Seriously Ill in Vietnam

About a month ago I got seriously ill. I was ill enough to go to the emergency room and stay a few days. It was a Sunday evening when I got off of work and went to get a meal at one of the western style restaurants close to the school. It had been a long week with screaming children and teens. I don’t often eat out, I usually cook at home. This particular night I didn’t want to cook and was craving pasta. I was extremely happy to have some cheesy shrimp pasta, but I should have known better.

The first time I had eaten at this particular restaurant there was no incident. I ate a large plate of pasta and enjoyed a nice beer. The second time I went there I woke up a few days later with a sore in the corner of my mouth. I had had these sores before but never knew what caused them. I hadn’t had one in more than a year. Actually writing this I looked it up…won’t go into it. It was my third visit to this restaurant and I typically learn my lesson in threes. Well, I ate my plate of pasta and drank a large beer. I sat with my kindle and enjoyed the food before I took a ride home in the rain to end the day.

I got comfortable at home and began to lesson plan for the next week. I was working on my lessons when I began to feel extremely hot and started sweating profusely. Waves of nausea began to hit me from the left and the right. I felt it in my toes. I eventually went to the bathroom and sat by my toilet spinning. One thing I hate about my bathroom is how hot it is. There was no cool floor to calm my body’s reactions. I continued to sweat and eventually heaved up my meal.

Ah, okay. Maybe my ice cream float with a touch of whiskey wasn’t the best dessert choice. I went back to the couch feeling some relief. It was hard to believe that a shot of whiskey and a beer would make me sick enough to puke. No sooner had the sweat dried on my body that it all began again. I really hate puking and I don’t know anyone who does, but I decided to campout in the bathroom for a bit, you know, get it all out of me so I could just go to bed and rest. It was only around 7pm at this time, but I was definitely done in. To shorten the story a bit, after laying by the toilet for a few hours I decided that I would be more comfortable heaving from the comfort of my bed into a trash can. The steamy bathroom was keeping me in a state. I dimmed the lights and turned over every 30 minutes or so to drop off whatever into the can.

I lay in agony for hours. It reminded me of two Christmases ago when I lived in Berkeley. That Christmas Eve was spent with some friends at Clooney’s Pub in San Francisco. I had a few pints and a shot of Fernet. I woke up the next morning vomiting uncontrollably. Sick the whole day, I finally decided in the early evening to go to the E.R. I took the last available taxi to the wrong hospital and some generous people, who had been visiting a friend, took me to the correct hospital for care. There I was diagnosed with a virus.

Well here, once I began vomiting green bile I knew it was time to get a GRAB car to the international hospital, which fortunately is very close to me. Within an hour I was admitted and diagnosed with gastritis. FUCK. I was in so much agony at this time. I began to long for the U.S. because I just didn’t believe they knew what to do with me. I thought I would have at least gotten stronger drugs for the abdominal cramping at this point.

Administration bothered me about insurance. I gave them my card but I had forgotten my passport that was conveniently laid out on my dresser for this occasion. It just never made it to my pocket. At first, I thought, how rude. I’m in all this pain and all you can do is bother me about decisions. I ended up choosing a room shared with four people, because I didn’t know what insurance would cover. I couldn’t believe I was being checked in. In the States I would have been hydrated and sent home with a few scripts. I must have got something serious going on. They pressed on my belly, did some ultra sound tests while I continued to puke and writhe in pain. FUCK.

I was eventually wheeled into a room and there was only one other patient. I made more noise than him puking into my bucket and moaning in pain. Each time a nurse asked me how I felt I wanted to lash out, “How do I fucking look?! I feel like shit!” I didn’t though.

They sent food to my bedside and I wanted to kick it over. It looked nice, but the smell sent me over the edge. My stomach would flop at the idea of putting something into it. There were times I would lay on my back looking at the ceiling reminiscing about my times as an electrician. I was fascinated how the curtain rods were fastened to the T-Bar itself and not extending to the ceiling beyond. We wouldn’t do that in the States, especially in California, due to earthquakes. It’s funny how things and structures are secured in this country.

I slept a bit but in fits and spurts. Nurses would come and go from the room. Every two hours or so vitals were checked and in my case that included blood sugar. The lights were bright and nausea kept me just on the edge of falling into a real sleep.

I started the second day feeing extremely poor. I forced myself to take a shower. It was the best thing I did for myself. I at least felt human again. I felt I had gained just the smallest amount of strength, but no appetite. I had to be careful drinking water. Drinking too much at once sent me retching minutes later. I weakly spoke to my doctor in the afternoon wondering when I might feel better. Here he explained to me that I was used to certain germs and contaminates in the U.S., but there was a lot in this country that my body couldn’t handle at this time. We just had to wait and see. Rationally, it made sense, but it didn’t help me feel better emotionally.

The room began to fill up with patients. There were about seven hours I had the whole room alone, as the other patient was discharged. Now, it was jammed packed with patients and visitors. They had no qualm opening my curtain to stare at me. They spoke loudly and used electronics as if they were in their own private homes. I really wished I had asked for a double or maybe even a single room. What made it worse is that because I had no idea I would be admitted I brought nothing with me to entertain myself. I had been alone with just my thoughts. I had no one to call to bring my passport or even a book.

The third morning, a miraculous thing happened. I woke up feeling soooo much better. I didn’t have a huge appetite, but thought that I could at least eat a banana. I craved a banana. I was thinking of the BRAT diet. For some reason there were none to give me. SADS. It was good to communicate to my doctor that I was feeling better and he said that if the good feelings continued through the night to tomorrow I could look to going home the next day at some point. I needed to make that happen. I also needed my passport for insurance purposes, as hospital admin were calling my bedside hounding me for it. I didn’t want to pay out of pocket to file forms with insurance later. Then, I decided I felt good enough to go A.W.O.L.

I needed a few things other than my passport. I hadn’t brought clothes to change into. I needed my scrub towel to have an even better shower later. My phone battery had lasted a long time, but it was about to die. I wanted my iPad. My body hurt from laying in bed the past few days and it would be good to sit up and read for a bit or watch some movies. I called a nurse to my bed and asked her about leaving. It was hard for many to understand that I DID NOT have someone to call and help me. She said she would go and ask someone if I could leave. Well, she took too long for me to wait anymore. I had it in my head to go already. As I got onto an elevator I made eye contact with one of the nurses on the floor and slipped into the lift.

I got a GRAB car to my apartment. Someone from the hospital called for me on my cell phone and I explained I would be back within half an hour. It was truly a fast trip. I got the same driver back to the hospital after grabbing some clothes, a charger, iPad and a book. I’m glad I made the trip. I was now able to drown out the voices of others. I longed to surround myself in English. I’m not worried about them speaking about me, it was just so loud, so yeah, I grabbed my headphones too.

I was quite insistent on leaving the next day. I even told the school I would make it back to teach my class in the evening. I passed the time watching music videos and started reading Casual Vacancy, by J.K.Rowling. The way the book introduces the characters I found myself a bit lost, but it solidifies soon enough for the reader to not be too impatient.

I took another shower in the morning, dressed and waited until noon for the okay. I received a few scripts to continue taking for the next few days. Insurance covered everything and I was refunded half of my deposit. So in short my co-pay for the E.R. was 1.5 million VND ($65 USD).

Satisfied by the level of care and attention, even the food I could eat, I went home to rest for my evening class. I hope I never get that sick again. I am confident in the level of care in that international hospital. I probably left even stronger after being inoculated with whatever Vietnamese bug I got.

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