Alright, I know I had promised I’d post the next installment “tomorrow” — but an abundance of activities and some jet-lag seems to have gotten the better of me. However, I’m writing this next bit from within an awesome luxury bus from Singapore to Malacca, Malaysia, so I suppose it’s all working out well…
Once I landed in Bangkok, I was able to escape without a wheelchair escort. I may have neglected to mention this before, but my amazing French doctor had called ahead to the hospital, and, as I’m sure I *did* mention, medevacs to Bangkok are incredibly common. So common in fact that the hospital I was going to has their own pickup counter at ground transport at Bangkok International Airport.
After I made it through customs and scooped up my bag, I made my way to ground transport. Lo and behold, there really was a Bumrungrad International Hospital counter, and they *did* have my flight information. A shuttle transfer was waiting for me, as well as a dressing-down about skirting my wheelchair escort. Whoops.
The shuttle was smooth and I was brought to the emergency room entrance. They met me there with a wheelchair and a nurse…. I suppose they didn’t much trust me. After unloading both me and my bag, I was wheeled into the ER for triage/checkin.
Now, the story needs a weird pause here. I’m sure you’re thinking… how can this get weirder?
I assure you, it can.
Once I arrived in Bangkok, I had to text my father.
Sounds relatively normal, right?
Not for me.
I hadn’t spoken to my father in approximately two years, until the day before.
My father and I had been estranged, by my choice, for quite a while.
However, we were still connected on Facebook, and he saw that I was being evacuated to Bangkok. Where he just happened to be, on vacation. For the first time ever, even though he had been traveling to Singapore for work for the past 5-10 years. So, he reached out and asked if I wanted him to come to the hospital.
Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I did. I had chosen to remove him from my life and I didn’t want to make any changes that I might regret later, solely based on this situation.
And then I thought about it some more, and I realized that I was in Asia and about to be admitted to the hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, for an unknown reason.
So, I told my father that he could meet me in the hospital.
Told ya it was a weird pause. Anyway…. back to the regularly scheduled story.
I made it through triage and was brought up to a room on the third floor. Sometime after, my father arrived — I think I may have been sleeping when he showed up?
I slept a lot in the hospital. Frankly, this part of the story will be a bit weird since I don’t really remember all of it…
Essentially, I was assigned three doctors — an internist, an endocrinologist and another gastric specialist. There were tests…so many tests… more sonograms, a CT scan (with an enema at the same time — shoot me), until finally it was determined that I had a cyst on my right kidney. Once the doctors determined that, I was given a fine needle-aspiration during which I was asked to “describe the color!” of the 600ml of fluid being aspirated from my abdomen… (think a poland springs bottle, plus another 100ml). After the aspiration, I was put on an incredibly limited liquid diet for 24 hours to see if the cyst would re-fill… there were so many more tests. I was on a lot of sleeping medication, and when I wasn’t on food restrictions, my father and I ordered crazy delivery like “NY Bagels!” and “Chicago-Style Pizza!” to my hotel.
The whole situation was incredibly surreal. When I had been in the hospital for six days, and it looked like I wasn’t getting out that night, I called my best friend, Erica.
My health insurance had a clause called a “Companion Benefit” that could be activated in the event that you were hospitalized internationally for seven or more days. She had told her boss that it was possible that she might becoming to Bangkok to rescue me, but I don’t think he believed her until I called her that day to get her Passport number.
Within 24 hours, Erica was on her first international flight, heading to Thailand.
To rescue her best friend.
I can’t even begin to explain the relief.
Oh, did I mention that it was also over Christmas?
At 8.5days and a second fine-needle aspiration, I was discharged from the hospital.
However, I was not allowed to leave Bangkok, as my doctors wanted me to come in for observations in a week, to ensure that the cyst was not refilling. You see…they didn’t want to do full cyst-removal on me, but they also weren’t willing to clear me to fly home.
So… Erica and I were able to tour around Bangkok for seven days, as long as we took it pretty easy. Pretty easy is a relative description, right? Right.
I’ve been to Bangkok before, so we had a blast with me showing Erica around, me getting to see how BKK has changed since I’d last been there, and also spending a day renting a private driver and heading out of the city as well. We covered all of the major sights, from CentralWorld, to the floating Markets, to the red light district on an unforgettable night tour where we met some of the chillest, most awesome dudes imaginable (shoutout to our Canadians! <3 ).
Finally, the week was up and I headed back to the hospital for my observations.
I have the tests completed by some very pleasant nurses, and then am instructed to wait for my doctors to speak with me.
It’s at this point that I find out that my endocrinologist, aka the lead doctor on my case, has left for the New Year holiday for 2 weeks. My internist, the only doctor still in the area, refuses to clear me to come home. I ask him why, what’s the worst thing that will happen if I fly?
Well, your abdomen could hurt.
LET ME GO HOME!
After hours of arguing, he agrees to let me speak to another endocrinologist at the hospital, and agrees that if this doctor deems me safe to fly, then my paperwork will be signed and I will be released to evacuate home.
Hours go by waiting for this doctor.
I’m upset and frustrated.
Erica is worried because she *must* go home since she’s out of vacation days.
The whole thing is a gigantic mess.
Finally, the doctor has time to see me.
We talk for about five minutes, he reviews my charts and my recent tests, and he signs my evacuation paperwork.
Just like that, I’m discharged.
Of course, the drama isn’t over because now I have to deal with getting this paperwork to my insurer, and then there was an INSANE amount of drama with paying the hospital through my insurance (I ended up literally just walking out without paying… I figured, they had my information, they could call or bill me if necessary), but I. WAS. FREE.
Two days or so (I don’t remember exactly), Erica and I were on the same flight home, back to NJ. We had an amazing layover in Tokyo where we went insane with duty-free shopping and snacking, and then arrived, with an additional suitcase each in tow due to our Bangkok shopping sprees.
Erica’s fiance, John, met us at EWR, and there was an insane amount of hugging and rejoying.
The next night was New Year’s Eve, which I celebrated with my mom and grandparents. <3
The rest of the story is pretty smooth. I had called and registered for new American health insurance to start on January 1st, so I was able to get seen by a surgeon in the US within 2 weeks of arriving home. He agreed with the Thai doctors’ diagnosis of a cyst on my kidney, and we scheduled my surgery for the first week in February. Since it was laproscopic, I had to wait for the machinery to be available, which is why there was such a long wait.
Once the surgery was complete, I was discharged from the hospital within two days, and my amazing younger brother, Matt, came back to NJ from CA to help me out at home. I was SO thankful for him, since I was basically unable to move for the first few days.
That said, by March 5th, I was back in full form, skating with my roller derby team, the Garden State Rollergirls, in our season opener for 2016. (No, my surgeon was NOT thrilled about it.)
So, there you have it!
I’m overdue for a “baseline MRI” that I was supposed to get 6months post-surgery, and I have some cute little scars on my right stomach, and I’ve FINALLY typed this whole thing up… so I think I’m basically at the end of this story.
Thanks for reading, and in all seriousness, I HIGHLY recommend travel medical insurance. This situation had NOTHING TO DO with my travels, and I would have been out close to $20,000USD if I hadn’t had my insurance. If you have any questions about what I did, how I did it, or literally anything at all, feel free to comment or email me.
tl;dr: Bodies suck. No, I didn’t have a parasite from Africa. Get medical insurance when you travel. I’m fine now.