Thailand on the Installment Plan: Medical Tourism…

IMG_0546continued from previous…

…so after six weeks and much weeping and wailing I finally passed a kidney stone the size of Boulder, Colorado, this after my urologist decided that I must have a swollen prostate gland, since six weeks had passed and I still couldn’t piss a full stream, after he had assured me that there was no stone, or at least “not one very big,” this conclusion without even looking at a screen, where one of the various CAT’s or MRI’s or X-RAY’s or ultrasound scans must surely be available for viewing—not!

No one told me I had a barely-passable-if-I’m-lucky 10mm stone or I’d probably have nuked the mother in Mexico for $2-3K some 2-3 weeks ago! No, my big city LA urologist talked on the phone to someone somewhere supposedly looking at my scans and ended up concluding something the opposite of what the ER guy had already said, namely: that there were more stones.

But at least there’s a semi-happy ending, and my situation improved rapidly after the monster stone passed, so I cancelled my appointment with the highly recommended Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, but kept my flight to Thailand, albeit with some trepidation and plenty of duct tape and plaster. Did I mention that Thailand is my second home?

IMG_0518So here’s the final body count (in the style of Joe Bob Briggs’ Drive-in Movie Reviews) as of my last US health care engagement: 4 visits to the Emergency Room at an LA hospital, 3 visits to my primary health provider (formerly known as LA Free Clinic, on Hardwood Blvd, or something like that), 3 catheter insertions up my little thingie and into my bladder, 2 kidney stones passed, AND…

…2 bags of urine (my own, fortunately), in two separate instances, strapped to my leg as I walked around LA trying to make health-care connections that would likely be done for me in any civilized country, 2 blood tests, 2 visits to a quack urologist, 1 rectal exam (ooohhh), 1 visit to a laboratory specializing in the testing of body fluids…and a list of medications that includes, but is not limited to: hydrocodone, oxycodone, indomethecin, tamsulosin, ciprofloxacin, allopurinal…

…and now I deal with one of Chiang Rai, Thailand’s two urologists instead. Within five minutes, he’s got what looks like a flashlight, for ultrasound, held at my side and then my gut, quickly informing me that I’ve got another few stones—but none as large as Bertha—and no swollen prostate, or at least not much anyway, and gives me a canister of powder to be taken with water proportionately, in order to dissolve the remaining stones within two months (or dying trying), all for the cost of $35USD! How’s that for service?

Who says you can’t get a happy ending in Thailand without paying extra (I know: wait for the gravel to pass)? But that’s too easy! Why didn’t someone give me this five years ago, or fifteen, or twenty-five? So naturally I can’t settle for such ease and convenience in the running of my life and the dodging of health bullets. What to do?

IMG_0549Why, climb on top of a table of course, all for the tempting of fate and adjusting of some silly umbrella to reduce the amount of sunlight streaming in through the translucent roof pane midday, so as to cool the place off. No-brainer, right? Not the first two times, no, then the third time, oops: kachoom (cue ‘Chestnut Mare’ by the Byrds): “Above the clouds higher than eagles were gliding, Suspended in the sky. Over the moon, straight for the sun we were riding, My eyes were filled with light…”

Yes, time stands still when your body is flying through midair, especially when you know not the whys nor the wherefores, just waiting for the final body count and accident report from the relevant authorities. Craasshh!!  Fortunately my hip broke my fall long before my top half landed on my wrist, and there’s still a mark upper and lower to prove it. My little lady’s wrist feels a bit gnarly, but it’s not broken, think it’ll survive…

…until the next day, almost twenty-four hours to the minute, when it started hurting like un-holy Hell, swollen up double, and disabled to the point where I can’t even type, much less turn a car key.

“That’s weird,” the doctor says, upon hearing the story. “Do you have gout, by any chance? That would explain the delayed reaction.”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” How did he know that?

“We can X-ray it to make sure.”

“Yes, please, let’s do.”

A half hour and forty dollars later, I’ve got front and lateral X-ray views of my intact wrist, and a few pills to kill the infection and the pain, enough to last two days, all it should take.

“Come back if it’s not better in a day or two.”

“ขอบคุณมาก”

IMG_0550He nailed it. These guys are good, by experience if not high-pedigree. Who do you want handling your jet plane in an emergency, anyway, the pretty fly-boy with the tattoo and smart-phone or the battle-hardened veteran with the tattoo and joy-stick? I’m so impressed, I might even follow his advice of ‘no chicken’ for gout, which they all say, but I’ve never believed it, as it’s in none of the Western literature. I’ve been chastened and christened anew…

BTW: In addition to Thailand, there is also good-quality reasonably-priced health care available in India and elsewhere. But an American really shouldn’t overlook nearby Mexico, which is almost too obvious and equally low-priced. In fact, it may be as close as your local Chinatown or something such, if you’re fortunate enough to live in a diverse area…

Actually, I can hardly imagine living anywhere in the US except close to the border, for that very reason if nothing else. But Obamacare is okay if you’ve got the subsidized freebie version. Stay healthy—and go easy on the ayahuasca. Remember: it’s only a drug….

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