Health & Medical

A fish tale: one surfer’s unbelievable medical emergency

Reading time: 3 minutes

Photo credit Getty/Nik West

How a Balinese fish put Kerry Hayes in hospital with a $27,000 medical bill

The swells in Western Australia’s Exmouth can leave surfers a little disappointed in the summer time. It was for this reason that TID customers, Kerry and Stephen Hayes decided to head to Bali’s Nusa Lembongan. With her surfboard in hand, Kerry was looking forward to two weeks of waves and a bit of respite from her work as an agent for Qantas Freight, Star Track and TNT Transport.

What Kerry wasn’t ready for was the fish that would put her in hospital with a punctured lung and $27,000 medical bill.

A fish out of water

It was Day 13 of Kerry and Stephen’s holiday and Kerry had paddled out to surf Playgrounds, a popular break at Nusa Lembongan.

“There were about five of us sitting on our boards when we saw the fish coming out the water like it was being chased,” Kerry explained. “It was flying out of the water, going in and then coming back out. It had missed the guy in front of us, but then it spun around and was heading straight for me.

It all happened so quickly. I thought, ‘This thing is going to hit me’ but it was too late for me to do anything. It hit my side and I was knocked into the water.

When I came back up, the fish was flapping around on my board. Everyone was yelling out, “Are you ok?” I touched where it hit me, which was quite painful. I saw blood and then I panicked.”

The fish in question was a longtom – a long slender fish from the flying fish family that is known for its sharp teeth and aggressive nature. The longtom’s snout had punctured Kerry’s side, leaving a wound under her arm pit the size of a 5c piece.

Photo credit Getty/By Mike Lyvers

A couple of complications

The surfers around Kerry quickly realised the seriousness of her injury. They helped her to a nearby pontoon, while one of the local surfers raced off to find someone with a boat. She was then transported back to the island where they were staying and she went to see the local doctor.

“The next day we went to the Bali International Medical Clinic. It wasn’t until they gave me a CT scan that they saw that I had a punctured lung. Later on that night, they took me in for surgery where they inserted a tube to vacuum out the air and blood. I remained in the Bali hospital for 4 days.

We knew we had travel insurance, but we didn’t know what they’d cover us for and what they’d do for us. My husband dealt with TID while I was in the hospital, but once he came and said ‘They’re taking care of this and they’re taking care of that, it was then the last thing on my mind. I could just concentrate on getting well and didn’t have to worry about the financial part of it.”

To add an extra layer of complexity to Kerry’s situation, the coming Saturday was Nyepi Day (a traditional public holiday in Indonesia) where the whole of Bali shuts down. Because Kerry had the vacuum in her lung and couldn’t fly without it, she had to return to Perth before the vacuum was due to be taken out and before the airports closed for the Nyepi Day. The airline wouldn’t transport her without a special oxygen cylinder and TID only had a day to find the cylinder Kerry needed.

“One of the local nurses said not to get my hopes up as it can take 2-3 days to get the oxygen cylinder organised.  But then she came back and said “I don’t believe it, they’ve got the cylinder!” TID was just pushing and making phone calls and got me on the plane before Bali shut down for the holiday.”

A welcome homecoming

Given Kerry’s sensitive condition, she flew home business class with a doctor from the Bali International Clinic.

“He was unreal. We got put in business class and he wanted to give me a sleeping tablet to help me through the trip but I said, ‘This is the first and last time I’m going to be in business class. I’m going the whole hog.”

Back home safe in Western Australia, the vacuum was removed from Kerry’s lungs and she was discharged from Royal Perth Hospital two days later. Unable to fly until her lungs have fully recovered, she made the 14 hour journey back to Exmouth by road with a travel story that could only be described as being just a little fishy.

Kerry has since fully recovered. Unperturbed by her experience, she is back on her surfboard and back in the water at the local break in Exmouth. After her experience in Bali, she knows better than anyone that there’s plenty more fish in the sea.


Kristen Hyde is a freelance wordsmith from Sydney who now lives in London because she heard the weather was awesome. You can follow her adventures in ol’ Blighty at Where in the World is KH. For more instantaneous updates of her travels, what she eats, and what she sees on the Tube, you can follow her on Instagram.

Health & Medical

Is it safe to drink the water in Fiji?

Have you ever had the luxury bottled water brand, Fiji Water? No doubt its enticing image of a crystal-clear spring ...



Lookalike Tourist Attractions

Most of us have a bucket list of beautiful places around the world we want to see, whether it’s the Grand Canyon, ...



Dunks, threes and LeBron – what you need to know about the NBA

The NBA is one of the most exciting sporting leagues in the world. Fast, skillful and tough, it's 48 minutes of ...