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Australian tourist stuck in Thai hospital after head-on collision, owing $56,000 in medical bills

Family and friends are reaching out for help to bring home an Australian woman who remains in a Thai hospital 10 days after a motorcycle accident that left her fighting for life and struggling to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Australian tourist Dawn Weldon was riding a moped with her 14-year-old son on January 15, when she collided head-on with a truck in the Thai resort district of Ko Lanta.

The 53-year-old nurse from Valla on the New South Wales Mid North Coast suffered a brain injury, a fractured skull and broke 15 separate bones, but the severe injuries were only the beginning of her ordeal.

Her family says the Krabi Government Hospital will not discharge her to receive much-needed treatment in Australia, until a mounting medical bill is paid.

"The medical bill to date is over $56,000 and is not the final bill, and her travel has been quoted at around $36,000," said Ms Weldon's friend Donna Saalfeld, who flew from Brisbane to coordinate the medical evacuation.

"We're just working-class people. We can't afford that," said her brother Lee Weldon, who lives in England.

Ms Weldon's comprehensive travel insurance was void because she did not hold an Australian driver's licence for a motorcycle.

The General Exclusions clause in the Allianz Insurance Basic policy states: "This applies even if you are not required by law to hold a licence in the country."

Ms Saalfeld said hospital officials asked about the financial background of Dawn's family before determining the cost of treatment.

"At the start, we were told she would get 1.5 million Baht ($AU56,000) of medical insurance coverage, so I believe the hospital put the top dollar prices on all the expenses. If you don't have money, they do a discounted price," she said.

Assistance was also delayed because Ms Weldon did not have a hard copy of her insurance policy in her luggage — instead keeping a digital version on her mobile phone.

The Australian made a stopover in Thailand with her son Josh, after spending Christmas with their extended family in the United Kingdom.

Key points:
  • Dawn Weldon's travel insurance was void because she didn't hold motorcycle licence
  • Family advises other travellers to carry hard copies of insurance documentation
  • Weldon was travelling with her son Josh
Dawn Weldon and her son Josh at a family gathering

Photo: Ms Weldon made the stopover with her son Josh after a trip to the United Kingdom. (Supplied: Weldon family)

"Dawn is a very careful person. Josh is her best friend, so she wouldn't have put him deliberately at risk," Mr Weldon said.

The 14-year-old escaped with minimal injuries, but had to leave his critically injured mother behind and fly back to Australia alone.

"He is pretty strong and trying to stay calm," his father Dan Schupp said.

According to the teenager, his mother was riding slowly, but he has no memory of how the accident occurred. Witnesses have reported Ms Weldon veered onto the wrong side of the road.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says it is providing consular assistance and hospital visits.

The Australian Government's advice for Thailand states that travellers who intend to hire motorised vehicles should speak to their travel insurer about restrictions that may apply.

Ms Weldon's family has set up a crowdfunding campaign in a bid to raise the funds to repatriate her to Australia. Ms Saalfeld posted a desperate plea for help on her Facebook page.

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