When I was 9 and living in California, I took a trip with my Dad to Thailand. It was his first trip back in 3 years and he was eager to meet with relatives and get some business done. Unfortunately, his plans were thwarted by Northwest Airlines. The flight was not cancelled, nor was it delayed. That would be too obvious. Northwest ruined his vacation in a very unusual way. They fed his 9 year old salmonella-laden pink chicken which led to intense (and I mean INTENSE) vomiting.
I landed at Don Muang airport in a rough state. I was a trooper though, and did my best to stay the course. As the days slipped by, it became evident that I could not keep anything down. My Aunt, concerned for my health, told my Dad to take me to the hospital.
“No”, he said. “They’ll put an IV in her. That’s not safe”. Instead, he booked us on the next flight back to San Francisco. Needless to say this did not inspire a lot of confidence in me about the Thai Healthcare system.
So, almost 15 years later (God, I’m old!) I found myself again in Thailand and in need of some medical assistance. Granted, there was no salmonella involved this time. In fact, all I really needed was an eye exam and some glasses. I had scheduled an appointment in London at Specsavers, but it was ages away and my Dad said that he was friends with a German-trained opthamologist. It sounded promising but I was still weary. Luckily for me, the Thai healthcare system has improved vastly over the past 15 years.
On a lovely Sunday morning we drove out to the Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat hospital in Nonthaburi, Bangkok. I didn’t know what to expect. In my mind I had visions of the hospital from M*A*S*H, complete with wounded Korean War soldiers, Hot Lips and Alan Alda. Alas, my imagination is a bit, well, ridiculous and I suppose I didn’t really have anything to worry about. When we entered the hospital it turned out to be a little more Grey’s Anatomy than M*A*S*H.
Was it a state-of-the-art glimmering building filed with Dr. McDreamys? No, but it was a clean and modern hospital that would certainly be on par with NHS hospitals in the UK and US military hospitals. The lighting was slightly dim (but energy saving!) and the walls could have used a new coat of paint, but there was nothing glaring to complain about.
The eye exam itself was surprisingly thorough and put my Dad back a whole $10 USD. The eye chart is made up completely of numbers so you don’t need to speak Thai in order to get your eyes examed. After the chart, a test for glaucoma and an examination by the opthamologist it was determined that I had astigmatism. Luckily, my doctor spoke fluent English and explained my condition to me very clearly. He then wrote up a prescription and I went back onto the main floor to choose my glasses.
The range of frames available wasn’t the greates, but included Versace, Levis, Espirit (I didn’t know half of these companies even made glasses), etc. Eventually I chose a suitable pair of frames and they were ready in about 15 minutes. So, after an hour, $30 USD and some unwarranted trepidation I was rewarded with the gift of sight.
In the future, I don’t think I will have any issues with going to a hospital in Thailand. I am realising more and more that even as someone who is familiar with Thailand and Thai culture (I’m half Thai), I still hold Western stigmas and I need to start reforming the way I think about the unknown.