Most Definitely Stoned
“They'll stone you when you're trying to be so good
They'll stone you just like they said they would
They'll stone you when you're trying to go home
They'll stone you when you're there all alone
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned”
There some memories that are indelibly etched in our minds. Some are extraordinary. Who could possibly forget their first sexual experience? Some are pathetically mundane. My mind is cluttered with TV theme songs and commercials from my misspent youth. Don’t you wish we could reorder the contents of your mind the way you do your hard drive?
A lot of what is most vivid for many of us is intimately linked with smell and taste. Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past dips a simple madeleine into a cup of tea, and suddenly a lifetime of memories comes flooding back. I can relate to that. The tastes and smells of childhood are still clear for me. There was a particular cookie that my mother brought home now and then. They were hard, flat discs, maybe four inches in diameter, with either pink or white anise flavor icing. I can still recall eating them on our old sofa, while watching The Lone Ranger.
The sense of smell is even more powerful. Those scent molecules travel straight to the brain. Korski could undoubtedly give a detailed scientific explanation of how are brains evolved this type of hard wiring. Suffice it to say, that much of our sexual preferences are linked to what we perceive as pleasant (or unpleasant)…uhmm…intimate “aromas”. Hell, I know what turns me on. (Or off!)
Last year I was riding my bicycle around town, when a very familiar smell came wafting my way. Anyone who was ever a dedicated pot smoker is not likely to ever forget that particular scent! It has been a looong time since old Sawadee has indulged in the pleasures of some fine weed, but damn it, I know the difference between the smell of burning cannabis and common backyard leaves! Some Thais were getting stoned! Good for them! I’m not by the way actually promoting the use of mind altering substances, but…back in my day, (That would be the Neolithic to all you “youngsters”) pot smokers tended to be more laid back and mellow than folks who drank alcohol. At least the way I remember it, through rose-colored glasses and THC infused nervous system.
It is common knowledge that marijuana is a common weed throughout Southeast Asia…not that yours truly has ever come across any! I have to admit that I wouldn’t be averse to a toke or two, but there is no way that would ever, ever, ever either ask for or accept an offer to purchase any! In fact, if pot fell out of the sky at my feet like manna from heaven, I would run, not walk as fast as I could the hell away from it. Seeing the inside of a Thai prison, up-close and personal is not on my “must do” list, thank you very much!
Other physical sensations can trigger some pretty intense flashbacks…not all of them pleasant. Last week one particular sensation came calling, and let me tell you, it was not a welcome one. In fact if this particular sensation were an actual entity, such as let’s say a Jehovah’s Witness, I would have slammed my door in his face. Actually I have done just that on a number of occasions back in the USA. Alas, when pain comes knocking on your door, it generally won’t take no for an answer.
I can hear some of you moaning out there. “Do I really need to hear about another of Sawadee’s seemingly endless medical soap operas?” Folks, if you were ever wondering how writers come up with “ideas”, let me tell you there is nothing like everyday life for inspiration…especially if there is a Thai twist or two.
Last week I was on my way home from another long day of school. I was almost there when suddenly I had a stabbing pain in my lower left abdomen. I do mean stabbing. If I had been standing, I undoubtedly would have been on my knees. It really was that intense. I knew this was not an intestinal disorder. Oh no. I knew exactly what this “love tap” heralded, because I had had a similar one about 30 years earlier. Can you guess what my problem was? Hint: Along with this pain I had one hell of a spasm in my left lower back. If there are any urologists out there reading this, you already know that old Sawadee had a kidney stone that was announcing its presence. Picture a leering cartoon devil with a pitchfork…on steroids!
Somehow, don’t ask me how; I made it home without a car accident. My darling wife took one look at me, and knew that I was one sick puppy. With my teerak behind the wheel, we set off for the hospital. This was of course Lampang’s private hospital. If you’ve read a recent piece I wrote, Dr. Hackenbush I presume? you know that I would never entrust myself to a Thai government hospital…never!
In the examination room, the doctor on duty did what doctors do all over the world. He asked the stupidest question after jabbing my painfully tender abdomen. “Does this hurt?” Gee Doc, I would have to answer that one in the affirmative…after you pry me off of the ceiling! Yep, looks like a kidney stone alright. The hospital’s urologist was gone for the day, and so I was sent home with some medication until the morning. The meds weren’t nearly powerful enough to quell my discomfort and needless to say I spent a sleepless night. The next morning I dutifully showed up at the hospital for a more through examination. The next thing I knew, I was getting injected with a dye and having a series of X-rays taken. “You’re not allergic to shellfish are you?” Not as far I know. I only thing I’m allergic to is penicillin, which gives me a wicked case of hives. Back in Farangland, I would have to have signed a form which absolved the hospital of any responsibility for just about anything in the course of treatment. This being Thailand, the only thing I eventually signed, was the bill…pardon me, the receipt marked paid in full.
After this procedure, I was admitted and wheeled on a gurney to await the results. My room was being cleaned, so I spent a while in a ward, with a bunch of elderly Thais. Don’t think me unsociable, but sharing a room with a bunch of strangers, is not my idea of a good time…even with a curtain drawn around my bed. I really do need my privacy! My wife, who unabashedly will listen to other people’s conversations, informed me in a whisper that the two men next door were talking about the effects of Viagra. Apparently the consensus was that little blue pill “will kill you”! If I had been in a much better mood, I might have replied, “But what a way to go!” On second thought, that bit of humor would probably not have been well received.
Finally I was wheeled to my private “home away from home”, and for a welcome gift I received an IV. I have to admit that the nurse who did the procedure had a nice touch. Over the years I have had more needles stuck in me than I care to contemplate. This one was put in with only a small pinch. Not long after, the urologist came by with my X-ray photos. He gleefully pointed out a bunch of tiny dark spots in my left kidney. I should say that he told me that there were a bunch of dark spots. All I could see was one big amorphous blur. It seems that Thai doctors are the same as those back in the west, in making a big presentation of X-rays, when I doubt that hardly anyone can make out much of anything.
These kidney stones might have been tiny, but that didn’t mean they didn’t hurt like hell.
Note: This is not my stone! The reason I’ve included it is for you to see that it has sharp edges!
Because of their relatively small size though, no surgical procedures were in order. I would simply wait for this “sand” to work its way out. Oh joy of joys! Just imagine something like is pictured above passing through your urethra. Ouch! To help things along were a bunch of medications…including to my relief, plenty of morphine. I had no interest in “getting high”. All I wanted was for the pain to just go way…far, far away. The nursing staff, being the nice ladies they are, always had an injection ready when I needed it. I’ve always had good luck with nurses, perhaps that’s because I am a “good boy” who always complies with whatever they want me to do. Why though, do you always get the really pretty ones when you are feeling as sick as a dog?
Lampang, being a relatively small place, I shouldn’t have been surprised that one of my nurses was the mother of one of my students. I suppose that’s how everyone at my school found out about my situation. Not only did I receive fruit baskets and flowers, but a basket of Brands Essence of Chicken. Even if you’ve visited Thailand often, you may be unfamiliar with the “little green bottle”.
This folks is the Thai equivalent of Jewish “penicillin”…chicken soup, kicked up to the max! When it comes to chicken soup and curing what ails you, every Jewish mother and grandmother knows. Hey, “it couldn’t hurt!”…and Sawadee needs all the help he can get!
The hours pass by slowly when you are stuck in a hospital bed. The TV has nothing but Thai programming on it, but if nothing else, the commercials are often entertaining. Flipping through the few available channels, I came across one that that was new to me.
TAN. Thai Asean News, which is broadcast in English, was good for more than a few laughs, although I venture to say humor was not the intention of the “journalists” who produce their version of the news. Can you spell propaganda boys and girls? Their version of the events surrounding the beleaguered General Patcharawat Wongsuwan was extraordinary in its open bias. The folks in the yellow shirts “The Good Guys”, were always referred to as The Peoples Alliance for Democracy, whereas the folks in the red shirts “The Bad Guys” where simply called Red Shirts. I won’t bore you with the sundry details. Let’s just say I enjoyed my trip down the Rabbit Hole.
Eventually the worst of my symptoms faded away and I was discharged. Getting discharged from a Thai hospital can tale a long time. It’s not that doctors are writing up detailed medical. It’s that the billing department is writing up a long list of things for you to pay for. Naturally my sharp eyed wife examines each line like an IRS auditor, looking for discrepancies. She is especially vigilant since she once discovered a 10,000 baht over-charge. Alas, all was correct this time. My pesky kidney stone wound up costing me 14,000 baht…and I still left the hospital with the damn thing!
Fast forward a few days. To my relief, I am stone free once again. You probably don’t appreciate the simple ability to pee in peace. I on the other hand am ecstatic at the ability to do so once again. What I am not ecstatic about is my wife’s constant monitoring of my diet. Yes, I did promise to try to eat more sensibly, but I never promised to live on steamed vegetables either! Perhaps I should track down some local herb that just might make that prospect a little more palatable!
A few years back in The Londoner my best mate from home keeled over in agony and started howling. Boy oh boy, did his howling empty the place! We rushed him to the nearest decent hospital, Samitwej, before transferring him over to BNH where he was diagnosed with a kidney stone. The pain he was in that night and the howling is something I will never forget and for sure is something I would never ever want to go through!