On Monday I talked about the best day of our trip, and I alluded to the fact that the best day soon turned into the worst night. After visiting the awesome Tiger Kingdom, we spent some time walking around Chiang Mai, we had dinner, and then headed back to our hotel. As we were giddily posting tiger photos and messaging friends and family about our day, I started to feel kind of nauseous. Still on a bit of a high from the day, I ignored it, and went to shower. Then things took a turn for the ugly. About an hour later, I started throwing up, and didn’t stop for over 12 hours.
I had food poisoning. And it was awful. I think it might have even been worse than that time I got dengue fever on my honeymoon–I have never felt so sick as I did laying on that bathroom floor in Thailand. Of course this happened at night, when the clinics were closed and the owner of our hotel was sleeping and couldn’t help us, so we decided I would rough it out until morning and then try to go to a clinic. Finally, 6 a.m. rolled around, and exhausted and still completely ill, I sent Matt out to talk with the owner and figure out what we should do. We were a little worried–over the last year in Korea we had heard a few horror stories of people dying in Southeast Asia from various poisonings, and we wanted to be smart about this. The hotel owner agreed, and said we should not go to a clinic, but head straight for the hospital. After an excruciating cab ride, we finally arrived at the hospital, and I laid listlessly on a bench while Matt got me all checked in.
Fast forward another hour, and I finally see a doctor, who decides I should be admitted and receive an IV drip. I agreed, because I’ve done this before, but before I know it, I’m in a wheelchair being led to a room. Once in our room, we’re a bit confused–we have a huge suite, overlooking the city, the kind they usually only give to long-term patients or use as birth suites. Matt asked the nurse “All of this just for an IV drip?” She assured us yes, and then got me all hooked up to the IV. After I was all set up, she said “Okay, now just sit and relax for 6 hours.” WHAT? SIX HOURS? I’ve never had an IV that takes six hours–we tried to protest, but she said that’s how long it takes, and in the end, we decided not to argue too much. It was lay in the hospital or lay in the hotel, and frankly, the hospital had a better view. Soon the nurses were bringing me other goodies (antibiotics, probiotics, pain pills), and thankfully, each nurse could speak great English. My doctor, who was totally fluent in English, with hardly even an accent, popped in a few times to check on me. Despite the weird, over the top treatment for food poisoning, we were so grateful that this Thai hospital was top-notch–clean, modern, and seemingly competent staff.
After a while I started to feel like myself again, and after a full day of cat napping, the six hours had finally passed. Around this time, the doctor came in and asked me if I wanted to stay overnight in the hospital. I said no, but he kind of pressed me on it. I said I’d rather go back to my hotel, and that I was feeling a lot better. He seemed disappointed, but said I was free to go. Then he (and the nurses) all disappeared and no one came back into our room for the next hour. Matt finally got frustrated and went and got a nurse to unhook my IV, but she disappeared soon after too. No one would tell us if we could go home, and no one had given us our paperwork yet–paperwork we needed to get our insurance to cover this little Thai adventure. After almost another hour Matt went out to the nurses station and threw a little tantrum, after which they told him the doctor had gone home without completing my paperwork, and wouldn’t I just like to stay the night so he could deal with it tomorrow? At this point we were pretty sure they only wanted us to stay for the money, so we flat out refused. Finally, after about another hour of waiting, a nurse delivered our discharge paperwork and we were on our way.
My bout of food poisoning took the wind out of my sails for days, and sadly, the rest of our Chiang Mai trip was pretty much ruined. I was afraid to eat anything (especially from a restaurant) and I didn’t feel good enough to walk around. Worst of all, the next evening we had a flight to Bangkok. Needless to say, it took me a few days to fully get back on my feet, and I survived mainly on white rice and gatorade for the next 24 hours. The silver lining in all of this? The whole day in the hospital, the IV and all medications only came to about $1,000 USD (something that would easily be several times as much in the U.S.), and our travel insurance covered the whole endeavor. Plus, now we have a pretty good story to tell!
Have you ever had to use a hospital in a foreign country? What was your experience like?