#9 from SE Asia 2011 – dealing with broken ribs in a hospital in Thailand
January 20th, 2011
I landed smack on my right shoulder and ribs on hard pavement. A bloody knee and elbow, and a sore shoulder. I quickly got up and limped to the side of the road with my bike. I was riding fast, over 20 kms an hour, when it happened. It was at the end of the day and I was daydreaming, looking at the mountains in the distance, when I let my front wheel go off the steep shoulder of the road. I tried to correct it, but too late. I flipped the bicycle on the road. It happened real fast, as all accidents always do. For it accidents ever happened slowly, they wouldn’t happen at all.
I was hurting. I cussed at myself for such a stupid move. (I tend to cuss at myself a lot when I screw up. Do you?) I was most worried about my knee. If it swelled up, I would not be able to pedal. I quickly into my medical kit for some aspirin and Ibuprofen to stem the swelling. I cleansed and covered the cuts. Much Later that night, I simply could not sleep. Deep pain from my upper right ribs. Any cough, sneeze, or laughter sent unbearable pain thru my rib cage. But I did not have much to laugh about.
I did not ride the next day. The chest and shoulder pain was too great. I began to fear that this bicycling trip might end early. I did NOT want that to happen. Two days later, I hopped on my loaded bike and began pedalling south again. Once I got into riding position and began pedalling, my ribs did not hurt enough to stop me. With pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs, I could pedal. I had days of 80, 100, and 130 kms.
The knee, shoulder, and the elbow pain faded away, but the rib pain continued on. I could not rest on my right side or cough at all. Whatever it was did not go away in 6 days.. I began to fear a cracked rib.
So……………. what to do? I deliberately don’t have insurance. I also do NOT speak good Thai. I felt that at least I should know the extent of my injuries. Friends told me that if I had a broken rib, I must stop riding. They said one more fall could cause the rib to pierce the lung. And then I really would have problems.
So, I decided to go to the public hospital in Ranong, Thailand. I rode my bicycle into the parking lot on 10:25 am on January 19th, 2011. I went to the desk of a crowded waiting room with my Thai grammar book in hand. There appeared to be well over 100 people in the large waiting area, in various states of being processed. I explained myself to them in Thai as best I could. The lady smiled bemusedly at my mispronunciations, and then began speaking to me in English. She registered me and gave me the number 120. On the digital screen in the waiting room I saw that the current number was 70. I was glad I had brought some reading along with me.
About 5 minutes later she called my number. I went up to the desk and she handed me some paperwork. 10 minutes after that she told me that the doctor was ready to see me. They led me into the office of a gray-haired doctor, a man of about my age. He spoke good English. He examined my ribs. He also said it would be dangerous to continue bicycling with broken ribs. He would need x-rays. He filled out some papers and a nurse escorted me to the x-ray lab. 10 minutes and two x-rays later and I had my results in hand.
The nurse informed me that I had to pay for my x-rays first, in cash, now.
Chai. Tow rai? (Yes. How much?)
330 baht for each one. ($5.50 US per x-ray)
I gladly paid the $11 for the x-rays and took them back to the doctor. He carefully read my x-rays. You have serious soft tissue and cartilage damage, he said. But no broken ribs. It will take months to heal. You can continue riding again, but I advise against it, or doing any other strenuous work. I shook his hand and thanked him in courteous Thai.
How much do I owe you? I asked.
You have paid for the ex-rays. That is all.
What? That is all.
No. I owe you something. You give me good service and so I should pay.
The doctor said something to the nurse in Thai that I could not understand. She led me to a Buddhist Stupa shrine at the entrance to the hospital. There was a slot on it that said something in Thai. Below it in English was written
I put $10 US in and rode off on my bike. I checked my watch. It was 11:30 am. I had spent one hour TOTAL getting processed, x-rayed and diagnosed, in a different language and culture. As I rode off, I thought I had shortchanged them seriously. Several days later I passed this hospital again on my bike going south. I stopped and added 300 more baht. Still, what a deal.
It took me a total of $11 and one hour WITHOUT ANY APPOINTMENT to find out conclusively whether I had broken ribs or not. What would it have taken in the US to have this diagnosis? I think those in the United States know what they would have been in for.
I have had excellent experiences in hospitals in other places in the world, in India, Costa Rica, Mexico, Where I got excellent, quick service and a very reasonable (read cheap) price. And yet our for-profit medical industry constantly rails against how bad the medical systems are outside of the US. The people who believe this are mostly those who have not been outside the US ever. Our bumpkin-proletariat is convinced that they have it so much better than the rest of the world. I think this is a result of the ‘Big Lie’ perpetrated by the ads and agitprop of our pro-profit health-care industry. If you don’t know any better, you fall for their lies.
In 2004, I watched the first Bush-Kerry debate. In it, Bush stated that the US had the best health care system in the world. I waited for Kerry’s rebuttal. Then Kerry did it.
HE AGREED WITH BUSH!
Kerry and Bush both said that the US system was the best in the world. OMG! WTF! At that point, I realized that there was no hope for the US health care system. None at all, as long as the ruling class and children of the privileged received the best of care while the rest of the US got the leftovers. These people were too out-of-touch with the real world to even hold and intelligent conversation about health care.
I need some dental work. A few teeth are simply wearing down with age. So, guess where I get my dental work done next month? Well you can bet it ain’t gonna be in the USA.