Readers' Submissions

High Blood Pressure

  • Written by Union Hill
  • November 25th, 2005
  • 6 min read


I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I do not like hospitals.

Sometimes, however one is forced to seek assistance of a medical nature and when this need arises, hospitals whether you like them or not, are very useful things to have around. Such a need recently arose for me in Thailand. I dillied and dallied but I had to finally grit my teeth and consult a doctor. I worried because I had heard all kinds of horror stories about what can happen to you in a Bangkok hospital.

I had heard the one about the guy who caught AIDS because a nurse took a blood sample from him with a used syringe. I had heard the one about the woman who was surgically opened up from chin to navel to be later told that she had a severe case of indigestion. And we all heard about the Bangkok doctor who chopped his wife into tiny pieces and flushed the bits down the toilet in a city hotel.

The banner hanging from the hospital roof proclaiming the place to be ISO quality accredited was really no comfort.

Quite apart from worrying about being sick, I also wondered if the hospital business applied the same commercial rules to farangs as other Thai businesses. That is charge you double the price for an overnight stay just for being a farang.

With all this on my mind, when I approached the ‘admissions’ desk I had almost forgotten why I was there in the first place.

So, why was I there in the first place? The nature of my malaise is somewhat personal and not really relevant to this story so suffice to say, I had what was probably a minor complaint but I just didn’t like the look of it. I asked to see a doctor who I expected would take a quick look, issue me with a bottle of embrocation and send me on my way.

I was directed to a room where I was weighed and had my blood pressure reading taken before being told to sit and wait. This was routine and happened to everyone who entered this room.

After a short wait of no more than fifteen minutes, I was shown into a consulting room where I explained the nature of my problem to the young doctor. He took a good look at my complaint, told me to come back in 3 days and issued me with a prescription for enough pills to choke a donkey.

I paid the five thousand baht bill at the pharmacy and went home with my haul of pills, still not sure what was exactly wrong with me or what these pills were supposed to do for it. I figured all would become clear when I returned in three days time.

Three days later, back at the hospital reception desk I identify myself and tell the staff that I have an appointment. One of the nurses gazes into her computer screen for few minutes before asking her colleague for help with the farang. The two of them stare into the computer screen for another couple of minutes occasionally pressing buttons on the keyboard apparently at random. Presently there are four of them yakking amongst themselves and discussing at length whatever it is that they are looking at on the computer. I wait patiently. This must be part of the ISO procedure, I thought to myself.

Finally the four of them reached a consensus that I did indeed have an appointment and advised me that I was booked to see two doctors. One of whom would treat my immediate problem and the other was a liver specialist. A WHAT specialist, this bit worried me again.

Then, the ISO system kicked in proper and I was escorted around the hospital by various nurses, to various departments to have all kinds of checks and examinations performed. I had not asked for this and I was not expecting this kind of attention.

The most worrying part was that no-one would answer any of my direct questions such as “Where are we going now?” and “What is that thing for?”

Maybe they thought I wouldn’t understand the answers. Maybe they didn’t understand my questions. Maybe, nobody knew the answers. Ah, well.

Anyway, first of all a blood sample was taken. Then a urine sample. Then I had my chest X-rayed. My blood pressure was taken and I was weighed again. Finally I was taken into a room that had a sign above the door that said “Injection Room”. Ughh.

Thankfully no-one tried to inject me with anything but the nurses laid me on couch and hooked up my wrists and ankles to a machine that was making ‘beeping” noises. (Please excuse my limited medical vocabulary). They also attached sensors to various areas of my head and chest.

After a minute or two, the “beeping” machine churned out a computerized printout with a bunch of squiggly lines on it.

By now, my mind had gone into overdrive. Was I ill or something? Maybe I was never going to leave here alive!!

After all that was over with, I was returned to the waiting room until Doctor No. 1 was ready for me. He had a look at my original complaint, dismissed it as a skin irritation and prescribed me some cream to be applied twice a day and sent me on my way. Of course, this was all I really wanted in the first place.

Then, I went to see Doctor No. 2, the liver guy.

I sat opposite him while he studied the squiggly lined printout and various other documents.

“You have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and your liver is giving us a strange reading.” He said in a serious tone. “Everything else is normal except you are a bit overweight, oh and the HIV test is negative.” He added. “Do you drink much?” was his next question.

I resisted the temptation to answer with “How much is there?” and instead opted to report my consumption to be about 50% of the real quantity. “Oh. That is a lot” responded the doctor. His advice was that I should stop immediately. He issued another prescription for a bag full of drugs and asked me to come back in 1 month.

The pharmacy’s cashier this time relieved me of another seven thousand baht in exchange for a bag of drugs.

So, what am I trying to say?

First of all, after some initial confusion I must say that the hospital’s level of service was quite impressive even though the service was for something that I hadn’t exactly asked for.

Secondly, I felt quite fine before this visit (apart from the skin irritation) and I still feel fine. Whilst I have no doubt that my blood pressure was high and my cholesterol level was also probably high, I do wonder why the hospital thought it necessary to carry out these tests in the first place, especially on my liver. I couldn’t help thinking that it was all a revenue generating procedure. I’m not sure if I want another opinion on the state of my liver or not.

I have stopped drinking (I don’t know how long that will last though as this old habit will die very hard) and I have quit smoking (not that I smoked much anyway) and I am trying to loose weight. I dusted down my pushbike for the first time in about four years and risked death on the Bangkok streets. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I got run over by a bus whilst trying to avoid a heart attack.

So, I hear there is more to life than beer, cigarettes and women. If anyone knows what that is please send your suggestions on a postcard.

Union Hill

Stickman's thoughts:

It's a brave man who cycles around Bangkok. Good luck getting your cholesterol and blood pressure levels down.