Saturday, October 24, 2009

Standardized Health Care

I know in the United States lately there has been a LOT of talk about standardizing healthcare and what the government should or shouldn't do etc. Well Chad and I had an experience with healthcare of our own on the other side of the world when we least expected it. Chad had decided one morning towards the end of our stay in Phuket to rent a surf board. We had rented surf boards in Costa Rica year before last and even though no one but Chad and our friend Casey even made it past the break, let alone had enough energy to actually surf, Chad wanted to try again. I decided to stay on the beach and read and ignore the dozens of Thai people trying to sell me stuff as they walked by. I blame these people for me actually missing the one time Chad actually made it on the surf board because I had my nose buried in a book. But he had the board rented for a few hours so he decided after trying it once why not try again. Now anyone who surfs will know there are certain conditions to which a beginner should surf in. Namely not red flag rip tides and preferrably early in the morning when the waves and tide are better. But this didn't stop chad from wanting to try. On his second try he got up on the board for a minute right before hitting the shore and then promptly fell off the board. Well the board ended up washing over him because of the way he fell and all I saw was chad fall, the surf board wash over him and then him emerge from the water. I thought, "oh good it didn't hit him!" but then I saw him reach behind his head and then blood just came pouring down his shoulders. Well I run over with a towel and see blood all over his back. I couldn't see the actual cut on his head just the blood. Well Chad was kind of in a daze and said he thought the fin caught him in the back of the head. You can just imagine how this attracted people running over to see what happened. A nice guy on the beach took the board for us and told us there was a doctor in the hotel on the beach directly behind us so I gathered all our stuff and took chad inside.
It's really never an ideal situation to get hurt on vacation but imagine being on an island on the other side of the world where you can't speak the language and the people can't speak yours. I was a little scared for what we were going to do to say the least. Unfortunately there wasn't a doctor in the hotel so we ended up paying a taxi to take us to the closest hospital which was in Patong. For 800baht he said he'd stay and wait for us until we were through so we agreed. The good part about going to the hospital was we got to see Patong which ended up being about 20 minutes away.
I always bring my insurance card when I travel but Chad doesn't and he wasn't on my insurance yet. Fortunately though I made sure we went to the hotel and got our passports and credit cards before heading to the ER because I had no idea what anything would cost or what they would need. The hopsital itself was nice enough. It was pretty large and fairly empty compared to the ER's I've been in here in the states. We went to the check in desk and they couldn't understand what we wanted so I pointed to chad's bloody head and that seemed to work. Most of the nurses spoke enough broken english to understand us and chad was immediately escorted to a hospital bed where they took his blood pressure then proceeded to shave his head to stich him up. He ended up with three stitches and it only took about 15 minutes. Then we we waited in the pharmacy area for him to get some anitbiotics and pain medicine which took no more than about 5 minutes. When it was time to pay, the bill ended up being $54. $54 for stitches and meds and everything!
All I can say is that I was very grateful for the standardized healthcare in Thailand. Not only did we get in and out of the hospital very fast, but we filled out virtually no paperwork and didn't have to present an insurance card or anything. Not only that but we were escorted right in and taken care of in less than an hour. That NEVER happens in the united states. Not even if you are bleeding. I don't know what we would have done if we had been anywhere else and this would have happened. I guess we were just really lucky as well that there was in fact a hospital nearby.
The bummer of the whole situation was that after that Chad couldn't go back in the water. Luckily we only had a few days left in Phuket and I had signed up for the elephant trek the next day and it rained so he didn't feel like he missed out on any swimming. If this had happened at the beginning of our trip it would have been a huge downer. I always travel with neosporin and bandaids too which ended up being a good thing since we needed those for Chad's head. Also I had brought some dry shampoo which he had to use since he couldn't wash his hair.
While I wouldn't want stitches on my face by just any random nurse at a hospital on the other side of the world, for chad's head it turned out they didn't do such a bad job and he didn't get an infection or anything else. I only wish people could come to our country and have the same treatment as we had over there in the "3rd world country." I know we are a long way from socializing health care but from our experience in Thailand it wasn't such a bad thing!
Hopefully our next vacation does not require surfing!

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