5 Medical Stories
First, a little background. Over the years I have enjoyed reading about other people's adventures and misfortune. My experience with medical problems and treatment in Thailand goes as far back as 1969.
Bangkok was a much different city then. The people more friendly, no cell phones, gogo bars and of course no AIDS. Back then lower Sukhumvit was a very nice area with no NEP and believe it or not, Nana Hotel was a nice, small family hotel. Oh I almost forgot, back then there was a 12.00 midnight curfew which in some ways was very good
because if you had a lady companion in your hotel she could not leave until 5.00 am! There were no buses or taxis on the streets.
Story No 1 BANGKOK'S MOTHER TERESA
In the day time while exploring the city I noticed there were a lot of VD clinics in the Sukhumvit and Silom Road areas and every time I passed one I debated if I should get a test just for peace of mind before returning to work in Vietnam.
Two days before end of vacation I decided that day was the day for a test and headed for a clinic at the entrance to Silom Road.
I decided to go early and to get in and out of there as fast a possible, When I arrived I was surprised to see 10 people already there. The waiting room was just a narrow hallway with a bench on both sides with barely enough room for someone to walk down the center. Our feet were almost touching and everyone seemed to be playing silent detective trying to figure out what the other person may have caught.
Right at 9.00 am the street entrance door opened and in walked a very elderly slightly hunch-backed Thai lady no taller than 4ft 10" and looked like she may have been 70 years old. She had a pleasant smile and nodded as everyone pulled their feet back to allow her to get to her office.
My first thought was good Lord, let's hope that is not the doctor. That lady could pass for anyone's grandmother. I wanted to believe she was the lady who made the coffee. Finally the first patient was called by the elderly lady. I thought now I get it, she is the receptionist helping her doctor son or other family member.
While waiting my turn I got to thinking. Would I have to endure a lecture about the evils of fornicating? Finally it was my turn and the elderly lady checks the sign in log book and calls Khun Brutus. As I step into the clinic she introduces herself as Dr Somchack and my worst fears are confirmed she is the doctor and its too late to back out now.
It just took about a few seconds of her beautiful smile and very pleasant put you at ease kind of demeanor to see there was no need for concern. I just told her that I had no symptoms, but just wanted a check up for peace of mind before returning to work. She took a slide test and looked in the microscope for what seemed like a long time. I was afraid she would turn around and say sorry young man, the only cure is amputation. When she finally did look up and with her best smile she said sorry Khun Brutus I cannot say for certain if you have or don't have a medical problem but to be on the safe side I want you to take medication. I got to thinking at her advanced age she may have had failing eye sight!
The doctor was a sweet, kind, and compassionate lady and seemed very happy doing her part for humanity. She certainly earned and deserved the title of Bangkok's Mother Teresa.
The first time I urinated after taking the medication drugs I got a real shock as my urine was a very bright florescent orange color. That evening I went to a night club and when I went to the restroom to urinate there was a long trough with 2 men at the low end. I decided it's time to have some fun I went to the high end and as soon as my florescent urine went past them both heads turned in unison.
The oldest man nearest to me said very impressive but I think you need to see a doctor. The younger man introduced himself as Mike a medic with the Australian Air Force at Udon being a medic and he was very curious to know what was causing me to pee a bright florescent color. I told him the whole story. He had a good laugh and asked for the name of the medicine so he could try it out on some of his patients.
Story No 2 RANCID PIZZA & MAD DOGS
Not sure what year this incident occurred.
I made an early flight to Udon Thani to take a Thai lady out for dinner in the evening. Since I had the whole day to kill I went to the mall and ended up having lunch, a small pizza at a well known pizza chain. I remember the pizza had small pieces of ham and bacon on it. While eating I thought this was not the best pizza I have ever eaten but since I was very hungry I ate all of it. About an hour later I was feeling so good and figured if I am going to be sick it's best I start back to my air conditioned hotel room. I had walked only about 2 blocks and I started vomiting. When I was finished and looked up there was a young girl of about 12 coming across the street with a bottle of water for me. A real act of kindness and I rewarded her with a 100 baht note. She earned it and looked like she could use it.
I felt much better and continued walking again and had only gone about one block and came to a tire repair shop which had a broken glass mirror attached to the outside wall. I looked in the mirror to see if I looked sick and was shocked to see that my upper dentures were missing and I looked like Bugs Bunny. I knew exactly where my teeth were and made a dash back to the area before a big truck did a job on them.
As I got close I could see two soi dogs were recycling my lunch. I could see my denture and tried to scare the dogs away. The female dog backed away but the large male dog stood his ground, puckered his lips and showed me a perfect set of canine teeth. I figured I had better be careful as the dog may have rabies and that's the last thing I need. Behind me was a building under construction with a pile of scrap lumber in the yard so with a 10 foot long piece I approached the dogs again and when the aggressive dog bit into the wood I was able to push him back far enough to retrieve my dentures. As I passed the tire again I washed my dentures off the best I could in the large tub of water they have for checking tube leaks before stopping at the nearest drug store for a bottle of Listerine to give my dentures a proper wash and put them back in my mouth again. I kind of think the pieces of ham on the pizza were rancid and that's what made me sick…. Amazing Thailand.
Story No 3 BUMRUNGRAD HOSPITAL THE BEST?
This story starts when I boarded a China Airlines flight in Honolulu bound for Bangkok. The plane was so cold it could have been a refrigerating car to hang meat in. The stewardess was running around handing out blankets, but what I needed most was something to cover my head since I usually wear a cap or hat. I don't mind getting wet in the rain but can't stand my head to get wet or blasted by cold air. By the time we arrived in Taipei I was sneezing along with a runny nose.
The flight from Taipei to Bangkok was good and normal temperature but the damage had already been done. A few days in Bangkok sucking in the polluted air and I end up with a cough and have trouble making it up the 3 flights of stairs to the train station (rot fai) without stopping to catch my breath (wheezing). I don't smoke or drink so its easy for me to know when something is not right.
I decided it was time to be checked out at Bumrungrad Hospital, reputed to be Thailand's finest. Found it very efficient and within 20 minutes I am being checked by a young doctor who looked like he was fresh out of medical school. He listened to my wheezing and prescribed 5 different kinds of medicine to take. I left the hospital with both pant pockets bulging with pills, enough medicine to medicate a Clydesdale horse I faithfully took the medicine as prescribed for one week but no improvement except I had stopped couching. I was in a real quandary as what to do next, but I got the answer from the sex / massage / tour magazine available in every hotel lobby. There was an advertisement for tourist medicine located in a building behind Central Department Store on Ploenchit.
A friendly New Zealand doctor listened to my wheezing and sent me to Bumrungrad to get a chest x ray and to bring it back to him. He took one look at the x ray photo and said you have fluid on your lungs!
I then placed all the medicine I had been taking on his desk. He shook his head and said none of it is any good for your problem!
A very beautiful nurse had me lay down and fed me antibiotics intravenously and also gave me some pills to take with instructions to return in 3 days. Returned and again sent for another x ray which showed the problem had almost cleared up. Continued antibiotics for a few more days and was back to perfect health…
Tourist Medicine rates were higher than Bumrungrad but so was their medical knowledge and treatment. Very happy with their service. <You want the best? Get a Kiwi to help! – Stick>
Story No 4 HOME COOKING CHIANG MAI STYLE
On the opposite side of the soi where I was staying was a Thai house with a beautiful landscaped yard, lots of bushes and flowers and Chinese lanterns hanging from the trees as well as lily-white table cloths on the dining tables. At the entrance there was a large sign that said daytime cooking classes and in the evening Home Cooked Dining. Those words really got my attention and brought back memories of some of delicious meals my mother used to make. One evening I tried their home cooking it tasted OK but fell far short of my expectations.
After dining I went and explored the night market for about 2 hours. As soon as I got back to my guesthouse it was just touch and go as I had to make a mad dash to the toilet and many, many more trips during the night. In the morning I set off for the corner drug store but had to turn back but had success later. In the afternoon I started to get severe stomach cramps and decided to visit Ram hospital. The doctor said in medical terms that I had contracted food poisoning and a bad case of the Chiang Mai trots.
Great service but again I seem to have an awful lot of medicine to take. The next day I return to Bangkok and the cramps slowly subsided. The only problem now is with all that medicine I took I am now severely constipated and eventually ended up having to take laxatives. On the fifth day I had a bowel movement. All I can say is it was a moving moment. Too much medicine can cure one problem and create another!
Story No 5 CODE OF ETHICAL BEHAVIOR FOR PATIENTS
Do not expect your doctor to share your discomfort. Involvement with the patient's suffering might cause him to lose valuable scientific objectivity.
Be cheerful at all times…even when deathly sick and he is golfing… Your doctor leads a busy and trying life and requires all the gentleness and leisure time he can get.
Try to suffer from the disease for which you are being treated. Remember your doctor has a professional reputation to uphold.. and if you die just be sure it's not from a different disease.
Do not complain if the treatment fails to bring relief. You must believe that your doctor has achieved a deep insight into the true nature of your illness which transcends any mere permanent disability you may have experienced.
Never ask your doctor to explain what he is doing or why he is doing it…or not doing something you believe you need. It is presumptuous to assume that such profound matters could be explained in terms you would understand.
Submit to novel experimental treatment readily. Though the surgery may not benefit you directly, the resulting research paper will surely be of widespread interest.
Pay your medical bills promptly and willingly. You should consider it a privilege to contribute, however modestly, to the well being of physicians and other humanitarians.
Do not suffer from ailments that you cannot afford. It is sheer arrogance to contact illnesses that are beyond your means. Get sick only within your means.
Never reveal any short comings that have come to light in the course of treatment by your doctor. The patient doctor relationship is a privileged one, and you have a sacred duty to protect him from exposure as a quack.
Never die while in the doctors presence or under his direct care. This will only cause him needless inconvenience,
embarrassment and extra paperwork.
While medical care is generally pretty good in Bangkok, that Bumrungrad story is a reminder that things don't always go to plan. When that sort of thing happens at the best hospital, it is reason for concern.