August 20, 2015

Some Things are Just the Same Everywhere!

Everywhere you go, there you are.

I’m pretty sure I’ve started other entries this way, but today—my 28th birthday—it just seems like the right phrase. Or maybe this:

Everywhere you go, there are your ridiculous medical idiosyncrasies.

In general, I’m a super healthy person; however, vasovegal response is something that I’ve dealt with my entire adult life. Going to the doctor for shots or to get blood drawn is a huge ordeal for me because of my tendency to faint. Apparently, the stress of the procedure causes a spontaneous seizing up of the blood vessels in the brain, resulting in momentary loss of consciousness.

Today Alan and I had to get check-ups and some lab work at the Mae Fah Luang University Medical Center as part of the process to get our work permits. I was pretty nervous about the lab work, as I know what a pain in the ass my condition is for doctors and nurses. They give me a very routine shot or take some blood and I end up slumped on the floor, unconscious.

I explained to the staff that I at least needed to lay down so that if I fainted, I wouldn’t hurt myself.

The young female nurses, decked out in lavender and mint uniforms, braces, and hair-bows directed me to the Emergency Room so I could lay down. It was certainly an interesting choice for someone who is clearly squeamish about blood and the like.

Anyway, once I entered the ER, I removed my shoes and hopped onto an empty bed between two people with injuries that looked fairly serious. I’d guess one had a broken leg and the other had road rash from a motorbike crash. As the nurse had said a few minutes earlier, “You’re welcome to Thailand.” The grammatical and pragmatic mismatch of her utterance seemed somehow very fitting as the tourniquet was wound around my arm, protruding my veins for the draw (I’m a little squeamish just writing that).

I optimistically asked the nurse to also tell me my blood type after the draw because I honestly don’t know—I tried to test it in biology class during my undergraduate degree, but nearly fainted after not being able to draw any blood from a needle prick. I had to lay on one of the lab tables while my classmates fanned me. Very embarrassing. However, I had no problem dissecting a cat later in the semester. Weird how that works.

I didn’t mind the prick of the needle, and I thought I was in the clear as I laid a few minutes to rest afterward. I was still feeling a little car sick from the days’ previous adventure to Doi Tung (Royal Village) which awaits visitors at the end of a super curvy mountain road. I stood up, and made it back to where Alan was standing in the waiting room.

All was in order as Alan and I took seats on a long and cushioned bench to await the results of our blood and urine samples. As I stared at a sign announcing an “Influenza Corner” (what is that, anyway?) I felt a wave of nausea and heat. Instinctually, I tried to lay down in Alan’s lap to avoid the fainting crumple to the floor…

The next thing I remember was a vivid flash of images and coming back to reality totally disoriented. I guess I was out for at least 30 seconds before I awoke frightened and gasping to Thai nurses fanning me and asking in their sweet ways whether I was okay.

As per my usual modus operando, I thanked them, in Thai, and immediately moved to lie flat out on the hospital floor. Once on the floor, staring up at a graceful daddy long legs spider on the ceiling above me, I realized I was in Thailand, and that yet again, I fainted because of a needle-based procedure. Thailand is a beautiful place, but coming to in a Thai hospital is, how can I put this, probably NOT on my list of to-dos. The staff were a little horrified that I was on the floor, but they dealt with the large foreigner sprawled in front of their check-in desk pretty well. One of the male nurses loosened the side zipper of my dress pants and checked to whether the band of my bra might be too tight. It sounds a little weird, but I thought it was medically sound and a helpful gesture to ensure my proper blood flow. My blood pressure was found to be normal, and a fan was brought to help me stop sweating (my chronic issue in SE Asia, regardless of whether I’m passed out on a hospital floor). I had hot tears running out of my eyes from disorientation and embarrassment for causing such a spectacle.

For the next few minutes, I just laid on the floor trying to get my bearings. The tape holding the cotton ball to the offending needle mark was pulling too tightly, so I asked Alan to remove it. I stared up at the spider and wondered why this always happens. After what was probably 30 minutes on the floor, Alan helped me move the the bench. Shortly after that, our colleague arrived to pick us up. She was surprised to see how badly I was doing. I couldn’t even sit up because of the continuing nausea. Fortunately, we had to wait for the results anyway, so my need for rest wasn’t obtrusive…yet.

Once the doctor was ready to sign off on our paperwork, saying we were indeed “free from defect”—an irony not lost on me, the lady who is way too nauseous to even sit up—I became a bit more of a burden. I couldn’t sit without feeling the warm tingles of an impending faint or puke session.
Me and Zip the cat, chilling on the floor...

Ultimately, I ended up back in the ER to rest. A flamboyant nurse brought me water and a cold pack that actually seemed to speed my recovery pretty well. The doctor, on the other hand, decided that I had some exhaustion and electrolyte imbalances, so he prescribed two anti-barf meds and sent a few packets of rehydration mix home with me.

The short car ride between the Medical Center and our new on-campus digs was hellish. Every bump sent a wave of nausea through my entire body. Nevertheless, we made it, and we even stopped to pick up our freshly laundered sheets to go with the new mattress.

Alan set up the bed as quickly as he could so that I could lie down again. We also fixed me some of the rehydration drink, which seemed to help immediately. One thing that is very hard at the beginning of a trip to a very foreign place is knowing how to keep your body in balance, I’ve had two bouts of big jet lag and several long plane rides in the past two weeks, not to mention lots of sweating the moment we hit the ground in Thailand. My body has no idea what’s going on, and add to that some BBQ chicken assholes and a little carsickness—no wonder I was on the floor of a hospital.

The doctor did sign off on my bill of health, after asking whether I could be pregnant (I’m not). According to the tests, I don’t have a meth addiction or syphilis. Two pieces of good news (I wasn’t worried).

So, after three days in the country, I’ve already had lab work and two visits to the ER. The funny thing is, I still don’t know my blood type.