Dang You, Danang - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

November 24, 2016

Dang You, Danang

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving

Dear little friends,

Our guesthouse didn’t have a lot going for it but it did have a quite comfy bed for a change, and it wasn’t too far from the hospital. The hospital had the no-nonsense name of Bienh Vien Ba, Hospital #3. We don’t know anything about #’s 1 and 2, everybody was saying to go to #3 so that’s where the hell we went.

Danang has plenty of traffic, like any other sizeable Viet city, but it wasn’t terrible. The weather had grayed up big time, with spots of drizzle, perfect for my mood as we trudged to the hospital to have somebody rescue my sad little hand.

The last time we were at an Asian hospital was in 2009 in Bangkok, on the last day of a 4-½ month trip, when Bruce was bitten by a street dog hours before we were supposed to be at the airport. We were in and out in 45 minutes with shots and prescriptions and a doctor that spoke perfect English. The bill was $15. Thank you, socialized medicine! Danang is not Bangkok and we had no idea what to expect but I wasn’t terribly concerned.

This is not a good location for a cyclist to have an infection.
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It was a little daunting at the hospital, for one thing people are coming in carried by their relatives, at least in the emergency room they were. Two nurses looked up and glanced at my hand, then chirped to the doctor, who came out to see me. He spoke English with a good vocabulary and terrible pronunciation but we got things figured out. First a very young nurse wearing the traditional starched nurse’s cap that I hadn’t seen since my sister got hers in 1974, came to draw my blood to check the white count. She spoke no English and apparently was directed to be very serious at all times, none of that joshing around that American medical staff do to put nervous patients at ease, even warm smiles were trained out of her.

The doctor was a good guy. Here he fills out his orders for the lab work.
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I wasn’t expecting any fancy medicine here, mind you. I needed somebody to lance the awful thing on my hand and a prescription for antibiotics. But it was really something else to see this nurse, ungloved, draw my blood and pick up an errant cotton ball from the floor. Little tins and trays and tiffins were lined up, sterile or no. I felt like I was in a time machine, or a M*A*S*H scene. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had no idea whether they had used new needles or not, it just never occurred to me to watch out for that.

Drawing blood with no gloves, eek.
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Then I had to go to another area and lie on a stretcher/bed. Bruce of course was documenting all of this. He was the one that noted that the mattress of my bed was atop an old door. Ms. Starchycap took my blood pressure, on the arm with the injured hand so that was more painful than it needed to be. Then she checked my temperature under my arm, another vintage touch.

Why yes, that is a door I'm lying on, why do you ask?
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Ron SuchanekWhen is a door not a door?
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10 months ago
Andrea BrownWhen it's ajar! Or a hospital bed.
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10 months ago

The doctor was over looking at patients with far worse problems than mine. An old man was having trouble breathing and a young man carried in by his relatives seemed to have malaria or was in some other debilitating crisis. I felt like a big baby with my owie hand when everybody should have been treating those other people instead of me. The doctor even apologized for making me wait.

The time warp Hospital #3.
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In the “ward”, which was a tiny room with a metal table covered with a sheet, the deed was done, he scrubbed up and gloved up and before he shot my hand with lidocaine he asked me jovially if I was afraid. Nope, not even. The shots hurt but I was grateful to have them, then a cut that I didn’t watch and a bunch of hard pressing on the hand to release the pus. He oversaw the dressing of the wound by Ms. Starchalot and then left to save lives. I was to come back the next day to have the dressing changed.

Post-op. Iodine, peroxide, gauze, and tape.
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Okay, let's get outta here now.
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I want to say here and now that we have no idea what caused this thing on my hand and never will. Bruce is convinced that it was a spider bite, the doctor thought maybe a small thorn or sticker that was pushed further into the hand from the pressure of riding.

Consolation #1, coffee at a little table.
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We walked out and people on stretchers were still being wheeled around in the parking lot. The lidocaine was wearing off pretty quickly. We paid about $45 for everything and then headed back to our hotel, first stopping for coffee to soothe our nerves and then for breakfast pho and then searched for a pharmacy and then finally back to our room with the comfy bed and little else going for it.

Consolation #2, flowers in the street.
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I have been very lucky in my life to have had odd, mysterious illnesses that do not present normally and could have been the end of me, but good medical treatment saved the day in the end and here I am. This was a very simple thing and simple treatment was all it needed and that’s what I got. I was struck by how bare-bones the best hospital in Danang was and wondered a little whether it would make sense in the USA if we had clinics set up for very simple procedures like this so people with no insurance could get care. This is tricky because if things go wrong doctors and hospitals get sued so maybe it wouldn’t work. And certainly every single medical staff deserves to have gloves and anything else they need to protect themselves so no chintzing on the sterile protocol. It all adds up.

I am also lucky that nothing more serious has happened to me while traveling because I wouldn’t be so sanguine about the whole thing if it had, I would be looking for a helicopter ride to Bangkok and then a ticket home. That’s why we have travel insurance!

In the misty evening we went out in search of dinner. It was Thanksgiving and maybe we could find something a little special. But it was not to be, we ended up in a little joint with indifferent people and not very good food. It doesn’t matter. I looked up from my sad plate, glanced at my bandaged throbbing hand, and then saw my dear Bruce looking at me with concern and sadness. It’s enough sometimes, you know? My hand was going to get better instead of worse. I have people who love me and I get to travel with their generous blessing even though they miss me and worry a little. I get to see conditions in other countries and be grateful for mine. The meal is nothing, the gratitude everything.

Consolation #3, mango fruit shake here we come.
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Jen GrumbyPerhaps not an ideal Thanksgiving, but one of the better Thanksgiving stories I've heard ... You received the medical attention you needed, saw some pretty flowers, enjoyed some tasty beverages, and felt sincere gratitude in the company of the perfect travel companion.

Very interesting to read about / see photos of the hospital experience there.
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9 months ago