o c a t
. n e t
|Essays · Travelogs · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Digifilm||spring 2007|
Chiang-Mai, Thailand, 16 January, 1996,
Tuesday, January 16, 1996, 7:48 PM
I started feeling queasy in the stomach about Jan. 13. I thought it was just infected sinus stuff dripping into stomach, which in the past has made me feel same. But it just kept getting worse, gradually, until, at about 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 15, I woke up, vomiting forcefully. I was drenched in sweat, and was able to utter the words "help me," and "doctor" to Jung, who, very, very, very fortunately, happened to be here, in the other twin bed.
Jung called downstairs and quickly arranged for a tuk-tuk to the nearest hospital. In my dazed malaise I looked in vain for my travelerís insurance paper but couldnít find it, so I brought the whole knapsack that I thought it was in. I was actually feeling quite a bit better after the regurgitation, and was able to make the trip via tuk-tuk okay.
At the Rhuam Path Hospital a nurse took my pulse, temperature, and blood pressure, and I saw a doctor who I had difficulty understanding. He was this quite young fellow who, when we arrived, was just sitting there among the molded plastic seats, watching television. He asked if I wanted to stay the night. I tried to communicate "shouldnít that be your decision?" and said that I didnít know, how could I tell if I should? He said that if I was weak and needed electrolytes that I should stay. Otherwise, he could just give me medicine and send me on my way. (I certainly was weak, but how the hell could I know if I needed electrolytes?)
Apparently my most basic vital signs were okay, so the hospital staff leaned toward sending me home. This time, as at every other time when they took my temperature, they left the thermometer in my mouth only about a minute. I had always thought you had to leave it 3 mins? This was the old-fashioned, mercury-type thermometer. And they kept saying that I didnít have a fever, but I knew that I did. My skin felt quite hot. There was no way I was going to be able to communicate to them that I thought that my normal body temperature was closer to 98.0 degrees F instead of the typical 98.6; explaining chess to Eskimos by semaphore wouldíve been easier. So Jung went to find a tuk-tuk, and I very weakly walked to a seat. By now it was clear to me that I should stay, no matter what. I mean I was weak! I told Jung that I wanted to stay when he came back after several minutesí search for the tuk-tuk.
He told them (in Thai) that I wanted to be admitted for the night, and they got me a wheel chair and just sort of left me there in a cold air-conditioning draft while they did some paperwork. Meanwhile, I was feeling weaker and and sicker until finally, again came the vomit: forceful, fierce evictions of yellow liquid. That certainly got their attention. They came running with a waste basket, since after all, someone would have to clean the floor elsewise. Eventually they rolled me up to a room on the 3rd floor. It looked like any number of run-down guest-houses I had stayed in: thin brick walls; plaster ceilings; long, bare fluorescent tubes for lighting, and a bathroom with plumbing too weak to transport toilet paper. The bed was high and on a very thin mattress, with a wooden platform for a box spring. It looked like something out of the 1920s, except not quite that advanced. Instead of sheets I had two large towels. I was cold, so Jung was kind enough to go and get more towel/sheets from somewhere else. Shortly after I was in bed I threw up again. You know the drill. Again, Jung was there to hold a bucket for me, and to hold me as I showed my worst physical self.
A nurse came later and connected an IV of electrolyte solution to my hand. As the night wore on and I failed to feel any better, the discomfort of the bed became more and more of a problem. I couldnít sleep, because it was just so damn hard! Plus I also was still having diarrhea. Jung worked with me to come up with the best plan to deal with this. We finally found a real plastic bed pan in a wooden cupboard, and I kept it next to me. When things settled down a little, Jung said to call him if I needed anything. I thought he meant to telephone him, and I said that I didnít have his number with me--that it was at the hotel. Eventually I figured out that he meant that he was going to stay the night with me, and that I should call out for him if I needed anything! I was overcome with gratitude: this, from someone I had only met three days earlier! Someone I barely knew, and yet in whose presence I felt safe, so... cared for.
The IV ve-e-e-e-ery slowly dripped, and I continued feeling no better. My belly held a noisy, roiling, visceral storm. Just turning onto my side was likely to make me vomit again or to squelch diarrhea. For most of the night I was incontinent. I felt like a baby. But all the while, there was Jung, to help me clean it up, to get whatever he could that I might need. My thoughts were filled with terror: Is this Malaria? Have I somehow managed to get bitten by the wrong mosquito? More than anything I feared Malaria, because a fellow on the bus to Chiang-Mai told me that he had known friends who had gotten it, and that it basically means vomiting all night. The diarrhea was one thing, but it was the vomiting that I most feared and hated. And if it is Malaria, how long does this go on? Days? Weeks?
Later in the night I threw up again, and some attendant gave me pills which, thankfully, let me sleep for a short time. Most of the night I tried variations of laying down for less discomfort, including balancing on the bedpan and rocking back and forth, to temporarily relieve some of the pressure on the parts of my body overtaxed by the thin, near-sleeping-bag-thick mattress and its evil hard, wood platform below. Apart from fear of Malaria, the general panic of not knowing what the hell is going on, not knowing how advanced the medical knowledge was in that hospital, and not knowing how long this horror was going to endure came another distressing thought: "Here I have just met possibly the kindest, sweetest human I have ever met, and thereís no way I can live here, if this is their standard of existence. If thereís any chance that I will get sick again like this, I must leave as soon as possible, the incredible sweetness of Jung notwithstanding."
Early in the morning a nurse came by and brought me "breakfast," consisting of stinky fried eggs, gross slimy sausage, toast, butter, and jam. The smell of the eggs increased my nausea, and so I asked Jung to move them away from me. With Jungís help, I managed to eat about half a teaspoon of bread. Later a doctor came by and checked out my stomach. Her English was mostly understandable. She pressed on my abdomen and out came diarrhea from the other side, like pressing on an open tube of toothpaste. She said that she wanted to test my stool for parasites. That was fine by me--the sample was all ready to go. Usually when nurses would come by to give me a pill they would speak entirely in Thai, back and forth with Jung. I tried to get him to ask if they thought it was Malaria, and eventually I understood that they didnít think it was. He said something about them thinking it could be "box (something)" in my stomach. Later I figured out (and verified with him) that he meant "botulism." [page 1 of 2]
p. 1 of 2 | Next >