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March 25, 2005

Friday's color is: Purple!

My swollen eye is healing slowly but surely. All I can say is, I'm glad I don't have to look at it. This morning it was a bright eggplant color. Really pretty, actually. Just in time for Easter. The swelling has reduced by more than half. And I did get some sleep last night.

A couple of the guys who saw me get bonked (and were pretty freaked by the swelling) were worried that I could have a hairline break in my cheekbone and insisted I go back for an x-ray. I didn't really think it was broken, and neither had the doctor yesterday, but I checked with Desert Rat Doc Martha via email, who said a picture of it wouldn't hurt, especially since a fracture in the sinus area could prevent me from flying safely.

A new friend, P'Tor, who works at the Center, found me a ride back to the clinic with Mimi and Krat. It turns out they are volunteering up the road with the guys I met at NATR last Sunday — small world, no?

To read more about adventures in Thai healthcare, please click continue below.

***Mimi is from Bangkok and has strong American English, which she has learned through three months of intensive self-study, mainly featuring films by Sandra Bullock. She has seen Miss Congeniality 2, a favorite, at least 8 times. The first few times she watches a movie, she turns on the Thai subtitles so she can learn the words. She also reads the entire newspaper in English — including the classifieds — as well as journaling daily in English, to improve her vocabulary.

The guys in the NATR office tease her by giving her tongue twisters to learn. She was like, "What is this 'Wood chuck chuck?' and 'Peter Pickle?'" I wrote some down for her so she could learn them. It was a riot hearing her practice. Her accent is perfectly American, she sounds like she's lived in the U.S. for a while. And she talks a mile a minute. Krat was harassing her for gossiping with me during the drive. She helped me with some translation at the reception desk at the clinic. Krat went to 7-Eleven and got us Pringles and Green Tea to pass the time.

We had to wait 30 minutes for the x-ray tech to get back from lunch, but after that, the whole process took only about an hour, including an initial consult from a doctor who thought I was fine but could still have the x-ray anyway, and a thoughtful consult from the radiologist (an M.D.) after the films were developed. He said there's no fracture and nothing abnormal going on, there's just some blood that needs to be absorbed under the skin, from my glasses hitting that magic spot below my eye.

Which, is pretty obvious just by looking at my face.

I had stopped at the ATM and withdrew the maximum amount, $300, to prepare for the medical visit. Total cost of the x-ray and consult: 590 bht, or $15. I don't think I'll even bother to claim it on my traveller's insurance.

An EMT here at the center who is passing through, said that the healthcare system in Thailand is a real source of national pride. The current king was born in the U.S. to a nurse mother and a doctor father, so healthcare has been important to him all his life. There are only about 4 med schools here, and all in major cities with on-the-job training in rural areas. The knowledge base is high, even when the available technology from clinic to clinic might not be the best. The EMT compared the Siriraj hospital in Bangkok to the Mayo clinic and said he'd prefer it to many U.S. hospitals.

For what that's worth. I felt well cared-for in my Eye Bonking Incident, with lots of support from new friends here.

We have rain again this afternoon, so I'm going to continue to take it easy for the rest of the day.

Posted by sedda at March 25, 2005 04:49 PM