A Sick Night and a Sick Day - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

December 18, 2016

A Sick Night and a Sick Day

Hiep Phuoc

Dear little friends,

Back in our scuzzy room I was reading something or mapping something, trying to figure out a route that would bypass Saigon without being on an actual freeway. There were no freeways outside of Saigon anywhere in the country, the thought scared me to death.

We didn't feel as though we were walking on money in this place.
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Bruce plopped down on the bed.

“I’m not doing so well.”

He said he was overheated and feeling horrible. It all came back to me. We’ve ridden this pony before, back in the summer of 2007 when he got heat stroke in Luang Prabang, Laos. It’s terrible stuff and looking at him I knew immediately he had it again.

I felt his skin and face, it was hot and red with no sweat. Crap. He was already starting to shiver, a sign that his thermostat was haywire. The chills he feels also make it nearly impossible to get him to take a cooling shower or even put cold towels on him but I did anyway. I had him eat some salty peanuts and frantically dug out our electrolyte powder and made him drink that.

In Luang Prabang we had no air conditioning or wifi, so there was no way to cool him off except for a cold shower. Back then, I went down to the guesthouse owner and they pulled out their only chunk of ice from their cooler and gave it to me. At least this time I could look up things on the internet and try to form a plan. Of course looking things up is a double-edged sword, you find solutions that end with, “get the patient to the hospital, this is an emergency”. Organ failure. Death.

I changed wet towels on his neck and back, he was shivering and suffering and I was extremely worried. We were 20 miles from Saigon. We could take a taxi to the hospital there but it would mean leaving our stuff in a pimpy-sort of place with broken locks on the doors. His life was worth more than our stuff, though. Could we take a minivan to Saigon? Was there a local hospital? Google maps said there was one but it was four miles away in this weird dorm-room-worker-bee town. And it was “closed”. Really? At 8 pm a hospital closes? In a town with absolutely no English? The whole situation was pretty awful.

Nice paint job for a former house painter to stare at.
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At ten I knew my sister in Montana would be up so I messaged her to ask advice, she is a retired emergency room nurse. “Get him to the hospital,” was her advice. She is like me, blunt and practical.

Phase two of heat stroke for Bruce is that he gets emotional. Things that were hidden rise to the surface. Suddenly he was weeping about the dog we saw got hit two days before, something completely worthy of tears.

I was so worried I did the blunt Brown Girl thing and said, “Yes, that was really sad, but I need you to get your shit together or we’re gonna have to take a taxi to Saigon.”

That sort of startled him into another mode, the Lellman Boy mode of Swedish/German stubborn obstinacy.

“No way.”

“Well then, go take a cold shower.”

He was brave and did a coolish shower but I could tell it was killing him to do it. It is a tall order, like telling somebody you just fished out of the icy pond to go back in for their shoes. Meanwhile my sister is telling me that they cool people down and warm people up slowly in the hospital. “Do you have any Tylenol?”

We had ibuprofen and aspirin, no Tylenol. Ibuprofen it was. The long difficult night continued. She kept telling me to take him for IV fluids, somewhere, anywhere. He kept refusing to leave.

At some point I dozed off and then he was walking around, acting a lot more normal, his face was not red anymore, he was feeling better! The ibuprofen had helped a lot, although he had to keep taking it and he was having leg cramps and generally felt like shit all the next day. We were stuck in a weird guesthouse in this weird slum of a town and as I was self-consciously walking out to get him some 7up and some food, there was a lot of staring which always is more acutely painful when you are alone rather than with another stare-ee. I smiled and pretended it didn’t bother me.

It really wasn't that bad a place to recover. And it was nice knowing there was a cute frog in the bathroom.
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So, I had a long day while he slept and recovered to peruse the map closely and try to find a way to avoid the freeways near Saigon. And I showed it to Bruce, look, we can go on this road, take a ferry here, take that road, and then take those little roads until you are tired.

“Did you tell me to get my shit together last night?”

Um. Yes. Guilty.

“Like, I’m crying about a dog and you said that to me?”

It’s good to laugh together that hard, so relieved, so grateful that we had averted a disaster. My sister checked in with us and I told her he was trying out all the light switches and her radar beeped and she said, “He sounds a little off still, remember Dad doing that?” I explained that there were at least seven different light switches in our crazy room and that this was normal Bruce behavior when he is feeling better, as he was.

A route out. A man standing playing with light switches and laughing. My big sister at the other end of a tenuous line laughing with us. Oh, mercy. Things are looking up.

Bruce said, "My last words could be, Either that ceiling goes or I do."
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Jen GrumbyMaybe if they painted it black and white and positioned the rectangle thingys so that it looked like a piano ??

Crikey! Since Bruce is still around, hopefully that means the ceiling is gone .. or re-designed and painted more tastefully.
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1 year ago
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Jen GrumbyAgain .. so glad you were there, Andrea, to help Bruce! And that you were both able to laugh the next day about you telling him to get his shit together.

What a scary situation with the internet and your sister confirming the seriousness of it all.

Glad we had yall's words of wisdom and tales of heat stroke terror to help prevent us from going there on Porridge. I think we were close a couple times.
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1 year ago
Bruce LellmanTo Jen GrumbyHeat stroke is deadly for sure. When I read other cycling journals and they mention how hot they are I worry about them. Most people don't realize how quickly you can die from heat stroke. I'm prone to it and I've been extremely lucky. Andrea has pulled me through twice. I hope I never have to try to survive it again. Horrible stuff. And it would have been a horrible place to die - for Andrea to deal with all that would entail.
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1 year ago