Daily Archives: March 5, 2017

My Thai Emergency Room Experience

Yesterday, I was in a scooter accident that sent me to the emergency room. Click here to read the first slice about the accident.

After fighting stop and go traffic, where it took us 45 minutes to go the 5 miles to the hospital, we finally arrived. As soon as we stopped in front of the emergency room entrance, an orderly rushed out with a wheelchair, and I was promptly taken inside. Wheeling past the registration desk, I was taken to bed 7, and helped onto the gurney. Crying and unable to stay still, 2 nurses and a doctor were by my bedside in an instant. After ascertaining my personal information from my driver’s license and insurance card, they began checking my vitals and examining my wounds.

“Tell me what happened.” Through cries and fast, shallow breaths, I recounted the basics of the accident. Turned right in front of me…tried to stop…hit him…skidded on pavement…scooter landed on my ankle…I was wearing a helmet.

“We’ll need an x-ray to see if you’ve broken your ankle.” In preparation for the x-ray, the nurse laid pieces of gauze over my open wound. The simple act of placing feather-weight gauze on my ankle sent intense pain through my body. Clutching the bedrail, tears streaming down my face, I made them promise they wouldn’t clean the wound without first giving me pain meds. The thought of cleaning it without something to take the edge off was too unbearable to think about.

Another orderly appeared to wheel me to the x-ray room. Florescent lights streamed past, as we twisted and turned through hallways. As we entered the elevator, I thought, this must be what those patients on Grey’s Anatomy feel like. Only being able to look up, rather than forward, as you are wheeled through an unknown place creates another layer of anxiety of what’s to come.

In the x-ray room, the technician asked, “Have you dependency?”

With my face scrunched up, I asked, “What?”

“Have you dependency?”

“Do I have dependents? No, I’m single, no kids.”

“No…have you dependency?” This time, his question was accompanied by actions. Mimicking a pregnant belly, I finally understood.

“No, I’m not pregnant.”

Taking x-rays of my ankle in a couple positions, the process took just a couple of minutes. Then, we headed back to the E.R. where the real pain would soon begin.

The doctor, after having reviewed the x-rays, said the words I wanted to hear. “Your ankle’s not broken.” Thank God! According to her, there was damage to the soft tissue and muscles surrounding my ankle. I’d have to stay off of it for the next couple of weeks, but then I should be able to start putting weight on it again.

Per my request, I was given an injection of some pain medication, and told it would take effect in about 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, my pain had only reduced from an 8 to a 5, but the nurse said the cleaning had to happen in order to prevent infection. Preparing for a stream of saline, I clenched my teeth and held onto the bedrail.

What happened next was some of the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. The nurse began spraying a numbing chemical directly into the wound, sending a searing sensation through my body. Uncontrollably, I began screaming bloody murder, cursing, and kicking my good leg. Julie held my leg down, as I later found out, in an effort to prevent me from kicking the nurse in the head. Another nurse stroked my arm, telling me it was going to be okay. I didn’t believe a word she said. Following the nasty spray, I was doused in saline, and the nurse began scrubbing my wound. Yes, scrubbing my open wound. According to Julie, I must have taken the entire road with me, as dirt and debris poured out and onto the plastic mat underneath me. There was so much junk in there that halfway through, they had to change the mat beneath my leg. The same procedure was repeated with my toes, which had also, despite wearing tennis shoes, experienced gnarly road rash.

After the cleaning, they applied betadine and anitbiotic ointment before placing a special thin layer of gauze-like material designed to prevent the dressing from sticking to the wound. My ankle was then wrapped up in a layer of gauze, as were each of my toes, which now looked like white little sausages. My arm, which sustained a 5-inch long road rash burn on my elbow and forearm, now needed to be cleaned. The procedure, along with the pain, followed.

Once I’d calmed down, I was seen by an orthopedic doctor, based on my complaints about pain in my hip. After I told him my medical history with back pain (scoliosis and sciatica), he scheduled a follow-up appointment to see me in a week, saying that at this time, with the damage to my foot and leg, he would be unable to ascertain whether my hip pain was related to the injury or not. He was very knowledgeable and kind, and didn’t rush, which I really appreciated.

My wounds bandaged, I was taken in a wheelchair to the rehab wing of the hospital to be fitted with crutches. The nurse gave me some basic lessons on how to walk with crutches, and then I was given some time to practice. Leg first, then crutches, when going up the stairs. Crutches first when going down. Being on crutches is no joke! It’s super tough, and I’m really glad it’s only for a few weeks. I admire those who have to do it for longer.

Last up was the pharmacy, where I was given antibiotics to fight possible infection, muscle relaxers, pain medicine, and Tylenol in case of fever. All in all, I only had to pay for the crutches, ice packs, and meds, which totaled about $90. Insurance covered the rest (less than $200).

Before we left, we talked the orderly into wheeling me over to the Starbucks for an iced tea and a sweet treat. Yes, there is a Starbucks inside the hospital!

While I was still in pain, I was grateful for the kind and attentive doctors and nurses, and the high quality medical care I received. Oh, and I was super pumped that my ankle wasn’t broken!

I was a little worse for wear (okay, a lot worse), but here’s me on my way out of the hospital. I’ll spare you the gory photos of my foot. It’s a little hard to stomach.

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Well, that didn’t go as I had planned…

“Why don’t you come over to my place and we can drive over together?” Julie texted.

“Sure thing! I’ll be right over!” I replied, and then jumped on my motor scooter to make the less than 10 minute drive to her house. On the way through her neighborhood, I decided to stop at 7-11 for a bottle of water. Exploring a new market in Thailand was going to be fun, but it was also sure to be hot!

Only a couple of minutes away, I hopped back on, strapped on my helmet, and took off. At the last intersection before the turn onto Julie’s street, the one where I need to go straight through, I was riding in the middle of the road. There was a guy riding a scooter just ahead of me, driving along the left-hand side of the road. Without using his indicator, and most likely without looking, he made a right-hand turn directly in front of me.

Shit! Immediately slamming on the brakes only lessened the speed of the impact. It was all a blur, but after crashing into him, my bike skidded to the ground, taking my left ankle with it. On the ground, screaming and crying, I realized my ankle was pinned underneath my scooter, the weight crushing me. Between my screaming and a steady stream of expletives, I remember shouting, “Get it off! Get it off!”

The man I crashed into, apparently uninjured, came to my rescue and lifted the bike off my ankle. With the immediate danger gone, and the intense pain setting in, I continued screaming and crying. So much was happening at once, but suddenly, a few people were standing around me, seeming to have materialized out of thin air. A Thai woman, who spoke English, crouched down beside me and held my hand. She kept reassuring me, telling me to squeeze her hand as hard as I wanted if I was hurting. Another woman was standing there, and I remember shouting, “Get my phone! Get my phone! It’s in my green bag. Call Julie. She’s my friend.” After asking me the passcode for my phone, the kind woman called Julie to say that I’d been in an accident. A Thai man, who had obviously been on a run, asked me if my head was hurting, and when I responded that it wasn’t, he removed my helmet, presumably to help me breathe better, as I was hyperventilating. Another man, an American who teaches in the high school, stopped by, too. I remember him telling me that it wasn’t that bad and could definitely be worse.

In what seemed like a few minutes, Julie appeared in her car. A whirlwind of things happened all at once. Julie got the other driver’s information, after checking on me. The lovely Thai woman who held my hand drove my scooter over to Julie’s house. I was hoisted up by someone, I can’t remember who, into the back of Julie’s car. Crying and struggling to catch my breath, I looked at my ankle for the first time. Swollen to at least twice it’s normal size, with a mix of blood and dirt in a large open wound, I began praying that it wasn’t broken. It sure felt broken.

On the way to the hospital, Julie fought the Bangkok traffic, while simultaneously trying to distract me by talking about other things. I really appreciate all that she did for me, as well as all of the strangers who stopped to help me.

More on the Thai emergency room experience in tomorrow’s slice…

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