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April 23, 2007

Going in Circles

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Hmm, its not a good sign that I’m writing from Bangkok again.  After going to the doctor for my ear last week I floated around northeast Thailand.  I don’t have my Thailand guidebook anymore since I didn’t expect to be back here so just did some searching on the internet to decide where to go.  The antibiotics that the doctor gave me got rid of the pain and pressure in the ear quickly, but it is still ringing all the time and has significantly reduced hearing. Because of this I was just trying to take it easy and get better.

Due to the recent new years many people had traveled to their families and the buses were packed.  I spent two hours standing on one before a seat became available.  I guessed there were about 70 seats on the bus and we must have started with about 40 more standing.  I seriously had room to put my two feet down and move them one inch in either direction while trying not to bang my head on hand rail up above.  Traveling has made me appreciate not being any taller and the amount of leg room on that bus had me uncomfortably pushing my knees into the seat in front of me.  Can’t imagine how anyone taller would have managed.

I ended up spending a few nights in Nong Khai, which is just south of the capital of Laos, Vientiane, but still in Thailand.  It was a relaxing place over looking the Mekong river.  I rented a bike one day and pedaled around following a map that I got from the guesthouse.  There was one wat which was just immaculately landscaped and maintained.  I can definitely see those monks come back as golf groundskeepers in their next lives.  By Friday me ear wasn’t getting any better with the ringing or hearing so I headed back to Ubon to keep the appointment with the ear specialist that had been made for me the previous week.

I showed up to the hospital and gave them my appointment card only to be told that “the doctor was not in Ubon”.  They never tried to say where he was or why they made an appointment for me if that was the case.  Once again the girls checking me in where far more interested in trying out there English than in finding me a doctor.  I was quickly getting frustrated and trying not to start worrying more about my ear and wasn’t in the mood for that reaction.  Eventually one of the nurses said they could put me in an ambulance and take me to another place where I could see the doctor.

I paid my $6 for the ambulance, which turned out to be a pickup with no hospital markings on it anywhere and was taken to a hearing aid center.  The driver and clinic workers seemed to be arguing about if that is where I was supposed to be while occasionally looking at me a laughing.  I was sitting there steaming and just kept saying doctor when they would look at me.  They got out their english crib sheet and after asking 5 times if I wanted a hearing test I could see they weren’t going to offer anything else.  I took the hearing test and guess what?  I can’t hear nearly as well out of my right ear as my left!?!?!  I never would have guessed.  They said it was bad enough that I was now allowed to see a doctor.  Gee, you mean someone is actually going to look in the ear I keep pointing at and saying is ringing and can’t hear?

They drove me a couple blocks (for free) to a little clinic where 5 minutes later I was told that I had a middle ear infection.  I didn’t understand most of the rest of it, but did get that is was caused from flying.  She never asked when I’d flown last (about 6 weeks ago).  I was just going through the motions with them at this point and had pretty much already decided to go to Bangkok and have it looked at.  I was given some more drugs there an antibacterial drug and sinus/running nose meds.

I went back to my room to get a bite eat and figure out just what to do.  Eventually settled on going to the internet place and trying to do some research on my own.  I found out that kids get ear infections all the time and usually they will go away one there own or after antibiotics.  Neither route had worked for me yet.  I also searched on the drugs I had just gotten and eventually found out that they weren’t recommended for people with Chrons or Ulcerative Colitis due to remote but potential side affects with the colon.  That settled matters and I went right to the train station to get an overnight train to Bangkok.  All they had was standing room only which I wasn’t about to do for 12 hours overnight.

At 5 the next morning I got up showered and went to the bus station, somehow it was a different one than I’d been to every other time in this town, but I bought a ticket for the next available bus, at 9:45, about 4 hours away.  After those 4 hours and about 9 on the bus I was in Bangkok.  I’d emailed the hostel I’d stayed at here before about getting a room, but hadn’t had a chance to check their response (I now know they never sent one).  It was so odd being back in Bangkok, both familiar after being here a couple of times and recognizing where I was and heading, but everything is so much bigger and moving faster than anything I’d seen in six weeks.

The hostel had a dorm room for which I wasn’t too worried about, their private rooms fill up about 2-3 weeks ahead of time, but the dorm doesn’t.  I slept like a log despite having 4 other people in the room one of whom left for a flight at 4am which I never even heard.  This was the first time in 6 weeks (since I was here last) that I’d slept in a room with AC or had hot water for my shower.  Surprisingly the shower felt nice, but I didn’t seem to stay any longer.  I thought they would have to pull me out of there.

I went to the hospital this morning and they are obviously set up for international patients.  I was directed to the international patients center which is across the atrium from their travel agency and next to the visa extension office.  Within 30 minutes I was seeing a doctor who told me that the little cold I’d had moved into my ear and is hanging out there.  He said that the other meds I’d gotten where ok to take and gave me two more.  One anti-inflammatory and one to help my stomach out with that one.  He said it would take a little bit of time but the ear is full of fluid deep in it and will drain eventually.

I would really like to get back to Laos and get to spend some time there before I have to leave, but am going to wait a couple of days to see how I and the ear react to the new medicines.  I have bought my tickets back to the US and leave in just of 3 three weeks from Bangkok so I really don’t need to hang out here just to see it again.  Trying to fly out from Vietnam was going to be too much of a hassle as I could only buy paper tickets and there was no where to get them near where I was.  Also, I didn’t know what was going on with the ear and still don’t for sure so Thailand seemed like the better choice to leave from.

I realize this blog is turning into medicalpod instead of travelpod again and wish it weren’t the case, but don’t seem to have any say in the matter (except for not writing).  There are still a few weeks left so hopefully I will get to see some new parts of the area and enjoy them.  At the moment though I’ve decided to focus on making sure I will be able to hear for a time longer than these few weeks and hope that works out for me.  After dealing with all medical issues I’ve had this year and previously you don’t always go to the doctor expecting to hear that they will take care of the problem.  Sometimes you hear this is what you have and how you will have to deal with it or we don’t know what you have, but here is what we are going to try.  Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case this time and I should be back on the road again soon.

Brian

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