Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Down with the Sickness

By Fiz

Traveling while sick sucks.  Few things are as disconcerting as feeling unwell in an unfamiliar place, where the doctors speak an unfamiliar language to one another, as if to spare you knowing what is making you feel like shit. 

Fortunately for us we didn’t get seriously sick till we arrived in India, where I do speak a bit of the language, Hindi.  It was in Varanasi, about 7 days into our stay, when it hit.  It started in the middle of the night, I woke up at some god awful hour and remember thinking that I was going to hurt in the morning.  Sure enough, I did.
Before my sitar lesson at 11:30 I had already vomited once and had 4 bouts of diarrhea.  Without going into the grizzly details, and believe me, you’re glad I’m sparing you, I was puking out my brains and shitting a steady stream for the rest of the day.  By 5 I conceded that I needed a doctor, so we called.

Now in India if you need a doctor to make a house call, make sure you call a good 2 hours before you actually think you will want to make the call. 

Like a proper Indian he said he would be there in less than an hour.  It was past 7 when he finally showed up, and the guest house staff had yelled at him at least once between 6 and 6:30.

‘You are sick.’ he declared authoritatively, like I needed him to tell me that.  He took my blood pressure and pulse, and said I was mildly dehydrated, and need an IV. And with that he sent for a nurse to come with an IV and a box full of everything imaginable.  Most of which I didn’t even use, but of course we had to pay for it all.

The nurse arrived another hour later and put the IV in and began prepping some injections for me.  When we asked what he was giving me he said “medicine”… no shit.
I asked again what it was, and got the same reply.  He eventually had to call the doctor as if to get permission to tell us what he was injecting me with.  Then we asked what the side effects were, and if it had any adverse reactions to what I take for my epilepsy, and he again had to call the doctor who instead of answering the question just said that it was all fine.  Eventually the doctor said that we didn’t find the medicine satisfactory so we should just go to the hospital. 

This went on for an hour.  Every time we asked the nurse anything he had to stop look at us confused and call the doctor.  On top of that he didn’t wash his hands once the entire time he was handling the shots or the drip or anything at all.  When he came the next day he actually blew his nose into his hand and rubbed it off on his pants and carried on changing the IV like nothing happened.  I was too shocked to say anything until it was done.  He was sick and he didn’t even wash his hands. Fucking asshole.

In fact the only time he did wash his hands was after he pulled the IV out.  The IV was in my arm for just shy of 2 days and I had been given 4000 mg of an anonymous antibiotic.  Then that evening we got on a 14 hr train to Delhi where family met us. 

And once there Kathleen promptly fell ill with the flu. 

Indians don’t understand the concept of having an upset stomach, which we both had.  They understand even less the idea of a restrictive diet not for weight loss.  So the very next day after we settled in with family, they serve very oily chicken.  I managed to avoid it, but Kathleen was guilted into eating to drumsticks.

Kathleen spent the entire night vomiting, the next day we took her to a clinic, and we hadn’t even finished telling the doctor what was wrong with her when he started telling the nurse to give Kathleen a shot.  Then it took another 5 minutes to find out what the shot was for, let alone what the name of the medication was called.
Then he gave us a list of things to buy from the pharmacy before he gave a lab order for a blood test. 

So when we got home less than 30 minutes after going in we look up what antibiotic he prescribed Kathleen on drugfacts.com and we find out that the drugs are for respiratory infection, and UTI’s.  WTF??

We thought we had made it clear that she had stomach problems.  On top of that the side effects of the drug were nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Which just so happened to be the major symptoms of whatever the hell had infected Kathleen to begin with. We called the doctor back and told him that we thought he gave us the wrong antibiotic, and he said he didn’t and left it at that.


Doctors here are terrible, they don’t really listen to what you say, and they act like you know nothing about health, and remedies.  But worst of all, you don’t feel like you can trust anybody, or feel comfortable or safe in anybodies hands.  The only comfort is that the needles come in packages so you can watch the nurse crack one open before the tip slides under your skin.  Also, they suck at taking blood, and giving shots.

In short, don’t get sick in India. It’s almost worth catching a quick flight to Bangkok if you feel yourself coming down with something serious.  Or try to track down a well known Ayurvedic doctor in the area.

Ah well, we are both on the mend, and hopefully we will be in Australia soon.

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