Kylie Millar

Becoming a dengue veteran

Now we can trade war stories

On Tuesday morning both The Man and I were sent to the hospital from school when we both broke out in a strange rash, parts of me were swelling up and he was feeling rough. We chose a mid-range hospital (a lack of travel insurance helped us with that decision... note to self: renew travel insurance!); we didn't opt for the government offering of Hatyai Hospital (not purely based on snobbery but also because of waiting times, other people's experiences...) and also not opting for the most expensive but wonderfully luxurious Bangkok Hospital with its polished marble floors and chandeliers. We found ourselves at Rajyindee Hospital. After the initial greeting of nurses looking from one another urging the other to greet the farang...

You say hello.
No, you do it.
But it's your turn.
But we all know you watch those American TV shows.
What if they have some farang disease?
(all communicated through glances to the side and awkward facial expressions).

...a friendly English speaking nurse was hurried across to guide us through the process of registering and listing our ailments. She proclaimed that we should go to the skin doctor - AHA! A rash! How awful for you. We must send you to the cosmetic department at once! We managed to get it through to her it was the swelling and the feeling rough-ness that was the main concern and we were sent instead to a regular doctor.

The beauty of visiting a hospital in Thailand is the step-by-step process; this surely eases any potential confusion that could arise. So that was step one. We then moved on to step two. A new nurse, and a new table. Temperatures were taken and blood pressure (using a super cool MACHINE that I have never seen in all my NHS free health care life) and The Man was issued with an emergency paracetemol to combat a fever, that he must take now, in the style of a mental patient who might slip it to someone else or stash it.

A short wait followed, but we were entertained with one of many flat screen TVs showing a promotional video for the hospital akin to a shoddy episode of a hospital drama. At some point some classical music started blaring out across the waiting room which I thought was pretty over-loud until I realised that it was indeed a live quartet situated at the other end of the room - perhaps we misjudged this place - is there an ATM nearby? I worried that the 5000฿ that we had budgeted for our hospital visit might not be enough.

Step three of the process was a very well-spoken doctor who ordered for us to have blood tests to check for disease. They do love a disease here. Dengue fever was mentioned but I was still pretty sure that we had maybe caught something from the puppy.

Step four was blood tests - which for me would be a first (and subsequently, second as my miniscule veins were not giving enough in the first instance). I was glad this was a pretty posh hospital. Thoughts of Hepatitis and AIDS were reassured with cleanliness and freshly un-packaged needles. We were told there would be an hour wait, but this is Thailand so the doctor sent us off and out of the hospital to eat some lunch, because no matter how potentially sick you might be, food is always of utmost importance.

And so step five for us was an iced lemon tea and a sneaky ice cream for The Man (this would surely help to ease the fever) in a coffee shop. This definitely beats the 40p plastic-cupped, machine-made, tongue-burning ‘coffee' that we have to put up with back in the UK. Actually, at home I doubt the blood results would have been ready that day. I love the NHS, don't get me wrong, but things take a lot longer when you are serving the entire country free of charge.

Our sixth step was a return visit to the doctor who diagnosed us with Dengue fever. Bed rest was ordered for the rest of the week and sick notes were written for us to give to school. Once the formalities were out of the way the conversation mostly evolved around Arsenal football club. I guess he had had an hour to do a quick Google search on ‘conversation topics in English'.

The final step was payment and collection of drugs. It was cheap! A mere 630฿ each (which is about 12 GBP). There is no medication for Dengue so we were given some anti-histamines for the rash and other than that we would have to wait it out in bed.

Dengue fever is one of those things that I hadn't heard of previous to coming out to Thailand. It is the topic of cautionary tales of people being debilitated for weeks, plagued with a fever, unable to move. Nicknamed the Bone Breaking disease. Fellow teachers and expats who have been here for long enough each have their When I had Dengue stories akin to the Back in ‘Nam tales of an army veteran. I think we must have been lucky. Me more-so than The Man. He was definitely worse off than me (must be my wonderfully healthy body and lifestyle...!) with a temperature and generally being more ill.

I reckon when that infected mosquito managed to bite both of us he must have got The Man first, giving him a more potent dose of the wonderful disease. For me it was just like having a cold and a hangover combined. I was a bit headachy (I've had much worse migraines), the bones in my hands hurt and my back was very sore (but this was probably from laying down in bed so much). My rash was incredibly itchy and random fingers continued to swell but this was easily remedied by popping one of the anti-histamines and being dragged into a drowsy slumber.

We can now proudly join the ranks of the Dengue veterans. I'd best get fabricating some good Back in Dengue tales of my own. I don't think my accomplishments of being able to watch all four Pirates of the Caribbean movies, developing a new found obsession with Asia's Next Top Model or managing to sleep for 13 hours straight are quite going to cut it.

For more of my reflections on life in Thailand visit my personal blog.


Travel insurance? Get Thai health insurance!

Hospitals in Thailand are fine, in my experience.

By Mona, Thailand (14th August 2013)

I got dengue fever a few years back, nasty stuff, I don't recommend it.

By Jack, Out of the hosptial (13th August 2013)

A very interesting article and I am able to add a little something regarding the healthcare here. I too love the NHS but have to say that here things are much quicker if you select your target. As in the UK al the big hospitals are dealing with a lot of people. I generally use the smaller clinics which are similar to our local doctors surgeries back in the UK.
I have had several instances where I have sought their help and two of those visits stick in my mind. Visit one was due to a urinary infection which along with fever made me feel like, well very ill. Here is my visit broken down. Go to receptionist, tell her the symptoms, told to wait for doctor, go see doctor, he examines me wants urine test and x-ray in case of stones, go up one floor give urine sample, go up another floor and have an x-ray, return to waiting area, wait about 10 minutes called back to doctors office, the doctor already is sitting there with results of my urine sample and the x-rays. He deduces urine infection and gives me a prescription, go to pharmacy and prescription is filled. Go to pay, medications 100 baht urine test 60 baht x-ray 120 baht visit to doctor free. Total cost 280 baht, leave building. Time taken 58 minutes and I was better in 3 days now that's a health service I can live with.
Second visit ingrowing toe nail extremely painful, visit to little clinic on Sukhumvit 77 minor operation took 10 minutes cost 850 baht for operation dressings and medications, Instant relief and no more problems withthe toe. Thailand are bad at some things but they are getting it right with others. :)

By Jonathan, Thailand (11th August 2013)

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