The Lowlight of Our Trip: Our Day at a Thai Hospital

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.

Being admitted to the Thai hospital

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.

Andrea with nurse in Thai hospital

Andrea in hospital bed in Thai hospital

Hospital room in Thailand

Sad face!

Andrea's IV

The view from the hospital room in Thailand

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.

Feeling better, starting to get bored!

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?

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12 Responses to “The Lowlight of Our Trip: Our Day at a Thai Hospital”

  1. Amanda @ Farsickness March 18, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    Yikes! I’m glad you’re okay and that insurance covered everything, but it doesn’t sound like the best day. I’ve been sick the past few days and have been debating going to a hospital with the thoughts of the same poisonings in my head…luckily, no vomiting so I’ve stayed away thus far.
    Amanda @ Farsickness recently posted…Where to Eat in Siem ReapMy Profile

    • Andrea March 18, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      It was a terrible day, no doubt about it! Where are you right now? You might have luck with just going to a pharmacy if you’re still feeling sick. I hope you feel better soon and can get back to enjoying your trip!!

  2. Lori Finley March 18, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    In Paris, my vacination shot I’d had to get before traveling had needed to be seen by a doctor as the shot sight had become infected. I had a heck of a time trying to figure the word” cotton” out that he kept trying to tell me for instructions. It became rather comical all due to the strong accent.

    • Andrea March 18, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      Haha, the language barriers always make international doctors visits entertaining!

  3. Megan Smith March 19, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    I remember hearing your horrible story! I have had food poisoning 3 times: two days before high school graduation, Easter, and on our Anniversary. Each time it took a few days to feel better. Luckily, I was always in my own comfy bed with either my mommy or hubby talking care of me. Sorry your “Best Day Ever ” turned into not so much fun. At least it waited until you were done cuddling with baby tigers!

    • Andrea March 19, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      Food poisoning is the worst! And no matter how careful you are it can get you anytime, anywhere! I am so glad it happened after the tiger visit–we were very grateful we saw the tigers our first day in Chiang Mai, otherwise we wouldn’t have gone at all!

  4. Vanessa @ Sauteed Happy Family March 20, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    oh my gosh–that sounds terrible! 🙁 But I’m glad you had travel insurance though! And a nice view from the hotel! Oh, and cute animals on your pillowcase. 🙂
    Vanessa @ Sauteed Happy Family recently posted…The Dark Side of Teaching in Korea: or Am I a Hypocrite?My Profile

    • Andrea March 22, 2013 at 12:12 am #

      It was pretty terrible, but yes, made much less terrible by the fact that we had travel insurance and a nice view 🙂 I didn’t even notice the animals until you pointed them out, but had I noticed them sooner, I’m sure I would have appreciated them too 🙂


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