Worst Case Scenario
Following my surprise at having my first submission "Snap Happy Farang Women" published last week, it gave me the confidence to send in this one. By the way thanks to BKKSW for his comments which were much appreciated.
I am fifty 54 years old now. I had long planned to retire at fifty. I realized that dream when I sold my business five years ago.
I have been travelling on and off to Asia for the last 29 years with my first trip to Thailand in July 1981, a few weeks after a military coup…hey what's new! My trips normally consisted of 4 – 6 weeks breaks in which I travelled to India and most of the countries in South East Asia. November 2006 saw me head off to Asia one more time but the difference this time was that I had no set date to return. I had planned to travel for a least 6 months and see where the journey would take me. As usual my first stop was Bangkok and then Pattaya where I always like to kick back and have some fun for a week or 10 days.
I was walking through the Royal Garden Plaza one day when I noticed a kiosk for the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital. They were selling discount packages for health checkups. I had often planned to get a health check up back home but never got round to it. I thought that seeing I had so much time on my hands now that I would grasp the nettle and get it done while I was in Pattaya.
I signed up for the deal, the works for 10,000 baht and paid for it with my credit card. After I had signed up they asked me when I would like to come to the hospital. I thought to myself hey I am heading off on a trip for a number of months. What if they found something wrong? (It turned out the be a prescient thought). I decided to postpone the check up until towards the end of my trip.
I hooked up with a friend of mine and we spent two months travelling around Thailand and Cambodia. He went home after Christmas and I flew drown to Singapore and got a flight to the Philippines (my first time to go there). I had planned to spend the 21 days you are given when you arrive but I ended up spending three months there. I spend 6 – 8 months in Asia every year now and most of it is in the Philippines. (Nothing to do with what follows.)
I arrived back in Pattaya towards the end of March and rang the hospital to organize an appointment and went to the hospital a few days later early in the morning.
I must say I was very impressed with the set up there. I was greeted at the front door by an attractive young lady who brought me to the reception area to register. As I have heard many people say the hospital does look like a five star hotel.
I won't go into the details but I had a number of tests carried out during the day and in the evening time you get to meet a doctor who discusses the results with you. He said to me that everything was fine except that they had found something on my liver. I asked him what it was and he said he did not know but said it would be just as well to have it checked out. I was a little concerned and asked if it could be done as soon as possible. He arranged for me to see a consultant within a half an hour and I was thinking wow, it would probably take me months to see a consultant at home. He said that he did not know what the problem was and suggested that I have a cat scan done which he arranged for early the next morning.
I was back at the hospital at 8 AM for the appointment the next day and this was when things started to go askew. I met the cat scan technician who was very young and wearing braces. I have nothing against anyone who wears braces but in a situation like that it did not inspire confidence. Anyway, he started the cat scan but after a few minutes he told me he could not do it because one of the tests I had had the previous day where I had to swallow some liquid for a stomach x-ray was still in my system and was masking my liver. He told me I would have to come back in a few days. I was thinking to myself that the consultant I had met had seen my report so why didn't he pick up on this?
As with anything in Thailand you ask the price. When the cat scan was suggested I asked what the price would be and was told it would be 10,000 baht. When I got back to the hospital a few days later the price had jumped to 13,000 baht. When I queried it with the nurse who had quoted me the original price she just shrugged and gave the standard riposte to a farang in Thailand …"small money for you." <A totally insulting response and one I don't let go lightly – Stick>
Anyway I had the scan done for the second time with no hitches. I was told that the results would take a few hours to process so I was told to come back in the afternoon.
When I got back to the hospital I was shown into the consultant's office, a woman this time. As I walked into her office she was working on her computer and turned to me with a very concerned look on her face. She started shaking her head and saying "Oh it's bad, velly, velly bad!".
I asked her what she meant but she told me to sit down and she would be with me in a minute and continued to look at the computer monitor. Nothing like cranking up the suspense! After what seemed like an age she turned to me and told me that she was sorry to tell me that they had found numerous tumours on my liver. Her opinion was that the cancer had not started there but had probably spread there from either my colon or my lymph glands. She said that the cancer was 2nd to 3rd stage.
I was obviously very shocked at this news and I asked her if I was going to die. She replied with a pitiful look on her face that she could not tell me that. I have a background in science and knowing that the liver is such a vascular organ and how cancer cells thrive on oxygen I knew straight away that I would not have much time left.
She started to talk about more tests and a biopsy and I just said no, just give me the results that she had already and that I was going home. While I was being given this grave news, the "small money for you" nurse who had brought me in got bored and decided to pick up the phone on the consultant's desk and have a cheerful chat with someone! She was so loud that I had to tell her to be quiet so I could hear what the consultant was saying.
I am sure if you were given some news like that in a western hospital there would be some type of counselling or support! Was I asked if I was ok? Would I like a cup of tea? No, I was shown out of the room and marched over to the cashiers desk to pay the balance of my bill…
I asked for the print out of my medical report which I had given back to them to take with me but was made to wait over an hour because they had lost it! Unprofessional and incompetent were the two words that came to mind.
It was the start of a rough couple of weeks for me. I tried to arrange a flight home but it was the week before Easter and there were no flights. I eventually got home on good Friday but had to wait until the following Tuesday to see my doctor. I had to undergo a battery of tests including another cat scan – and a not very pleasant liver biopsy. (I now know what it feels like to be stabbed) and eventually a pet scan which finally confirmed that there was no cancer in my body. I got that result ten weeks after I was given my diagnosis in the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital!
I am none the worse for wear for my experience but the only way I will ever enter a Thai hospital again will be in the unfortunate circumstance that I am taken into one out of the back of an ambulance! I am sure there are many fine doctors in Thailand but experience certainly shapes your view of things.
A few points to finish…
I know a lot of people go for these medical check ups when they are in Thailand without thinking too much about it. I was in Thailand by myself, I had no support when I was given this news and I could not call up my family and tell them what had happened. In fact I never said a word to anyone until after I got the all clear. I struggled hard to deal with what I had been told. I wonder if someone who was a bit fragile mentally was told this would it push them over the edge?
A number of possibilities arose out of the results of the cat scan from the benign to very serious. The condition I have is fatty deposits in the liver and it is very common among the western population. Given that they deal with many westerners in that hospital they must have come across this condition numerous times before. Why was I only given the worst case scenario? Was it to get more twine out of me?
Be careful out there…
Absolutely shocking! That hospital does not have the best reputation on some Pattaya message boards and there is no way I would step foot in the place. I have always believed that it was the best hospital in the area and you know what, the scary thing is that it probably is!