Pakse Hospital & Immediate Area! Sunday 26 - Friday 31 October 2008
Shortly after the last entry we had major dramas. Andrew's temperature shot up alarmingly and he began to have huge sweats followed by major chills. There were no hospitals around in the immediate area but the owner of the guesthouse took us to the home of the in-house doctor of a local electricity company. He couldn't speak any English but gave Andrew a drip and an injection which helped a bit. We went home only to be rushed back with worse symptoms. He recommended we return to the big hospital in Pakse which we did. Thankfully whilst health care in Laos is not particularly rated to say the least this hospital was only a few years old and a nice modern building. Andrew was in a very bad way by the time he was admitted. Blood tests confirmed he had the Vivex strain of malaria. A couple of days later further tests confirmed he also had typhoid….not doing things by half!
It was pretty scary for a while but once correctly diagnosed and on the right drugs he slowly improved day by day. Hospital in Laos was an experience and you realize why the extended family is as strong as it is here as you wouldn't like to be alone when ill. Nothing is provided by the authorities in hospital ..not food water soap or blankets. Thankfully we had our bedding in the truck and I moved into full Florence Nightingale mode for the duration but you'd be really stuck on your own!
You have to "pay as you go" for all services and whilst the cost isn't high at all by Western standards you need cash flow. The doctor comes round prescribes your medicine gives you a docket you go to stores buy it have the receipt stamped and return to the doctor with the drugs which are then administered. You also pay a daily fee for your bed. The difficulty we faced was that it was now Sunday night and we had next to no cash. For various reasons I can't use my keycard here and was waiting for Monday to hit the bank. There was no way we were to be allowed any credit for this period and I was really upset as it looked at one point that they'd refuse to treat Andrew till they were paid. Eventually I remembered a $20 USD note we'd kept and managed to change it (at a terrible rate of course!) which kept us afloat until the banks opened at 8am the next morning!
When an individual goes to hospital here the whole family move in! Andrew's room had 6 bed which when we arrived were all occupied. As well as the 5 other patients there were about 20 other occupants of the room. Wives kids and/or parents of the ill person all move in with cooking pots and sleeping mats so you could hardly move! Western concepts like visiting time don't really exist and it is constantly like Piccadilly Circus!
They were all very friendly but particularly as the hospital was in an area populated by hill tribes a lot of the people hadn't seem foreigners or falangs (as opposed to farangs in Thailand) before. This meant that poor Andrew was a big crowd puller and as he lay there sweating and fighting a 42 degree temperature he often had a room load of people gawking at him! When I came in with food they would crowd round to watch us eat which was a bit off putting to say the least!
Having spoken to some local ex-pats I did feel confident Andrew was getting good care in terms of the drugs administered. I did think about getting him transferred to Thailand where the hospitals are superb but at first he was too sick to travel and once he started rapidly improving it didn't seem necessary.
So, another experience you don't get in the guide books!! Andrew now feels 100% better and is back to his old self though we are taking it fairly easy and trying not to tire him at all whilst he rebuilds his strength.
On Friday 31 we once again hit the road stopping first at the Wat where we camped previously to say hello to the monks. I climbed to the top to see the view over the surrounding area which was striking; Andrew gave it a miss as it was pretty steep. So after spending longer in Pakse than we ever dreamed of we finally began the trip north to the Savannakhet province on our way to Vientiane.