Monday, September 7, 2009

Nontan and Hospital Visit

I just got back from my second homestay a couple days ago. Its been difficult to get these blogs done and alot has happened in the past 8 or so days. The group was split up into 3 groups and each group was sent to a different school. And then each person was assigned to a different student around 9-11 years old to spend 5 days with their respective families. My group was sent to the Nontan School not far from Khon Kaen University, only about an hour away.

My little brothers name is Tang, hes about 10 years old and a really sweet kid. My mothers name was Nok. And her husband ran a chicken rice stand not too far away from school. I stayed with them for about 5 days, each day I would ride on the moped to school with my host father. Buy breakfast at 7/11 and then walk to class. Each morning we had 4 hours of Thai followed by an orientation activity in the afternoon. Afterwards I would ride home with Tang, Ab nam (shower) and then go to the chicken stand to eat dinner. Often I would try to work with my host parents at the stand, they didnt allow me to do this the first day, but after I kept asking "Pom choy" (I help?) enough times they allowed me to work a bit. I was often very tired at this point of the night and waiting table was the last thing I wanted to do but I still wanted to experience what they did. They wouldnt let me work for more than an hour or too and then they would send me home with Tang so that I could "tom gan bang" - do homework.

I came to learn that my host parents worked incredibly hard. In the morning we all woke up around 630am. Then my brother would go off to school and my father off to open the chicken rice stand. My host mother would go to the local hospital where she worked mending laundry and scrubs. She would work there all day and then go to the chicken rice stand and wait tables. They would both work until 1 am everynight. Then come home to sleep only to wake up and start it over 5 hours later. This broke my heart, they were such sweet people, my host mom and Tang had a really good relationship. And they were always so good to me. Tang was very well behaved and worked very hard at school, at night he would often help me study my Thai and help me with my pronounciation.

I was just starting to become very comfortable with my new family when we were scheduled to leave for KKU. The house was alot more comfortable. I shared a decent sized bed with Tang, it was inside! and we even had a fan. The toilet and water buckets for showering were even inside as well this time. Life was pretty easy and I am not being sarcastic when I say that I was very comfortable there. Dousing oneself with cold water in the morning is not fun, but it gets easier, and with practice one can even learn to enjoy the process.

We came back to KKU, and the following day in class I was dismayed to realize I was not feeling terribly well. During a break a classmate felt my head and informed me the my skull was frighteningly hot. It turns out that I had a fever of about 103 degrees as well as a bowel infection (which explained the awful diarea). I was admitted to the hospital and was in a state of delusion on set by the extremely high fever. I dont speak much Thai but insisted on speaking as much Thai as I knew to all the doctors and nurses. I named my doctor Dr. Maw, Maw means doctor in Thai. I thought that Dr. Doctor was an appropriate name and made sure that everyone got to hear it and how funny I thought it was. Also for everyone's personal enrichment I decided it was my responsibility to list all of the colors in Thai as well as ask most of the nurses and attendees what they liked to do in the morning, "Don chao, wanee kun chu tom arai krap?". Answers were varied and I didn't understand them anway. My delerium quickly faded along with the notion that everyone was enjoying my antics after I was placed in a room.

I didnt have a very good time at the hospital. I guess Im just not much of a Hospital Guy. Also I dont speak much of the language, which makes very simple requests such as "may I please have another blanket? I am quite cold" and "may I have some water?" very difficult to communicate. The IV drip they put into my hand quickly irked me, its very difficult to get comfortable when you have something in your skin. Also I have seen many movies and episodes of CSI where people have died because an air bubble in the IV was passed into their veins, air in your blood is apparently fatal. So when I noticed air bubbles in my IV the next morning I became a little concerned. I flicked my IV tube a little to try and coax the bubbles up to the surface and away from my vulnerable veins. This backfired as the bubbles congregated into one large bubble that began moving swiftly towards my arm. I hurriedly pressed the button to call the nurse but decided she would not arrive in time and took matters into my own hands. The nurse opened my door and got to watch me pry the IV from my arm in a rather dramatic display of twisted tubing and spraying saline solution. I tried to tell her that I was about to die, that I had been in mortal peril. Air had been inches close to entering my veins where it would travel through my arteries up to my brain inducing a fatal stroke. I told her that I had just saved my own life. These words all fell upon deaf ears and my nurse quickly and quite curtly, I might add, replaced my IV and reprimanded me in Thai. I won that battle.

Every so often a team of nurses would enter my room, take my blood pressure and temperature and say nothing to me. I was quite feverish and out of it and never enjoyed these cold and informal encounters. Also the food was awful, I don't consider myself a picky eater and I genuinely enjoy Thai food. But when you have a 103 degree fever you are not always craving boiled rice, jellied mushrooms and steamed fish soup. I knew it was possible to get "western food" it was clearly labelled on the menu, and I very clearly indicated my desire for such items by pointing to the "fried egg" and "slice of bacon" on the slip of paper attached to my meal tray. My requests were always ignored without explanation, or at least without an english explanation. No one spoke english except Dr. Maw, but he was rarely seen. So when he came to see me the next day and my fever had gone down I knew it was time to negotiate for my release.
He agreed that if my fever didnt go back up in the afternoon I could go home. My temperature remained normal and I was free to go. This was a relief and Im sure it was also a relief for the hospital staff assigned to my room. Im still not sure if they allowed me to leave or if I was kicked out, Im happy either way.

The next week or so will be spent in Khon Kaen working on orientation for the upcoming units and classes. We have alot of assignments and projects to do and our days are all scheduled from 8 am until 6pm. Free time is a luxury we dont have right now, Im tired but happy.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom -
    Dad and I loved your blog - you look phenomenal, like this experience is really agreeing with you. (Loved your bright-colored shorts and fabric (?) shoes in one of the pix). We will send your blog link to A. Fran (and Dan of course). Keep posting and keep in touch. We love you and miss you a lot!
    Love your "American" Parents (Mom & Dad)
    P.S. I will also send your link to Joan Grant at Fairfield