Falling Off A Log
It was a bit like one of those Youtube moments. I don’t remember much after the front wheel slipped into a fairly innocuous looking rut. It kind of turned the wheel square on and the next thing I knew I was lying in a crumpled heap on the road.
My favourite Asahi cap was lying next to me soaked in blood and my left arm felt a bit funny. In a civilised country I would have called an ambulance at that point but out there, on that country road about twenty kilometers south of Bangkok airport,
neither love nor money would buy you an ambulance.
A few months earlier I had undergone a routine health check. My doctor informed me, not for the first time that my blood pressure was high, my cholesterol levels were high and I could do with losing a few pounds. Twenty or so would do me no harm, he reckoned. I should cut out the booze, eat healthier food and exercise otherwise I was running the risk of heart disease, diabetes and all kinds of other horrible conditions ending is ‘itis or ‘osis that all sounded decidedly dodgy. I agreed to give it a go and that explains to some extent why I was riding a bike down a country lane in the middle of nowhere in the first place.
I am a great believer in the ‘if it ain’t broke’ school of thought and here is why. Prior to this routine check-up I had felt quite fine in spite of my moderate to heavy drinking bouts. Heavy mostly, if the truth be told. Sure, I had gained a few pounds around the girth but that happens when you're fifty, right? I maintain, I felt fine so to be told that I could have a potentially serious health problem looming came as a bit of a shock. I am also a firm believer in that if you go looking for trouble you will surely find some. I’m not exactly blaming the doctor for the accident but logic dictates that if he hadn’t told me to lose weight and get healthy I would probably have been holed up in a Bangkok drinking den on that fateful Sunday afternoon and therefore safely out of harm’s way.
But instead, I had curbed the drinking, moderated my eating habits and dusted down the mountain bike. Once I got used to the concept I was actually starting to enjoy the activity. A month or so into my new regime I had lost around six kilos (that’s about 13lbs). Pretty good, eh? I was riding the bike every day and was now ready to increase my daily circuit by another 10 kilometres (7 miles) or so. Pretty soon I would be as fit as a racing snake again. The accident happened on the second day of riding my new, extended circuit.
A kindly local chap came to my much needed assistance and helped me up. He fetched some first aid stuff from a nearby shop to help stem the bleeding and squirted some disinfectant onto the wound. He also kindly arranged for the shopkeeper to look after my bike until I could collect it at some future date. Bye and bye a lone taxi appeared and the driver agreed to take me to the nearest hospital.
When I eventually got to the casualty department they put eight stitches in a head wound and x-rays revealed that I had a broken collar bone. That won me an overnight stay because the doctor thought I might also have a concussion. I tried to explain that actually I am always this stupid but ignoring my pleas for clemency, a room was prepared and I was booked into it. This losing weight malarkey was turning out to be quite a dangerous and painful experience. I had never broken any bones on a drinking binge, or injured myself playing pool, after all. I sent an SMS to one my American friends who was in town at the time to tell him what had happened. He offered to send over some totty from Nana Plaza to keep me company. I thought it better not to tell him which hospital I was in because he probably wasn’t joking.
I must say that the hospital experience generally was not exactly unpleasant aside from the pain involved. Twice I was gently washed by two quite delightful nurses who seemed to take great pride in their work and I was generally pampered in quite luxurious surroundings. Fortunately for me, I did have a very good healthcare insurance policy which comprehensively covered all accidental injuries. <You need that these days in Bangkok for medical care here i getting more expensive by the day – Stick>
The next day I decided that there was no further benefit to be had by staying in hospital any longer so I asked the staff to prepare the paperwork so that I could leave. That was when the reality of living in Thailand started to bite again. Four hours later I had still not checked out and each time I asked someone to explain the delay I was politely told to “wait a few minutes”. Finally and a little bit brassed off I declared that I was leaving and if the paperwork was not ready they would just have to catch up with me later. The thought of not getting paid finally focused the mind of the cashier who tried to explain to me the nature of the delay. It appeared that although the hospital was approved by my insurance company and vice versa, between them they were bargaining over what the insurance would pay for and what it would not.
The hospital had sent an itemized invoice for my treatment to AIA’s offices in Silom. Someone at AIA had taken it upon themselves to highlight certain items as not being covered by my policy. Namely, a type of gauze strap that is designed to hold an injured shoulder in place. Price BTH 1,200. A cup of Milo which had been brought to my room the previous evening (I hadn’t ordered it but I drank it anyway). Price BTH 140. And one bottle of water BTH 20. These disputed items were the subject of a long range haggle between the insurance company and the hospital.
My declaration that I was leaving now with or without resolution seemed to unblock the impasse. I signed the form and left. One has to wonder what really goes on in these situations.
So here I am, sitting out the next four weeks while my shoulder mends. No more bike for a while and I have vowed to keep off the booze.
In spite of my broken shoulder, I am all but having to chain myself to the bed to keep myself from going off on the razzle. It’s the boredom that gets you.
And Pat, if you’re still in town, you can send the girls now.
Your experience being stuck in the hospital and seeing the check out time pushed further and further back reflects what friends who have been hospitalised recently have told me. It does seem that on that final morning when you are all keen to escape the lovely nurses for the more familiar surroundings of your own palace that "delays" inevitably occur.