Going to the doctor in Thailand turned out to not be a scary experience as I feared. I even learned a little bit about Thai culture and myself in the process.
The back story is we returned with Cambodia with the sniffles. James decided to knock it out and get sick immediately, while I decided to wait an additional week and fall ill as soon as a small child sneezed on me. My cold and constant sneezing lasted for two weeks until one magical night the dull pain in my sinuses moved into a sharp pain in my ear. I stayed up all night reveling in the awful pain until the pharmacy opened for pain medicine. With my new purchase, I proceeded to sleep the day away.
With the pain med, I waited another two days until my nurse friend encouraged me to see a Doctor, for it was sounding more likely an ear infection. The pain had not decreased, the ear was inflamed with yucky stuff in it (not just my nose) and there was a constant buzzing/white noise in my ear. While I was stalling due to a mild fear of doctors, all the symptoms were quite irritating and my friend threatened losing my hearing would be worst, so I finally agreed.
Friends here all recommended going to a hospital. My wonderful, fantastic Thai friend even offered to go with me. Where I didn’t want to trouble her to do so, I was also excessively grateful. We met around 5pm, which seemed late but an earlier call to the hospital had directed me to come at 7pm!
Stepping into the hospital, I realized with full force why I’d been putting it off. Just walking through the door made me want to burst into tears. I knew I hated hospitals but hadn’t planned on such a physical reaction. My mind had gone directly to all the fear and sadness associated with my loved one who’d been sick and all those visits. I pulled myself together and followed my friend deeper in the hospital, trying to shove those dark thoughts back into the further recesses of my mind.
With each step my panic decreased a bit and with her by my side, we tackled the limited medical records required. I tried to find my Thai number, while she documented this exciting new adventure. About 10 minutes later, with no prior appointment, we were sent to the floor for Ear, Nose, and Throat.
There they did the initial exam for basic medical stats and then we waited for another twenty minutes or so to be seen. During that time, I confessed to my friend that I was scared of hospitals. I told her it was rather common for Americans to be afraid of doctors and referenced how my dad will never go when sick. I asked her the Thai mindset and she said that they enjoyed going, even going for minor colds. She thought some Doctors had to give less time so Thais wouldn’t get addicted to all of the attention. She clarified that at the private hospital you could get all of your questions answered though. I told her in the States, you could barely get any time with a Doctor.
That Thais seemed willing and interested in going to the Hospital seemed reflected on the Hospital website and various “check-up” packages offered, like the “checkup before marriage” package, as well as diamond check-ups that included a full-body MRI exam. My friend said that Thai’s alternate a chest x-ray or an EKG, depending on their insurance, annually. Granted this is probably not every Thai person, but those who can afford it. Still, I’ve always had insurance and can’t imagine signing up for an annual chest x-ray or EKG for the fun of it…or I suppose they do it for their health.
I was at a private hospital but as I heard from others, there are two types of hospitals, the public and the private. The public ones are cheaper and much more crowded, as could be expected. The recommended time to go is 5:30am (when less busy) and they are only open until about 6pm. They also have clinics. My friend said there were some by me but she was not sure of which was a good one and what I would consider sanitary enough. (This amused me.)
We were called for the appointment and a Doctor, younger than me, asked about my illness. She sounded shock to learn it’d been going on for three weeks. We moved to an examination chair and she proceeded to look in my ear, stick metal tools in my nose and grab my tongue. Here they say “Eee” instead of “Ahhh” for throat exams. She asked if I had any allergies in order to recommend medications. Since I said none, she said ‘she would pick the best ones’. I thought in America this would mean whatever pharmaceutical company had left the best gifts for the Doctor and was curious the result here. The exam and time with Doctor took under 10 minutes, with a diagnosis of Acute rhinosinusitis, or cute rhinos, as I like to call it.
We headed downstairs to the cashier and waited the longest. The waiting area had cups of (sealed) water and tea with plastic wrap over them. My friend said during the day they give snacks too. We sipped the lukewarm tea and watched the TV. After a little longer, she went up to see why we hadn’t been called. She checked one more time then finally called me over to pay.
The bill was about three times what I’d expected but I had not take into consideration medications, for which there were four -AND- medical supplies. The bill was $107, which didn’t seem completely outrageous for not having insurance. We went to the pharmacy to pick up the medications and they went through each one. She even demonstrated how to take the nasal spray and how to use the nasal syringe (not unlike a neti pot), complete with pantomime (which didn’t help when I tried it later). It had felt odd that the Doctor did not discuss the medications with me but the Pharmacist was very thorough. Writing this now, it is still odd that they didn’t give information on the medications, as I am so used to in the States, nor things to avoid.
With my bag of individually wrapped medicines, we headed back into the night, escaping any additional time in a hospital. Later that night, I tried my new medical supply, the nasal syringe, with only mild success. Another friend challenged me to make a video but James deleted it so sadly that amusement is lost to the world!