Good Morning Viet Nam

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Onward and Upward

Saw the doctor for the last time here at Bumrungrad and was dismissed in record time, 11 minutes. Everything looks great. So now it is off to the airport for my 6:30P flight. But seeing how it is only 10:30A, will hang out in the lobby as long as I can stand it before heading to the airport. Not much else to report. Let the journey begin! See you all soon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Living the High-Life

Nearly burst at the seams, as I was sitting in a taxi and stuck in a major traffic jam near the hospital, when I remembered my original crack-induced thought that I would be completely fine just hanging out in Bangkok for two weeks waiting for the doctors to give me the "Okay" to start building houses down south. Loved observing Bangkok from the 9th floor so much more than actually living it down here on the streets. Wow is all I have to say.

But on the whole, it is so wonderful to be back in the real world, regardless of how crazy this city may be. I honestly don't know why I love it here on Khao San Rd, as it is Bangkok's Bourbon Street full of debauchery and falang, but the people watching is one of a kind here. And that may be due solely to the fact that I am still on heavy antibiotics.

After the taxi dropped me off on this lovely street, I quickly found a room at the same hotel I stayed in last time I was here in December. Wanted to try to find a slightly more upscale hotel, but opted to go with what I knew, and now wonder if an upscale place even exists on Khao San Rd. But I love the fact that I was given the "quietest" room they have by default. While my room is the size of a closet, doesn't have any windows nor AC, and is the furthest from the street, it is clean and rodent-free and definelty doable for 2 nights. Needless to say, showering three times a day is a necessity as it is so bloody hot in my room. And the fact that I have just woken up from a 10-hour slumber, my personal best here in SE Asia, is kind of surprising, given the conditions. I guess my body just really needed to recoup, regardless of any conditions, before the long journey home. And even though I just grabbed breakfast with Peter, I am still out of it and sluggish and have decided to cancel my artistic adventure at the National Museum as originally planned. Just hanging out at cafes slugging down Thailand's yummy fruit shakes and people watching sounds much more my cup of tea for my final day here.

And as for my arm, it's healing nicely, I presume. I can't really see it as they bandaged it up pretty good and water tight. But the fact that I am still in absolutely no-pain has to be a good sign. Am stopping by the hospital tomorrow to have the doctor have a final look before I fly to Saigon for the night. And then I'll be Stateside. That's just a little bizarre.

That's it from here. I will be posting tomorrow from the hospital before I leave for the airport and embark on a couple of blogless days. Off to nap!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

All Revved Up With No Place To Go

Got the "You're free to roam Bangkok" statement from the doc today in my 6:50A wake up call. Needless to say, I was disturbed from a deep slumber and wasn't processing everything at my normal speed. My reply made him think that I wasn't ready to blow this joint, and thus he added that I could leave tomorrow if I wanted. As I went back to sleep, I was almost certain that I would need a whole day to prep and enjoy my final moments at the Hospital Hilton. I clearly just wasn't awake yet. So it's now 10:45A and all of my bags, so glad that I am back down to the one pack I originally came here with!, are packed but I am still being held prisoner here in the mall area. Am now waiting to hear back from my insurance, as my actual bill exceeds the estimated amount. Hopefully I can meander my way to Khao San Rd sometime this afternoon. But in the meantime, what better way to pass the time than blog?!

When I enquired as to what my phone bill came to, I am happy to report that I didn't even bat an eyelash when I figured that my personal expenses are 1/14th of my total hospital bill. Personal expenses entail phone and net. I am guessing that my insurance will not cover that portion of the bill, as in their fax they said they would be covering only medical expenses, but it can't hurt to try. Perhaps whoever receives my fax will be in a really good mood and decide that I am worth it. But regardless, I cannot tell you how much each of my conversations with you all meant to me. PRICELESS! Who wouldn't take full advantage of a quick, easy, clear phone connection that makes friends and family seem so much closer than they really are?!

Everyone on the 9th floor is sad to see me go. It's very touching. Even the woman who always brings in my hospital food tray was sad to learn that this was my final meal. I truly have been blessed with the most wonderful nurses, doctors, and staff here and can't thank them enough.

Have run out of things to report. No I haven't. Booked all of my tickets last night and it's definetly a go for Saturday. Forgot that Easter was this Sunday, and that being a very big travel day, but luckily got one of the last 3 spots on Southwest's N/S flight from LA landing me in KC at 7:30P.

While actually getting back to KC was relatively a painless process to book, and hopefully the 20 hour journey will be equally so, moving back into my aparment is not so. Just heard from my landlord today that I will have to sign another 6 or 12 month lease, even though there are still 3 months left on my lease, to move back into my apartment that is no longer mine. Argh! So frustrating that they have covered their bases so well. But alas, 6 months puts me out of the Locarno in September, and summer is the best time to be on the Plaza. Always a drama....

Okay, have really run out of things to report. Am signing off, but will check in before I leave BKK Friday afternoon! Swasdee Ka.

Homeward Bound

And no worries, I WILL be bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to find me some Easter eggs! Just booked a ticket this morning and am happy to report that I will officially be Stateside as of noon this Saturday. Ready for the abbreviated itinerary? It's a doosy, but goes like this:
Bangkok-Saigon(Friday March 25)
Saigon-Taipei-LA-KC (Saturday March 26)
Estimated total flying time: 18hours

Looking forward to that adventure! Save the best for last. Love that. The main thing is that I will be home very soon! Got the docs seal of approval to leave on Saturday and iill send out the official intinerary, with numbers and actual times, before I leave.

While that is very exciting news on this end, the highlight of my day today was when a Pai-friend, Peter, came and visited me here in paradise. Needless to say, he experienced culture shock and called this joint beyond first world. Just so surreal to be here in Thailand but feel as though I am in the States. Am wondering if I will experience a bit of culture shock when I spend the night in Bangkok before I leave. But Khao San Rd is uber falang infiltrated as well, reminds me of New Orleans, and thus am expecting minimal shock factor. Hopefully Peter and I will connect, out of the hospital, before we both fly out on Friday. Regardless, it was so so so good to see another familiar face today. And as he can attest, I talked his ear off.

That's all from here. Am loving all of the thoughts and emails you all are sending me! Look forward to being home soon. Ciao.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Clearance, Clarance!

LOVE that flick, as it is one of Chevy Chase's finer moments. That's right kids, all systems are a go and I am proud to report that the gaping wound in my right forearm is now sewn shut with 9 beautiful stitches!! Couldn't remember what they told me last night upon my waking up from the anesthesia, and had to ask several nurses this morning if I got stitches or not. Of course, they all gave me conflicting answers and I had to wait until my dressing was changed to see if I actually did receive stitches or a 3rd debridement. Was relieved when the mirror revealed the stitches.

The "operation" went very smoothly last night and upon my arrival in the patients-waiting-to-be-operated-on waiting room, the anesthesiologist was by my side explaining how the whole procedure was done entirely for my comfort and there was no danger. When I told him my fear/belief about being put under, he merely smiled and told me not to worry.

Today has been a low-key day where I have basically not moved from my bed as my body is recouperating from all the doses of anesthesia it has received in the last 2 weeks. Wut came by to say good-bye, and we all know how those are my forte. He's off to Krabi tomorrow and is looking forward to a vaca. It was a little wierd, as he has taken such good care of me, for me not to have been more animated, but I just couldn't hack it today.

Peter comes tomorrow, so that will be nice to see one more familiar face. Tonight I am going to attempt to tackle the airlines and see when I can fly out of here. The doc said I would be good to fly by Saturday. Here's hoping.....

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The surgeon just came in and looked at the wound and told me it looked really good. Seeing how something is definetly lost in translation on that one, as I have yet to look at it without being grossed out, I opted to trust the doctor's judgment without seeing for myself. So, does this mean it can be stitched up today, Doc? I think tomorrow is better. Um, okay. I just decided that I am going back to America as soon as I can book a ticket, and don't want to rush you by any means, but am kind of anxious to get back. No Krabi? he asks. No Krabi. He nods, and then leaves the room. Enter a nurse with two contracts for me to sign. One being for my 3rd operation. I had to clarify that receiving stitches was an operation. Yes, it is. But the second contract for me to sign was for local anesthesia. What?! Um, why do I need to be put under to receive stitches? She didn't know. And thus, since my prior conscious stitch-receiving experience was when I was in the second grade, while that was a lifetime ago, I do remember not being put under for that. Thus I asked to talk to the doctor before I signed anything.

The doctor quickly phoned my room and explained that a 3rd debridement might be necessary since the cut is so deep, but they wouldn't know for sure until I was on the cold table. Okay, so what you're saying is that if the wound looks as great as everyone has been telling me it is, that I will just receive a suture, and not really need to be put under, but if there is still some dirt and bacteria remaining, you will scrape that off and potentially wait a few more days to make sure you got everything before you close up the wound, in which case I will need to be put under, right? Bingo. While I love being put under because it is one of the deepest sleeps I can't ever remember, I do recall my college boyfriend, whose father was an anesthesiologist, telling me that every time one goes under there is a slim possiblity the patient might die. That is why being an anthesiologist is one of the most stressful jobs. But now that I know the big picture and that there is a possibility for another lovely debridement, should it be necessary, I am feeling better and signed the anesthesia contract. Then I quickly tabulated that anesthesia equals IV, but had to ask the nurse for varification. NO! Why am I always right?! Usually it's a blessing, but today it's a curse. Argh. My days of IV freedom are over, and as it is, I only have 20 more minutes left before I have to report back to my suite for them to stick yet one more of my precious veins.

But we are focusing on the positive and hopefully when I wake up TONIGHT, they bumped it up to tonight instead of tomorrow, this case will be closed. Stay tuned.....

Basic Instinct

Did I say August? I meant April, perhaps I'll even be back before March is through if I can swing it. That was a no-brainer. Yesterday was "trying on decisions" and the "Going Home" outfit fit so well that "Staying in Thailand" didn't really stand a chance. Honestly, I was so excited and in such a good mood yesterday that I completely forgot I still have an open wound. Wanted to sleep on it to make sure I felt as happy with my decision in the morning, and am relieved to report that I did.

Seeing how I was a P.E. teacher in my former life, I gave Thailand a fair shot. I did some research for other various volunteer organizations, but when it came down to it, I couldn't ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach that I had when I read the job descriptions. And seeing how I am a firm believer in the fact that one's instincts are ALWAYS 110% correct, I have to follow my gut on this one.

While I was elated to finally come to that decision yesterday, it took me a while to actually be comfortable with it. Before I left, I thought that I could only return when I had intercepted a vision, goal, and direction as to what to do with my life. Seeing how I have none of those right now, I didn't think home was an option. Nobody wants to be a failure, and the fact that I will have been gone for only 5 months instead of my allotted 12, is only one of the many ways, in my head, that I have failed. BUT upon further thought, I have realized that while I don't know what I am going to do when I get home, I do know who I am. That has been the biggest lesson of this trip. Not only do I know who I am, but I am also comfortable in my own skin, which is a very nice change. And I know that what I want to do will eventually fall into place, but for the time being I just want to have some fun.

Has she totally gone off the deep end on those antibiotics?! Nope. As they say in Vietnam, "Same same, but different".

Friday, March 18, 2005

Free At Last, Free At Last...

As Dr. King Jr put so eloquently, "Thank God almighty I am free at last!" Can I get a "Whoop Whoop"?! Hell ya, your favorite patient is finally IV-free and running wild all over the hospital. I think there was something lost in translation, however, as 7 days in Thai really means 9 days in reality. But regardless, I am now on oral meds and couldn't be happier, at least for now. The doc stopped by today and asked how my legs felt. Um, fine, but they have always felt fine. Right, what about your arm? It's fine as well. Well the wound looks good and is free of any puss or white stuff. (He didn't actually see my wound as the nurse had changed the dressing an hour before he dropped in). Good, does that mean it can be stitched up? You'll have to ask the surgeon that. Excellent. But no worries, this is not my main doctor, I have only seen him twice, whereas I see my surgeon and other doctor every day. And don't ask silly questions, such as, what are their names? Because I have no idea as to their names or even how to pronounce them. The main thing is that I see the same faces every day and they know my name.

Who knows when I will actually get this puppy closed up, but my self-prognosis is that it will be sometime tomorrow. And then hopefully I will be able to check out of the hotel later in the week.

In other exciting news, I am thrilled beyond belief as to everyone's support and encouragement! Thank you for all of the emails, calls, cards, thoughts, and prayers you have been sending my way. It truly brightens my day and I cannot thank you enough. I've spent the last 3 hours, HAPPILY, responding to emails. Keep 'em coming!

Wut stopped by yesterday bearing gifts, 2 books, tea, and lots of batteries for my discman. I was ecstatic and very touched by the fact that he has taken such excellent care of me. He is now off to Pattaya for a music festival and then will head to Krabi on Tuesday.

What other exciting tidbits can I relay from the hospital? Um, not a whole lot other than the fact that I have received word from Habitat, informing me that for their first disaster relief house building team they are looking for skilled construction workers as the site might be dangerous for unskilled debutantes who are wanting to help. That officially shot down any remaining hopes of my actually getting to fulfill my lifelong dream of strapping on a toolbelt and hard hat. BUMMER! I guess I will have to focus my energy now on my second lifelong goal of being a contestant on "The Price is Right".

While I have gotten the strong vibe that volunteering for Habitat would not be in my best interest, I have explored other options that have been recommended by seasoned Tsunami volunteers. The only thing I found that sounds "safe" for a-newly-stitched-up-arm, and requires virtually no skill, is picking up trash on the beach. But trash has germs, and according to my internist at home, even though my cut will sufficiently be closed up enough to take out the stitches, infection can still work its way in somehow. While I hold onto the belief that my poor internist was held at gunpoint and forced to say such things by my mother who wishes me to return home, I have to admit the thought of coming home does sound rather pleasant. But alas, am going to sit on it a bit more, seeing how I have nothing but time, before I make any formal decision.

Okay, that officially brings you up to speed with me. Thanks again for all of the thoughts and know that I am returning them right back at ya! Cheerios with Fruit Loops and banana flavored milk.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I Never Thought It Would Come To This...

Prolifick blogging, that is. Of course that was my original intention of this blog, to keep you all updated on all of the wonderful temples, musuems, and monuments that I haven't been to, but since when do I actually follow through on an original plan?! Apparently now, as I have loads of time on my hands and will continue to do so for the next three weeks. So yes, stay tuned as I am blogging once, if not twice, a day.

I am settling into my hotel room well and even placed my Buddha of Peace figurine on the shelf. It's a miniature standing Buddha that was given to me as a parting gift from the LA monk at Wat Tam Wua. All of the nurses have said that it is good luck. When in Rome....

Yesterday spent most of the day enjoying in bed relaxing. So funny that my hospital bed really is the most comfortable bed I have slept on here in SE Asia. Think the adrenaline has finally worn off and my body is in desperate need of some R&R from the last week and a half's activities. Thus I am taking full advantage of the fact that I have nothing to do.

After the accident, when I was still in Laos, I was on auto-pilot survival mode as my body knew it needed to function normally until I got to a BKK hospital. Then when I checked in to Bumrungard, I was hit with a 3-day surge of pure adrenaline as I was beyond esctatic to be in such a first world environment. This is the most first world place I have been to in SE Asia. This is what I have been so homesick for, and thus only enhances the fact that I am taking my hospital stay so well. The dirty bamboo bungalow towns of Laos, that have no electricity, where Lara and I were tromping around just 2 weeks ago, seems like a lifetime ago. But now my adrenaline rush has finally faded and am beginning to think about life after the hospital. Talked to the doctor yesterday about it and let him know that I was in no rush to leave before I am ready. Also let him know that I am scared about life after the hospital. Unfortunately I couldn't keep it together on that statement, and despite my best efforts, the dam broke and a tear escaped. He quickly told me not to worry, patted me on the shoulder, and said that they would not stitch me up and kick me out. They are going to wait a couple of days before they stitch me up, and then will keep me here at least 3 more days after that. In that time, they will be able to see if there is any infection still in the wound, and if there is, take care of it. After that I will be free to go, but will need to come back for some outpatient checkups. I've already checked into hotels, and the hospital really does have a hotel, called the Bumrungard Residence, that is specifically for families of patients and people who come for outpatient procedures as well. They said I could stay there if I wanted. Seeing how it is close to the hospital, and I am sure it is clean, quiet, well-kept, it is a tempting offer. Especially since there won't be any Thai prostitutes with Western businessmen there. Love the booming sex industry here and while I no longer gawk at it, I still notice it.

After my chat with the doctor, I followed his perscription to take a walk around the hospital and garden, as a means to get out of my head. I even threw on my street clothes and looked so charming in my navy Dic the whale T-shirt, pink capri pants, running shoes, hospital bracelet, and IV receiver in my left hand. But it felt so good to be back in my clothes. Didn't know they were that stinky, though. They never were before, ah, but I was in the backpacker scene when I last wore them and everybody has stinky clothes, thus no one smells. Assured the nurses that I was just going down to McDonald's to get dinner and read my Vogue, and not leaving the building, and would be back in time for my 10PM session with the IV. It was the best escape I could have asked for and felt much better when I returned to my suite at 9pm and went to bed.

Wut is going to Krabi this Tuesday and really wants me to join him. At first it sounded like a great idea, a little R&R on the beach. But even if I am out in time, I discovered last night that I won't be in the zone, physically nor mentally, for Krabi. Ran the idea by the doc, and he said I could go without a problem, and would just have to go to a clinic down there to get my wound cleaned and the stitches taken out. Sounds easy enough, except that I have had indirect prior experience with medical clinics in southern Thailand and know that they all aren't as well run as Bumrungard Hospital. My roomate in Ko Samui, Christy, went to one for the needle that was stuck in her foot, this was before she knew it was a needle, and the clinic said they had taken care of it when in fact, they only made it worse. So that story is in the back of my mind, and along with the fact that I like to keep things simple, and really trust the staff here at BH, I decided I am going to stay here in BKK for the next two weeks until my stitches are taken out. Told Wut that when he called last night, and he understood completely.

Just found out that a friend from Pai is coming to Bangkok, a few days before he flies back to Germany, just to hang out with me. So nice of him to do that as it will be nice to see a familiar face.

So things are good, once again, with your favorite patient. After a good night's sleep am ready for my final day, HOPEFULLY!, on IV antibiotics. I am going to be doing back flips, literally, all over the hospital when they yank this thing out of me for good! You all have been so kind and supportive with keeping me in your thoughts and emails, and have asked to let you know if there is anything you can do. While I am in the best care possible over here and have everything I need, there is one thing that the hospital cannot provide, and that is a familiar voice from family and friends. Phone calls really do make my day, infact they are the highlight. Laughter is such good medicine for me. Wut has been such a good friend and come to see me almost every day. However, he, understandably, has plans this weekend and won't be around. It's going to be a long one, and I have lots of things to keep me busy, but I would love to talk to you. It's a 13-hour time difference from KC, so when it is 9pm in KC it is 10AM the next day here at the hospital. Bruce informed me that some calling plans are as inexpensive as 6-cents a minute. I know that is a better deal than the rate here at the hospital. So if you have a minute this weekend, I would love to hear what you are up to. 011-66-2-667-1981. Got to IV! Peace out, homies.