My Prostrate Entry In Don Muang
A Prostrate Entry Into Don Muang
By The Grinch
A shot of morphine in my right arm was my send off from Hanoi, and a matching shot in the left arm greeted me in Bangkok. I have flown the sector between Hanoi and Bangkok several times, but my mid-March arrival in Bangkok was certainly unique.
On a Thursday afternoon in my Hanoi office, the stomach pains first seemed like simple indigestion. Later in the afternoon, the gassy and bloating discomfort escalated to the point I had to make a hasty exit from a rather important high level meeting. Damn, I was cursing the questionable ingredients of the many hot pot dinners that I had eaten at three different weddings during the previous week. As an expat worker and guest in Hanoi, I am often offered the first serving of the hot pot out of respect. Unfortunately, many times the meat or seafood is not cooked properly in the haste to serve the first portion. I just figured I was suffering from some pernicious parasite that was now running unrestrained in my gut.
That evening the pain was even worse and my wife insisted I go to the international clinic in Hanoi. I ignored her advice as I felt stupid to see a doctor for just gas pains. The next morning the pain had subsided but I developed a high fever. Finally on Saturday morning I reluctantly made an appointment with the clinic. After the clinic’s many tests – blood white cell count, listening to my gut, x-ray, CT scan and ultrasound – it was concluded I had a ruptured appendix.
The clinic started to arrange my immediate medical evacuation to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok. My insurance company would only cover medical and surgical costs at an internationally recognized hospital facility. I requested a business class seat on the Saturday evening Thai flight from Hanoi to Bangkok. The clinic doctor laughed and instructed me in the only option. I would have to take a special ambulance plane and be accompanied by medical staff including doctor, nurse, and heart monitoring equipment.
By this time, the clinic nurse had inserted an IV into my left forearm and I was being fed a cocktail of saline fluid, antibiotics and pain killer. I was informed that my ambulance plane from Bangkok would probably arrive in Hanoi early Sunday morning. I spent a mostly sleepless night in the Hanoi clinic waiting for my plane. The air ambulance team from Bangkok arrived at the clinic about 5:30 am, and then I was administered a massive morphine injection in my upper right arm. This hurt, but was necessary to reduce the pain while traveling by ambulance over the rough Hanoi roads and to make myself comfortable in case of turbulence in the air. I was strapped tightly to a stretcher and I would stay in this highly constrained prone position for the next several hours.
Proceeding through Hanoi immigration and customs was thankfully a breeze. No official documents to sign, the Thai doctor who was accompanying me just had to flash my passport to the Vietnamese official at the gate to the airport runway. The ambulance took me directly to my awaiting plane. I nervously inspected the plane from my flat position. The aircraft seemed new and stable enough even though a little small, only a twin-engine propeller aircraft with a capacity of about 6 passengers. On board my stretcher was locked into position and I was hooked up to a heart monitor and pulse machine. During the flight, which took over two and one-half hours, I amused myself by watching the heart monitor and observing the irregular and spiked patterns that my heart produced when the plane hit sudden pockets of turbulence. Yeah, the morphine was not completely coping with my anxiety.
After a smooth and uneventful landing at Don Muang at about 9:30 am, I was carefully off-loaded into the warm familiar humidity and onto a waiting ambulance. The Thai doctor and male nurses handed me over to two young female nurses dispatched from Bumrungrad. Inside the ambulance, one nurse insisted on holding my hand and she gently positioned my right arm across her thigh. My heart monitor, a true real time indicator of my current state, was now displaying a tranquil undulating and regular sinusoidal wave pattern even though my pulse rate was starting to race as I realized the trimness of her upper leg. The nurse sure had a nice touch and feel.
By now it was recognized by all the medical staff that the IV that had been inserted in my left wrist in Hanoi had been done improperly. This mistake had caused the entire area to become extremely irritated. In fact, it looked as though I as had a Popeye forearm due to the large amount of local swelling. The Bumrungrad nurses became concerned and prepared to shift the IV needle to a vein on the back of my right hand. The ambulance was stopped on the tarmac for several minutes while the nurse poked and explored with the needle at least three times before finding a suitable vein.
Again, I breezed through the side gate immigration and customs arrival that are reserved for medical emergencies. No limousine and hotel touts or groups or anxious teeruks waiting for there disembarking sponsors on this arrival.
I was well acquainted with the route from the airport to Bumrungrad. I could even recognize a few landmarks in my horizontal position. Finally the ambulance made the decent down the off ramp of the expressway. I could sense the despair and seediness of Soi Zero as we left-turned onto the gateway to Sukhumvit. Proceeding up Soi 1, I knew that in a few minutes we would be at the rear ambulance entrance of Bumrungrad, and where I could finally get unstrapped from my rigid position. My lovely nurse left me in the ambulance receiving room, but not before stabbing me with another morphine injection. I guess I needed this since I would have to wait until 5:00 pm for my surgery.
I was given a nice private room with a view on the 11th floor and a baggy pair of pajamas with small Thai elephant patterns. I was dying for a drink of anything. Fluid intake is not allowed before surgery, and all the drugs had made my mouth completely parched. Dry skin was peeling off the roof of my mouth and my lips. I could think about anything except sucking on a straw connected to any type of jumbo sized slurpy drink from 7-11.
At preciously 4:00 pm, hospital staff came to change me into a surgical gown and to transport me to the surgery waiting area. In the preparation room, I was asked numerous questions about medical history and other information that could impact the anesthesia process. While waiting my surgical fate, a young and extremely attractive Asian woman was wheeled in on a bed that was positioned opposite to me. Finally something to distract my attention. I tried to stealthily snatch a better view but she knew I was looking at her. I could not determine whether she was Thai or not. She looked radiant and not as though she needed any kind of medical treatment. She resembled one of those clean cut shampoo commercial girls. My suspicion about her profession was reinforced when she sat up in bed and started to admire herself in a small fancy hand mirror that was in her possession. She started to comb her hair and carefully inspect herself in the mirror while many nurses proceeded to be quite attentive to her. What’s her story I thought, probably here for some cosmetic manipulation of some sort or to correct an errant eyelash.
My surgery went fine, very professional and efficient. The surgeon had to make a relatively large incision and keep me on the table for an extra long period to mop up all the toxins and generally bad stuff that had spilled from my appendix into all parts of my gut. Back in my hospital room, the surgeon informed that he had to leave the incision would open, and that for a few days he would have to open the wound on a daily basis and clean the area up. This precautionary procedure was augmented by a massive load of antibiotics that were constantly being force fed to me through my inseparable IV machine.
By the next morning I was on the mend, my fever was declining, and my appetite was coming back. Where’s breakfast? I was starting to feel up for some green papaya salad with sticky rice or tom yom gung. To my horror I was informed that my doctor had me on a liquid diet. For breakfast, I was served a tasteless chicken broth with tea, a bland corn soup for lunch, and a nauseatingly sweet pumpkin soup for dinner. I had access to a phone; I could call and see if Bourbon Street could deliver this far down Sukhumvit some gumbo or blackened redfish. Or a closer option would be a take out order, Deluxe Club on Italian Herbs and Cheese Bread, Dijon mustard, smothered in jalapenos from the Subway. In indulged myself in all types of food fantasies.
Despite the food issue, the medical care and attention of the Bumrungrad staff was first rate. During the five days I had to be admitted, the nurses were very attentive to all my needs. I’m an easy patient so everything went fine. The nurses insisted
on giving me a bath every day. Day1 bath was administered by a lovely young Isaan nurse. She expertly sponged my upper body, carefully avoiding keeping any moisture away from the large bandage covering my lower right abdomen. For the lower extremities,
she used the shower head to give me a thorough and expert soapy everywhere. I noticed she was wearing latex gloves so all was safe. However, it was a good thing the heart monitor was disconnected because there was a sudden spike in my respiration
as she started to make concentric scrubbing circles spiraling towards my center of gravity. All I could do after that was to look forward to the day 2 bath, which was actually uneventful because on the second day the nurse requested me to bath
myself. This was not a simple task since I was still connected to my ever present IV mistress. Day 3 through 5 baths were back to the attentive and mildly sensual standard of day 1, except one older (as probably wiser) nurse on day 4 handed me
the soap and pointed between my legs. Do it yourself, I don’t do balls and penis was the obvious message in the look she gave me.
On day 4 my overall condition had improved to where I could discontinue the antibiotic IV feed. What a joy to get disconnected from this annoying piece of equipment. Now that I was feeling better and my libido was more in order, I walked out onto my room’s outside balcony to appreciate the full view. The balcony faced east overlooking the entire lower Sukhumvit skyline. My thoughts wandered to what was happening at the Beergarten, Gulliver’s, or at the entrance way to Robinson’s. There seemed to be a collective consciousness of all these places taunting me with “Grinch, Grinch, why don’t you come out and play”. I reconciled to myself that this was not possible today, or even during this trip, or maybe never again in my lifetime. My god, I’m almost 63; I am too old for these places.
With a sense of resignation, I slipped into a Dana-like reverie. …. Bangkok would open a go-go bar venue for the geriatric set …. The go-go would take on a hospital theme …. All dancers would be over 31 and wearing nothing but nurse caps and stethoscopes or cardiac arrest paddles … Drinks would flow from a network of plastic tubing connected through valves to gravity fed IV’s fixed overhead at each drink station …. The restroom would be equipped with Viagra and Cialis dispensers…. Short term would be a maximum of 15 minutes …. Outside the establishment miniature ambulance light clusters would spell out the bar’s name: Boom – boom – grad…….
As I snapped out of ridiculous afternoon dream indulgence, and went out to the balcony again and took note of the grounds immediately in front of the hospital. In front of Bumrungrad’s main entrance, there is a huge private compound, including two large living quarters, a massive grass area, a car park for 4 vehicles and separate servant house. To the north of this home, there was a similar private home arrangement except more modest in scale and investment. The next neighbors to the north were total slum shacks that bordered Khlong Saen Sap. I was amazed at the drastic socio-economic changes that occurred in just a few hundred meters. Only in Bangkok I supposed.
On day 5, I collected all my medication and post operation instructions, thanked all the nurses, and then was discharged from the hospital. I took a taxi to a well equipped serviced apartment on Soi 10 where I waited for my wife and daughter who were arriving at Don Muang on the late night flight from Hanoi. They were to spend the weekend with me and then chaperone me back to Hanoi on Monday morning.
I did have the strength to walk slowly and tentatively to the Subway to fulfill my previous eating fantasy. I made sure to over do it. I was also dying for a beer but the doctor had sabotaged my hospital release celebration by prescribing a course of flagyl medication, which has a nauseating reaction when combined with alcohol.
On the last full day in Bangkok, I took the family on the obligatory trip to the Emporium. I was stranded for at least one hour in the ladies’ apparel section while wife and daughter painstaking fulfilled their primary purpose for coming to Bangkok – to shop. I waited patiently but was bored, weak and tired. I remembered lying in the hospital bed with my annoying IV feed. I almost thought the hospital bed was a better option to Emporium shopping until my daughter beamed me her delightful smile and happily displayed for me her new purchase. No, forget the returning to the hospital option, I was now at the right place.
Early the next morning, we all returned as a family to Hanoi. Check-in and immigration at Don Muang were extremely quick as we were flying Thai business class and we took advantage of the express services. My wife wondered whether I needed a wheelchair and attendant. No, I was standing upright and intended to stay that way. All was well and back to normal, as things should be.
Great report. But are you sure you went straight to the apartment after the hospital? You sure you weren't tempted to drop by the Beergarden, or perhaps, the Eden Club….?!