It is only through the authors usual level of whimsical banter and eloquent nonsense that making this particular entry is possible, for the news and developments it covers would make for a less than enjoyable read were I to keep a straight face. I can only introduce the following by saying this: when I made my plans to go travelling, I expected to see many strange and unusual sights, and to experience much that was new to me. However, I did not expect to experience the agony of a ruptured appendix followed by the sight of several nights in a Thai hospital. Yet again, it seems my journey has taken me in a direction I could never have foreseen.
As I write this now I am sitting comfortably on a tranquil, tree lined balcony, whose large patio doors lead directly to my private hospital room that rivals many of the hotels I have stayed at in both comfort and aesthetics. The cable TV and DVD player, ensuite bathroom, refrigerator and aircon have taken care of my material needs, leaving the superb nurses and staff to cover everything else.
Whilst reading this you may feel I’m either in denial of my recent disposition, or screwed in the head after too many antibiotics, but the truth of the matter is things could have been a far lot worse.
Five days ago I was still taking things easy at my bungalow on the northern banks of Ko Phangan, where up to then the most exciting occurrence of my stay had been when the hammock strung up outside my hut decided to snap and hurriedly send my boney arse ungracefully to the wooden floor, much to my annoyance but apparently to the great joy of two older ladies in the bungalow opposite, who up to now were entertained with little more than engaging in tedious small-talk about the local market and the great collection of shite they’d bought there for friends at home. Anyway…
It was on that afternoon that I was relaxing on the beach, having just completed my second swim and enjoying my third session of sitting in a deckchair, when my stomach pains, up to now assumed to be just another case of my body’s continuous disagreement with local produce, began to intensify. A lot. I headed back to my bungalow hoping that plenty of fluids, a trip to the water closet, and a little nap would sort me out. It didn’t, in fact, and the pain worsened to the degree where I couldn’t lie in one position for more than a couple of minutes without having to move. This wasn’t an ‘upset’ stomach, this was a raging, demonic, furious stomach, foaming at the mouth and brandishing an axe as it roared and howled, its fiery eyes piercing the soul of its luckless enemy and…well, you get the idea. Later that evening I made my way down to reception where I was booked a taxi to the local clinic. I explained my symptoms to the nurse there who diagnosed it as food poisoning and prescribed me a collection of painkillers, antibiotics, rehydration sachets and anti-diarrhoea medicine. I took her word for it and headed back, happy to have the painkillers more than anything else.
By the next morning things were no better, and having had no more than 30 minutes sleep at a time throughout the night owing to my discomforts, I assumed far worse than a dodgy fried egg was to blame. Again I made my way to reception and was organised transport to see the same nurse at the local clinic. It was after this second examination that she realised it wasn’t just food poisoning, and as I’d feared myself in a speculative thought that morning, it was my appendix that was to blame.
From here the Thais burst into action – no tasteless pun intended. The roads in Ko Phangan are uneven, unpaved, and perilous, and so it was more than a little displeasure that I endured my 4×4 journey to the nearest emergency clinic, upon which I was examined again, had blood samples taken, and was put on an intravenous drip before being driven again to the nearest pier, where a speedboat was waiting to whisk me across the waters to the nearest hospital on neighbouring island Ko Samui.
And I’ve been here since. The Dr examined me within minutes of my arrival, and said on the spot that he would be operating that afternoon. It was only then that I could really relax, despite my ongoing pain, as the hospital staff efficiently took over, booking X-rays and CT scans for that day, dealing with my insurance providers, and getting me to my private room so I could attempt to relax before my ruptured appendix was to be removed.
There’s not much I can tell you about the surgery itself, being somewhat unconscious as I was. The operating theatre was spotless and appeared well-equipped, as has been the case with everywhere within the hospital that I’ve seen yet. For those of you who have your own personal visions of Thailand, and fear that I’ve been shacked up in a mudhut with geckos running up the walls, whilst an old woman sits crossed legged in the corner chanting to herself and mixing up medicines from dried leaves using a pestle and mortar – forget it. I’m no expert, but from what I’ve seen and experienced so far, this hospital rivals any I’ve seen in my own country.
And it appears that I’ll be leaving here in just a day or two. I consider myself fortunate in this, especially after a nurse recently told me that the usual hospital recovery time is three or four weeks, or even longer. I also have to thank fate, as ridiculous as that sounds, that this happened now, rather than during a week-long trek in the jungle, or whilst visiting an extremely remote village solely occupied by old chanting women, or during a visit to a rural country where the nearest decent medical facilities are a two-hour flight away.
As for my next move – I honestly couldn’t say, even more so than usual. England is a long, long way away, and whilst it’s natural that there are some who feel I should go home, it’s a journey that would be unwise for me to undertake yet from a medical perspective, aside from the fact that I’d hate to end my adventure so prematurely. I’ve been advised by many to consider my options very wisely, and I’m a rational enough thinker to know that I won’t be recklessly putting myself in danger. So, for the time being at least, I’ll remain in Thailand. True, there won’t be any mountain trekking, scuba diving, bungee jumping or Muay Thai training to be done in the near future, but a few weeks of visiting temples, sampling local cocktails, and playing guitar with strangers ought not to be too strenuous for me. Perhaps I’ll even hire a local child to carry my luggage for me.
And after a few weeks have passed perhaps I’ll be feeling recovered enough that any contingency plans I may have thought of won’t be needed anyway, I really don’t know at this point. All I do know, is that every turn of this journey so far, every event endured, no matter how large or small, no matter how fun or painful, has made me stronger, wiser, and shown me new facets of life. And that can never be a bad thing.