; they specialize in traumatic orthopedic procedures. I was given a spinal tap and marveled at the huge lights in the room centered above the surgery bed. Monitors and screens to show the images of the fracture were set in a state-of-the-art, technically comprehensive surgical setting. Before I knew it, I was out!

As I was awakening in the recovery bay, the once again friendly, reassuring face of my friend Dr. Fabian Daza peered above me to reassure me in his soothing manner that the surgery was a success. I stayed in the recovery room for about another hour before being taken to my room on the top 12th floor of the hospital with a magnificent view of Bogotá.

I remained in this room for 12 days. My boundless appreciation to the nurses, aides, support staff and doctors who attended to my needs. Every day after their 12-hour shift, they came to say farewell and introduced the caregivers for the next shift. Their jobs are not easy. I gained an added appreciation for their service to their profession, especially in periods of pain and the quick administration of pain medication. My partner, Xun Kang, is a nurse at the Cleveland Clinic. Now, I can much better understand his daily routine.



I had one visit by a dog-show dignitary during my post-operative stay. Michael Canalizo was on assignment in Bogotá and took time out of his busy judging day to say hello. It was a wonderful visit and much appreciated. I must also thank Mr. and Mrs. Juan Alberto Rivera, members of the Colombian Kennel Club, as well as another visit by the president of the Colombian Kennel Club, Dr. Rafael Ortalora Robayo, also a physician at the Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá. A world of thanks to Marianna Vargas, daughter of the president of the Pereira Kennel Club, and Olga Lucia Jimenez Salazar, who hardly left my side while in both hospitals.

Dr. Daza and my surgeon Dr. Pesantez were always attentive and willing to take the time to listen. I am completely blessed to have been in their care. I will always have a positive and grateful memory of the care given at the Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá. I can from an experiential level state that the care given to me in Bogotá was world class. I thank everyone at the Fundación. I will always be in your debt. As I am able to now move on both of my legs unaided, the fruits of their expertise have become a stark realization.

One last observation: The commercials for American Express that state, “Never leave home without it” have become outdated, at least where canine judges are concerned. But the insurance policy obtainable through the American Dog Show Judges organization ( should be a necessity for every judge for both domestic and international assignments. The travel and medical repatriation insurance for members of the ADSJ is always offered in a window each July. One never knows what may happen in life. I certainly would have never imagined such an accident on a judging assignment. I have been judging since 1988, and nothing had ever occurred — until now. Having this insurance has been a financial lifesaver and tremendous relief.

A special thanks to Carl Liepmann, with whom I was in constant contact to intercede in insurance matters. I would like to thank everyone worldwide who expressed their concern about my ordeal. Again, I have been blessed by the canine world of friendship.

But always remember: God forbid, IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU, TOO!



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