Medical Care

Tromping around in a strange land sampling the local delicacies is part of the fun of travel. Sampling something that had an adverse passenger can prove disastrous.   A scrape or encounter with a prickly whatnot can cripple you for life if not cared for properly. I have not encountered a problem on this trip but I have met 2 people that have. My own experience a few years ago is a steady reminder to me to be careful.

last week I saw a young man that had a large sticker in his hand. He cleaned it out and cleaned it with alcohol, adding a bandage for protection. A few days later it had grown and now had a significant amount of pus – he cleaned it again, sprinkled some amoxicillin on it and re-bandaged it. After a few days his entire hand looked like a cabbage. Off to the doctor. Doctor sent him to the hospital, that hospital sent him, via ambulance, to the best hospital in Manila to see top level surgeons. To be continued.

Last week in Vietnam I was talking to a back packer that scraped his foot. I noticed he was wearing sandals but his right foot had a sock on it. His foot had become infected and he went to a Saigon doctor. Sore cleaned, a weeks worth of penicillin and a bill for $250.00 US dollars.  He was to go back this week and get it checked and pay again. I am very sure that a local would not have paid that much but what choice does a tourist have?

Two years ago  ate something that did not like me and after thinking I would explode I spend 4 hours in the ER, two shots and some nasty tasting glop I walked out a hundred dollars poorer but in much better condition.

My worst experience was 4 or 5 years ago when I started vomiting around 8 in the evening and vomited every 15 minutes or so until 6 in the morning. By that time I was so weak I could barely crawl to the door and summon the hotel guard.. He and another gentleman helped me to a trike (no ambulances in the town at all) which took me to the emergency room. Two IV’s (one in each arm), both with something added via hypodermic, plus a shot, an EKG, 2 nurses and visits from two doctors and by nightfall I could leave. They wanted to move me to the ward but I only had enough money to pay for the services already rendered (about $125.00 US dollars) and the rules are you do not leave the hospital until you pay the bill, and I had stayed as long as my money would allow. Had I stayed longer I would have had to contact the embassy to contact folks at home to wire money to the hospital.

The upshot is – know where you are going, what you will do if there is a problem and what local customs are – and be careful. I recommend you investigate travel medical coverage, it may seem pricey but an unexpected problem, particularly for older travelers (like maybe a heart attack) can be incredibly expensive or even life threatening. Realize that the western response time of 10 or 15 minutes for an ambulance can easily be an hour or more if where you are even has ambulances. Often a taxi with a bonus to the driver if you get to the hospital fast may be your best hope.

Often when we travel we take a bit of a gamble here or there. Don’t gamble with your health.


About asiadiver

Love to travel, love southeast Asia and the people and cultures (and food) SCUBA is a passion but more difficult as I get older so photography and writing have become most important. I have learned more talking with other travelers in local bars in Hong Kong or Bangkok or sharing a tuk tuk than I did in all my years in university. Not a man of the world but an average Joe just being observant, polite and listening.
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