Readers' Submissions

Eye to Eye



“Now, whatever you do, don’t move” the doctor said. Well, considering the guy was holding a razor sharp scalpel to my eyeball, you’d better believe he had my full and undivided attention! Move? I was terrified to simply breathe! Once again here in The Land of Smiles I found myself “under the knife”. At least time I wasn’t in imminent danger of dying. This was just a “minor procedure”. Yeah right! Let me proceed to stick a scalpel under your twitching eyeball and tell me how minor it seems to you!

Okay. Enough whining. The fact that I am sitting here at the keyboard with two functioning eyes in my head should reassure you that all went well. Last night I decided to finally get around to having a cyst under my left eye taken care of. I had been putting it off for months. I grew used to people at school asking me day after day, “What’s wrong with your eye?” It was however becoming too painful to ignore for much longer. It was certainly becoming way too painful for my tee-rak to bear any longer. “Tonight we are going to the clinic!” she pronounced with the kind of authority that any pale skinned Farang knows better to challenge.

The only acceptable response was of course, “Yes darling, when should we go?”

And so it was off to one of the dozens of medical clinics here in Lampang. I’m sure that many of you have had the opportunity to visit one of these street side establishments on a trip to Thailand. They are where the majority of Thais go for medical care not serious enough to require immediate hospitalization. They are also where most Thai doctors earn most of their money. Usually they are open around 5:00 in the afternoon after doctors leave their hospital offices. Some, for example pediatricians, are often open for an hour or so about 7:00 in the morning. They are all busy, and there is often standing room only. Some are extremely professional. Others are decidedly less so. Frankly some of the doctors have credentials so shady that you wonder if despite the fact that their names are written in Thai, that they somehow are pronounced Quackenbush (ala Groucho Marx). Usually they are fairly inexpensive. If you are Thai, they are extremely so. The hardest part about going to one of these places, at least for me is the long, long, looong wait. No matter what time I’ve ever showed up at one, the waiting room is already overflowing, usually with folks a few decades older than I am. I, a mere youngster in comparison can afford to be patient. So, if I’m lucky enough to find a seat, I just sit down and settle in.

Last night we were pretty lucky, and after a mere 20 minutes we were in to see the doctor. This fellow was young, good looking and spoke perfect English…and fancied himself to have a real sense of humor. “So”, he said, “You are finally ready to have me cut that thing out and be done with it!” About four or five months earlier he had given me a dose of antibiotics and sent me home with the forewarning: “You know, if that doesn’t clear up I’m going to have to cut it out!” Needless to say, that was precisely why I hadn’t been back until my wife dragged me back!

I of course should have had the damned thing taken care of. It’s not as though I have an irrational fear of doctors…even here in Thailand. Hell, good old Dr. Pattarapong had saved my life on three separate occasions. There is a brass plaque on the cardiac operating theatre door at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital thanking me personally for purchasing their new angiogram equipment! And how could I forget the joys of the tooth extraction I had not long after arriving on these Jasmine scented shores? That was a nice piece of dental work…and the same fellow made me a most excellent crown at a fraction of the price it would have cost me back in Farangland. No, I don’t even have the fear of dentists that can turn a strapping testosterone filled, rugby playing, mountain of a manly man into a sniveling Nancy Boy! Not that I enjoy getting a root canal or having needles stuck into places where they don’t belong. I am neither a masochist nor a stoic. Somehow though, I manage to “suck it up” just enough to get through whatever has to be done. It ain’t always easy though. Try having a cardiac catheter snaked up through an artery in your groin into your heart while you are wide awake and watching the whole damned procedure in living color on a monitor…with no anesthesia…whatsoever! In the end it is often humor that gets me through these situations. I sure did crack up everyone when I asked Dr. P. if today was the “Buy Two and Get One Free Stent” special. Oh well, I’d rather have everyone in a good mood than a dour and depressed one any day!

Anyway, getting back to my “minor procedure”, the next thing I knew I was on my back on a table, having drops placed in my eye. That was a good thing, because I immediately could hardly see anything…including the needle of anesthetic that was about to be injected. One of the things I like about this doctor is that he didn’t pull any punches. “This is going to hurt” he said…”but don’t move!” And you know he was right! It did hurt! In fact it hurt like hell! But in a short time I was numb and couldn’t feel a thing as he started slicing away. Oh, did I mention that my wife was there taking in all the blood and gore? Oh yes, she absolutely adores this kind of thing. She probably should have gotten a degree in nursing in fact rather than in computer science, although some people simply like the sight of gore. Not me. Luckily I wasn’t asked in to watch my wife have her cesarean. I would have fainted dead away in two seconds flat!

Soon the doctor was done and I had a bandage the size of a baseball taped to my now cyst-free eyes. I had four different medications to take home and a receipt for 650 baht. I consider that a real bargain. Early this morning I removed the bandage and confirmed that I did indeed have two functioning eyeballs. All the better to see the beautiful life around me!

Stickman's thoughts:

You're a brave man going to a CLINIC where they were putting a scalpel right next to your eye! Call me a wuss but I would be off to BNH, Bumrungrad or Rutnin Eye Hospital for that and be asking for the best eye specialist they have! Who cares if it cost 20 or 30 times the price. You are a brave man!