The worst thing about getting sick in another country when you travel alone is the complete feeling of isolation. You don’t know what’s wrong with you but you assume the worst, and feel even worse as a result of no-one being there to assure you things will be ok.
With all this and more swimming around my head I entered the doctor’s room in Krabi Public Hospital. After hearing my symptoms and briefly looking me over he said they needed to check my blood, I was also told to admit myself into the hospital, to which I said no. The doctor looked a little confused but didn’t push the point.
I was ushered away to wait for another few hours to get a blood test. The nurse roughly took a sample, jamming the needle into my arm with knowledge of how to get the blood but a careless regard for pain.
I had to wait for the blood test results in another room. Other patients look at me briefly but quickly look away if I caught their eyes. When my name is called, a nurse tells me that my blood platelet level is quite low. Unaware what this meant or that it could have indicated Dengue Fever, I ignored another offer to admit myself to the hospital in favour of visiting the hospital the next day and getting another blood test.
Krabi Hospital is not located near the town, its a good half hour walk, with very few taxis around. I remember vividly the pain of trudging this length to my hostel, unable to close my eyes with the pain, a dizzy feeling surrounding me and staring at the sky in anger.
I researched what blood platelets were, and began to see why this could be very serious. The next day I had another blood test, the doctor this time was very serious.
‘Your blood platelets are very low, you need to be in hospital, if your blood this low your organs could become ruptured and hemorrhage’
I was admitted straight away.
My eyes still stung with pain, a blotchy white and red rash was all over my body and my head spun with dizziness.
Looking back the next scene can be quite humorous. Dressed in a backless gown, attached to a drip I was pushed by wheelchair into a ward of perhaps thirty to fourty men. As the only Western man there some of the nurses clearly took pity on me.
‘Hello, do you have anyone with you?’
‘Do you have girlfriend?’
‘Do you have friend?’
‘Oh for, no I have friends but not here’
After this slight feeling of being kicked when down I looked around, and began to see why I must seem so strange to the nurses here. Every man had at least four guests sitting patient and loyal around his bedside, feeding dabbing his forehead with a white cloth or simply just keeping him company.
I felt very alone again. The men next to me shared everything with their family. They would never be alone in a hospital. Life in England would seem very lonely to a Thai person. Most people barely even know their neighbors in the UK. It seems such a shame that the sense of community has died in in England but here, all the way across the world, the reliance on each other, respect for elders and family values are still so important.
I lay on my bed, rolling over the word hemorrhage in my head. I have to be honest, at the time I thought a lot about death. I wrote in my journal a series of notes about how I was feeling. Looking back on them now, I am shocked by the words I had written. An unstoppable feeling of exhaustion must have affected my mental state, which resulted in my complete failure to fight my illness. I wanted to sleep, to fade away.
It was a day or so after this journal entry that I was found by a worker from the Phuket International Hospital. He took me in an ambulance to the international hospital, I was too weak to argue I just signed the documents.
Phuket hospital is clean, with well-trained staff, delicious food and most importantly it made me better. Less than a week later I was out.
The experience of contracting a disease, which kills 20,000 people a year, will never leave me.
I am thankful to have seen the intimate, patient way families in Thailand care for their sick. It reminds you of the importance of family. When my parents managed to call me after leaving the hospital, I have never been so happy to hear their voices.