It happened four years ago. Patricia Melo had just dropped her two children off at the babysitter before driving to work. As she waited at an intersection for a car to turn left, her vehicle was rear-ended, and Melo was left sandwiched between two other automobiles. Her back was hurt so severely that, in the weeks that followed, she was constantly hunched over at a 45-degree angle. Her first doctor said she was not a candidate for surgery, and prescribed her morphine to blunt the excruciating pain. But the Hamilton native’s condition deteriorated. She searched — unsuccessfully — for a different medical evaluation. Eventually, she ended up confined to a wheelchair and was forced to leave her retail management job. “I was horrible to be around,” says Melo, now 33.
Last year, a friend made a suggestion that changed her life: why not get surgery in India?
Earl Smith had a cocaine addiction. The Manitoba-based small-business owner had tried quitting on his own and was no more successful with self-help treatment programs such as Cocaine Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, where he felt uncomfortable and out-of-place. “They were seedy,” says Smith, who didn’t want his real name used in this story. “They let people in off the street. I just didn’t want to get to know them — I know that sounds horrible.”