It’s our first day in Thailand - Chiang Mai, and I am sick. Run to the bathroom every ten minutes, cold sweats, think I might die, kind of sick! The suspiciously pink Moroccan sausage I had the previous evening in the nicest restaurant in Luang Prabang is a likely culprit. Typical - pay a fortune for a meal (relatively speaking) and get food poisoning! I promised Grant I’d go to the doctor if I still felt this awful in the morning. Thank GOD were not still in Laos where there’s no good health care and I’m just very very thankful we have a toilet that works unlike the one in the guesthouse we JUST left.
Morning came and I felt a bit better but still rough enough that I thought I should get it checked out. I called International SOS for advice on a doctor in the area. I figure if I’m paying that much for my membership, I might as well get some benefit from it! They recommend that I go to a hospital across town rather than the one right next door to the hotel were staying in. Oh well, apparently the Doctor speaks English so hopefully that will work out. Just to be on the safe side, I get the front desk to write down I need to see Dr. Whats-his-name in Thai for me.
I sent Grant and Jessica off to the Chinese embassy to try and get our visas for China and jumped in a tuk tuk to head for the hospital a bit worried about exactly what a Thai hospital might be like! I shouldn’t have worried about it. There were enough English speaking staff around to help me out and the Doctor was really professional and spoke excellent English. The place was sparkling clean, super organized and I was in and out of there in an hour, prescription drugs in hand, for something like $30 US. Amazing!
Food poisoning, the doctor thinks, but we’ll keep an eye on it in case its Dengue, Malaria or who-knows-what-else! After all, we’ve been in Southeast Asia for over a month and Cambodia is having a Dengue outbreak. At least the rest of the family isn’t symptomatic, and the Doc agrees that the Moroccan sausage is a likely culprit. No worries.
No worries, that is, until Jessica has blood in her poo the following morning! Given my symptoms, I’m slightly worried. But, shes been a bit constipated (and - how to say this delicately - been going through a bum exploration phase lately) and she’s having no other symptoms. I decide not to worry about it. This lasts about ten minutes and I end up calling International SOS for advice, hoping they’ll tell me not to worry.
Once again, I’m immediately connected to an English speaking doctor for advice. This membership is starting to pay for itself just in peace of mind! The doc says: ”Blood in her stool? Hmmmmmm I’d take her to the hospital to be on the safe side. We’ve seen some weird stuff come out of Vietnam – never able to diagnose it, of course. But still…” So, off we go to the Chiang Mai Ram Hospital – again!!
This time I think I know the drill and ask for the same doc I saw the previous day, thinking he knows my symptoms and I know he speaks excellent English. This throws the whole system into a schmozzle and they usher me into a waiting room while they find someone with enough English to patiently explain to the annoying tourist that the doctor I have requested is, unfortunately, in the emergency room today and would I mind seeing the resident pediatrician? OK – we’ll go to the pediatrics wing then!
Once again, I shouldn’t have worried! The English speaking pediatrician is wonderfully competent and not too concerned given Jess’s lack of other symptoms. But to be on the safe side we need a stool sample. Uh-oh. Jessica just went, and given her almost constant state of constipation, is NOT likely to go again for a LONG while. Well then, well stick this pill up her bum and force the issue.
Jessica bares her bum for yet another inspection (one by me, one by the doc, and now the nurse) and up goes the pill. “THAT HURTED ME! Many tears and a VERY affronted little person, and immediately she says she has to poo. We make a half naked dash across the hospital waiting room to the lab (which is in the hospital itself thank God and not six blocks away like it would be in Canada!) where I’m handed a teeny plastic cup and a miniscule stick and shown the bathroom. We’ve left Grant behind somewhere, but no time to stick around to explain. Hopefully someone will tell him where we are!
How, exactly, does one take a screaming, panicked three year old and a tiny cup and get a sample? Not easily. She doesn’t want to poop on me and is convinced that if she poops they will stick something else up her bum. Twenty hysterical minutes later, Jessica starts to calm down. I decide I’d better let Grant know we’d be awhile, so I open the door to look for him. He’s in the waiting room opposite the bathroom. Thankfully he’s sorted out where we’ve gone.
As I’m talking to him, Jessica sticks her fingers in the door jamb and I partially close the door on a little finger. Fantastic!
Now were BOTH in tears but the finger is OK and we get an ice pack. We’re still in the bathroom, Jessica naked from the waist down: a poop time bomb sitting on my lap. Why didn’t I grab the emergency diaper or a spare set of clothes? Not to mention the fact that I am still sick, and would REALLY like to use the toilet. But, the only toilet around is the one my daughter (hopefully) will need soon, and she won’t settle for Daddy at this particular moment so I can go off and find other facilities. So, I grit my teeth and wait, and wait, and WAIT. Half an hour for this pill to work - I don’t think so!!
Jessica falls asleep on my lap, and the half-hour time frame for the pill to work it’s magic is long over, so I take her out of the bathroom hoping she can have a little sleep on the bench Grant is sitting on. Nope. She wakes up immediately and a nurse spots us and comes over to take a scraping from a strange insect bite on her leg. We’d decided to get the bite checked since we were there anyway, and it had been there for ages without clearing up.
The bite is on her ankle, so the nurse asks Jessica to lie on her tummy so she can examine it. She’s not falling for THAT one again! I had to promise to hold her bum so that nobody could stick anything more up it. I figure they’ll use a cotton swab, but out comes the scalpel. They scrape and she screams, and screams, and screams! It’s just a little scrape but she’s had more than enough of this place by now.
We resume the poop watch. Finally she has to go, but she’s afraid it will hurt. After more hysterics, she finally poops and I - amazingly - catch some in my hand (those plastic sanitary disposal bags came in handy) to deposit into the teeny cup. Hurrah!
We wait with a fairly grouchy and bum-sore little bean for about half an hour. The tests all come back OK and the pediatrician prescribes some antiseptic cream for the bite and something to help with constipation.
Amazingly, the whole thing only took three hours! The hospital staff was all friendly, helpful, and spoke a LOT more English than I do Thai. The hospital itself was clean, extremely efficient and it cost about $50 US for all the lab work, three types of meds, and the exam fee. I had been concerned about the quality of medical care available in Thailand, but I’d have to say Canadian hospitals could use some pointers from the Chiang Mai Ram Hospital!
Jessica has weathered the experience fairly well – she’s had her nails done and a foot massage and she’s a new woman. She is also now taking the “do not put things in your bum” warning most seriously!!