I am a geneticist who was invited on a medical mission to Saigon. On day three of my month-long trip, I stopped on a remote mountain road to photograph a beautiful valley below. Taking advantage of the solitude, I stepped to the cliff’s edge to relieve myself. Suddenly the seemingly-solid edge disintegrated, and I fell straight down, screaming in terror. If not for a ledge that caught me at 30 feet, shattering my leg, I would have hurtled to my death 400 feet down. (Many have asked – I had not yet unzipped my fly.) It took 10 men and lots of morphine to rescue me. A 14-hour excruciatingly painful ambulance ride to Hanoi and an airlift got me to Bangkok. Ten screws and a metal plate fixed the multitude of leg fractures, but I was annoyed to find my ankle was still not reattached straight.
Unfortunately, the second operation led to a life-threatening infection, which subsided only after massive antibiotics and a three-week hospitalization. I arrived home practically on my original return date, never seeing a single patient except myself. Medical missions usually take a lot out of me, but this one put a lot of metal into me. —Dr. Gary Feldman, of Ventura, California, recently bagged $10,000 as winner of the 2010 World’s Unluckiest Traveler Contest, from TravelGuard Insurance, beating out some 800 other tales of woe (and landing him some ink in USA Today). We’d say he deserves it.