Wednesday, 6 December 2017

"I fainted in a burger shop after an overdose": 3 times I ended up in hospital abroad

Warning: Disgusting details and vomit-inducing stories ahead!

So, it turns out I have a habit of getting ill in the least convenient places in the world. Why? Well, read on to find out:

1. Yangon, Burma (2014).
Ah Burma: at the time it was possibly one of the most beautiful and friendly countries I had ever been to. But, with that said, it is not the type of place you want to have to end up taking a trip to the hospital. While the treatment is likely to be cheap, it will not necessarily be the best. 

So what happened? Well, I believe I was bitten by a spider (or spiders) in the Philippines, then every mosquito bite I got after that somehow got severely infected! I had about 10 of them over my body, and every time I accidentally knocked them against anything, the bites exploded and pus just went everywhere. It felt like they were never going to stop spreading and I was in a constant state of agony. 

After some internal debate on what was the best move, I was fortunate enough to track down an international private clinic. Here, I was treated by two doctors and a nurse, and it only cost £40 for the consultation, cleaning, dressing, and two swabs to be sent off and analysed. I was told not to leave Yangon for three days before my results came, but I had only gone to Burma to see Bagan, so I cut my trip there short and made it back in time for the results and medication. 

The worst part is that I had delayed my flight back to the UK for two weeks because I wanted to learn to dive in Koh Tao, but after developing this infection I was told not to go in water for one month - my hopes of diving were over! Thankfully, I ended up in Thailand back in the summer of 2016 and squeezed it in then, but it was very upsetting at the time (first world problems). I also still have the scars on my legs today. (Before and after pictured below).

2. Uyuni, Bolivia (2015).
This was, by far, the worst thing to have ever happened to me while travelling. A rural hospital in South America's poorest country. Anyway: it started off with me passing out and smashing my nose in my hostel and spending the following eight hours getting in and out of bed to vomit and cry. My travel companion and I assumed, at the time, it was altitude sickness. 

The following day we decided to book a tour to see the salt flats. Within an hour of being crammed into a Toyota land cruiser, I shouted at the driver to pull over and projectile vomited pink froth while opening the door. I ended up on my knees in the salt, crying my eyes out in pain, and covered in vomit while simultaneously having pooped myself. (Ok, definitely TMI, but yano, I want to show how unglamorous travel can be, and I did give a warning at the start!) Worst of all though, the driver said we couldn't return back to the town and that he would drop me off somewhere but a man would come and collect me twenty minutes later. Well... twenty minutes passed. Then an hour passed. Then four hours passed. I was curled up in a bundle, freezing cold in minus ten-celsius weather wearing just a jumper, and covered in filth. I honestly thought that nobody was coming and I was going to die of hypothermia! Eventually, the same guide that had left me there returned and everyone in the car just smiled at me as if they had the best day of their life while I wanted to die.

When we got back to the town, after vomiting several more times, I decided I could not do it anymore and that I would have to go to the hospital. There was only one in the area as Uyuni is a very very small place. The main problem I encountered was that I did not speak a word of Spanish, and they did not speak a word of English. With only a lonely planet translation book for assistance, we attempted to explain what was wrong, they did some tests and informed me I most likely had an intestinal infection and that it was food poisoning/ dodgy water or something like that. Honestly, I still do not know what it was as they were telling us in Spanish and we could not understand their explanation. The picture on the left is me waiting to be examined in the hospital! 

Anyway, they would not allow me to get the train that evening and insisted I went on a drip. They took me to a private room upstairs that had no heating in it. Given it was minus six degrees, I was still violently shaking despite the layers they had tried to put on me. The nurse stabbed me about four times before successfully finding a vein. The fluids made me very drowsy, and it felt so painful that it made my shaking worse. I woke up a few times in the night, but I did not have the energy to move so I just laid there in my vomit before I cried myself back to sleep. The next day passed and I could not move as I just laid there fading in and out of sleep as they pumped me with yet more drugs. In the evening, my friend (who also happened to be my ex-boyfriend), showered me and helped clean the vomit out of my hair as I couldn't put my arm in the water due to the drip.

I decided I had to leave the hospital, I needed to get to civilisation. We were due to get a train at midnight, but it was delayed till 5:30 am. We laid on the floor of the train station spooning for warmth - even his teeth were chattering and he was shaking, something I never thought I would see! After throwing up several more times, I finally fell asleep on the train. I had never been happier to see a capital city or to have a room to ourselves than I had that following day. I had not eaten anything in about four days, and I just wanted to go home right then and there. They tried to feed me at the hospital (pictured above) but I could not manage more than a spoonful before vomiting.  The hospital cost me around £300 in total, actually rather expensive for Bolivia! But then again, I had my own room overnight, and a million drugs. Overall though, I'm so glad I stayed and persevered though, we had a cracking trip. 

3. Baltimore, USA (2016).
Dancing, in heels, while drunk, on a sofa in a club in New York City. Need I say more? I will though. So yeah, it turns out that's a pretty terrible combination. I catastrophically fell off my 'dancing podium', known to most as a lounge sofa, and landed on my back - how? Well, I have no idea - honestly, I didn't remember doing it until the following morning when I could hardly move and my friend retold the story. Anyway, as days passed, I was struggling more and more, I was in increasing levels of pain and I did not know how to rectify it. 

By the time I got to Baltimore, I no longer wanted to leave my couchsurfing hosts house as the agony of putting on my backpack was too much to bear. As a result, I went to a place called 'Patient First', and was seen by a Doctor there. They couldn't find anything physically wrong, and so, in the classic American style, they just loaded me up with painkillers. I considered what they would do in the UK, and I knew the NHS would just say 'keep an eye on it, and come back if it gets any worse - just take paracetamol and ibuprofen in the meantime'. Not America though. What was I given?
  • 20 x Hydrocodone/ APAP (5MG/325MG).
  • 20 x Naproxen (500MG)
  • 15 x Cyclobenzaprine (10MG)
The doctor told me "Be careful though, as one is a narcotic and highly addictive. I'll give you twenty though as I don't want you to have to return. Right.... "Can I take them together?" I asked. "Yes, that's fine, just take as directed on the tub" he replied. That appointment and medication cost me around $250! That price was the discounted price too as I was paying upfront. Thank heavens for the NHS.

I actually did not find they particularly helped. They numbed me slightly, but that was about it, and I was paranoid about taking them so only used them in urgent situations, and avoided taking them all together. That was until... 

In Calgary, Canada, I was staying with a friend and popped one of each of my pills while he was out. I walked down to the local A+W burger store about four blocks from his house. Just as I was ordering, I felt myself go super dizzy, I clutched onto the serving bar and ended up slumping passed out momentarily in front of it. The staff suddenly panicked as they were clueless what had just happened as I lay on the floor of their shop. By the time I was able to stand up again and quickly neck some water, I decided I didn't want a burger as I was too embarrassed and just needed to get home. I was shaking with blurred vision the entire walk back and immediately hopped into the bathtub as I was boiling hot - I continued to shake for a while after it and decided to never ever trust American prescriptions again. In fact, after when I googled the combination, came up with a huge warning saying there was a major interaction between the Hydrocodone and Cyclobenzaprine that can cause central nervous system depression!

Have you ever been in hospital abroad? 
Leave me a comment and tell me your story!