Hospital Visits Around The World

I hate having to go to the hospital and especially abroad. The comfort of family isn’t there and there’s no one to visit me. Still, I’ve come out stronger and learned a few things on my way out. Mostly that I need to take better care of myself.

 

Luang Prabang, Laos

From my trip through China, I was down to my final days and what better way to end China than to end up with a stomach virus. I did what I could to treat it but I had to leave China since my visa was expiring. I was leaving Kunming, China to Luang Prabang, Laos by land. It ended up being a thirty hour bus ride and with a stomach virus, it was a living hell. I had a big bottle of water and ate nothing throughout the entire trip in fear that I’d have to go to the bathroom while on the bus.

I got up the next day fresh and ready to start exploring Luang Prabang. I hadn’t realized just how strong the sun was in Laos. I walked around for about two hours and in that time, I got completely sunburned. I was sunburned and I still had the stomach virus. The same day, the guests at the hostel invited me to one of the waterfalls in Luang Prabang. I felt somewhat better and thought I should be okay, possibly even be refreshing. This time I put on sunscreen. I felt great at the waterfall and the water was indeed refreshing.

It happened on our way back in a tuktuk from the waterfall. I started to get pins-and-needles throughout my body. Suddenly I started to freeze up and my hands started to crench up. I started to panic and the people in the tuktuk looked away to not get involved. I noticed this and said out loud “what the fuck? why are you pretending to not notice?” Eventually I completely panicked and collapsed. That’s when they took it serious. Luckily, we were close to the hospital and the tuktuk driver was great.

Hospital sign by wayfaringrob, on Flickr

Hospital sign by wayfaringrob, on Flickr

The hospital was fairly big. Mostly empty and boring. White walls and dull in every aspect. The room they brought me to had a fan, table, and a chair. The most basic it could possibly get. The first guy that came in knew nothing of English but did a few checkups. Then the actual doctor came in and spoke a little English, enough to understand and speak. It was a basic conversation but she seemed to know exactly what I needed and why I was there pretty quickly. She told me that she’s the only English speaker in the hospital.

I had Hypoglycemia. I wasn’t staying hydrated enough. For the next four hours, I was under IV and several other checkups. Since the waterfall trip was meant to be a short and low cost, I didn’t bring much cash with me which worried me throughout the checkup. I told her I had no money on me but that I had promised to come back to pay the bill. I didn’t have any sort of ID with me and I could have ran away but she trusted me enough to come back and pay.

The doctor recommended I have lots of coconuts which was perfectly fine by me since I love coconut shakes and was given a few packets of hydration salts for the next few days to recover. I did go back to pay the bill. I checked out the hostel and checked into a hotel that had AC. For three days after, I relaxed and mostly slept. I felt a whole lot better and continued on my journey. Cost was about $20USD for the hospital visit.

Haadrin Beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand

You’d think I would have learned my lesson but I didn’t. It happened again. I wrote the full story already on Art of Backpacking. You can find it here: Hospitalized at the Full Moon Party. The article was featured on The Australian. Must. Stay. Hydrated.

Southland Medical Clinic

Siem Reap, Cambodia

A simple and yet annoying ear infection. It was difficult to hear as it was becoming worse. By simply asking locals on the street where the hospital was, I just walked right in. The hospital was much more organized and had many facilities. The ear doctor spoke English, French, and Khmer very well. It turned out pretty well. It was about $10USD. In and out in about 15 minutes.

Singapore

Another annoying ear infection and this one was much worse. My head was pounding and I felt like I was breaking down. I had been scuba-diving for a few days in a row in Malaysia. On my way to the hospital, the taxi driver asked me if it was anything contagious. He relaxed a bit after I said no. The hospital was enormous and had beautiful architecture. Before entering though, I was required to wear a medical face mask as everyone else was in the hospital. It was about $50 and that included all prescriptions as well.

Bangkok, Thailand

My tooth had been hurting for awhile. Eventually Stephanie got tired of me complaining and found a dentist.  I walked in and in about an hour, I was out feeling great. They did a fantastic job and the facility was especially designed for foreigners. For $75, I got a cavity filled. Not exactly a hospital visit but still worth mentioning.

I had to also get new glasses in both Lima, Peru and Xi’an, China. The Lima glasses sucked but the ones from Xi’an came out pretty well. Not a fan of the frame but the lens were great.

What have I learned from all this? Clean my ears and drink more water.

Have you had to go to the hospital abroad? How was your experience? 

16 Comments

  1. Maria Falvey on September 25, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I did in both Prague and Cambodia.  Prague was a fantastic experience, seriously.  No one spoke English but my nephew was with me and speaks Czech. 

     None of this crap you get in the US where you wait 3/4 hour, finally get into an exam room, wait some more, then talk w/a nurse, they leave, you wait, then the doctor arrives and you repeat all the details.  In Prague they were both there, working simultaneously, as a team.  They also had equipment I’d not seen before, nor since – a hand held sonogram (slightly larger than an iPhone) used topically on my forehead and cheeks to review my sinuses. 

    Diagnosis – laryngitis, bronchitis and strep throat.
    I was contagious so they gave my nephew meds to counter act his own exposure (which actually worked).

    Cost = $19 US (doctor = $14, pharmacy = $5)
    Efficient, shortest wait time ever (10 minutes), great bedside manner, relaxed, no rushing, everything explained in detail and my nephew was grilled to ensure his notes were accurate.  The entire experience lasted 1 hour.

    I took one day of  downtime and recovered in less than a week.  

    I kept the receipt from that visit.  It’s slightly larger than a post card, decorated with formal font and official seals, entirely in Czech – beautiful, a work of art in its own right – and one of my favorite mementos.  

    • Michael on October 11, 2011 at 4:30 pm

      I did the same thing. I compared my hospital visits abroad to the experience I’d get in the USA and it’s dramatically different.

      I still have my receipt as well from Thailand. Not quite as cheap as yours but still WAY cheaper than it would have been in the US.

  2. Maria on September 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I did in both Prague and Cambodia.  Prague was a fantastic experience, seriously.  No one spoke English but my nephew was with me and speaks Czech. 

     None of this crap you get in the US where you wait 3/4 hour, finally get into an exam room, wait some more, then talk w/a nurse, they leave, you wait, then the doctor arrives and you repeat all the details.  In Prague they were both there, working simultaneously, as a team.  They also had equipment I’d not seen before, nor since – a hand held sonogram (slightly larger than an iPhone) used topically on my forehead and cheeks to review my sinuses. 

    Diagnosis – laryngitis, bronchitis and strep throat.
    I was contagious so they gave my nephew meds to counter act his own exposure (which actually worked).

    Cost = $19 US (doctor = $14, pharmacy = $5)
    Efficient, shortest wait time ever (10 minutes), great bedside manner, relaxed, no rushing, everything explained in detail and my nephew was grilled to ensure his notes were accurate.  The entire experience lasted 1 hour.

    I took one day of  downtime and recovered in less than a week.  

    I kept the receipt from that visit.  It’s slightly larger than a post card, decorated with formal font and official seals, entirely in Czech – beautiful, a work of art in its own right – and one of my favorite mementos.  

    • Michael on October 11, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      I did the same thing. I compared my hospital visits abroad to the experience I’d get in the USA and it’s dramatically different.

      I still have my receipt as well from Thailand. Not quite as cheap as yours but still WAY cheaper than it would have been in the US.

  3. Turtle on September 25, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    You really can’t emphasise enough how important it is to stay hydrated when travelling overseas (particularly those hot and humid countries)! You can get sick so quickly – just because you forgot to buy a few bottles of water. Great post, Michael, and important lesson!!

  4. Turtle on September 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    You really can’t emphasise enough how important it is to stay hydrated when travelling overseas (particularly those hot and humid countries)! You can get sick so quickly – just because you forgot to buy a few bottles of water. Great post, Michael, and important lesson!!

  5. Drmeserve on September 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Loved this! I broke my ankle on my 4th day in Kenya! The whole experience really added another layer to my semester abroad in Africa!

    • Michael on October 11, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      Ouch! I’m sure it did.

  6. Drmeserve on September 25, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Loved this! I broke my ankle on my 4th day in Kenya! The whole experience really added another layer to my semester abroad in Africa!

    • Michael on October 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      Ouch! I’m sure it did.

  7. Stephanie Coviak on September 27, 2011 at 4:06 am

    Such a well-timed article!  I broke my foot in Luxembourg after getting a massage at the wellness center.  It was a treat for myself since my husband had returned to the U.S. for a 10 day business trip. I got an ambulance ride, an xray and my foot stabilized and was told to come back Monday for surgery.  I had to call a friend to pick me up and then stayed at her house until my husband arrived (after just having got there and before he actually went to work). My 5th metatarsal was shattered into 5 pieces, so a plate and pins were used to put things back together.  For about 24 hours the pain was awful until the surgeon cut off the wrapping which was much too tight.  I have crutches and a boot.  Two weeks later, down to one crutch and the boot.  I go back to the doc in another two weeks.  I had to put 700 euros on my credit card at the emergency room.  My husband had to pay 2000 euro up front at the hospital since we had private insurance.  Everything is set up for the national health care so we have to get reimbursed by our insurance company. The biggest disappointment was not being able to go on the solo trip to Paris I had planned!  I had a holiday apartment 2 blocks from the Louvre!  I cried in the emergency room – they thought it was from the pain.

    • Michael on October 11, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      Oh my goodness. So glad you turned out okay though. Don’t worry, Paris isn’t going anywhere. Hope you plan to make a trip there again soon.

  8. Stephanie Coviak on September 27, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Such a well-timed article!  I broke my foot in Luxembourg after getting a massage at the wellness center.  It was a treat for myself since my husband had returned to the U.S. for a 10 day business trip. I got an ambulance ride, an xray and my foot stabilized and was told to come back Monday for surgery.  I had to call a friend to pick me up and then stayed at her house until my husband arrived (after just having got there and before he actually went to work). My 5th metatarsal was shattered into 5 pieces, so a plate and pins were used to put things back together.  For about 24 hours the pain was awful until the surgeon cut off the wrapping which was much too tight.  I have crutches and a boot.  Two weeks later, down to one crutch and the boot.  I go back to the doc in another two weeks.  I had to put 700 euros on my credit card at the emergency room.  My husband had to pay 2000 euro up front at the hospital since we had private insurance.  Everything is set up for the national health care so we have to get reimbursed by our insurance company. The biggest disappointment was not being able to go on the solo trip to Paris I had planned!  I had a holiday apartment 2 blocks from the Louvre!  I cried in the emergency room – they thought it was from the pain.

    • Michael on October 11, 2011 at 5:26 pm

      Oh my goodness. So glad you turned out okay though. Don’t worry, Paris isn’t going anywhere. Hope you plan to make a trip there again soon.

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