Being sick is never fun. Being sick in a foreign country is especially not fun as the known cures and figuring out how to get better varies depending on culture and process.
I went to the Emergency Room in Nepal, after suffering from food poisoning, gastric then another bout of nausea, diarrhea and dehydration from not being able to keep sustenance in my body. Eventually my Mom called and convinced me to go and get at least an IV to jumpstart getting well again.
First of all, the Nepali people are very efficient. I walked into the Emergency Room and was shown a bed. A doctor came and spoke to me a few minutes later and treatment began immediately. Comparatively Nepalis do not have health insurance and costs are cheaper because the patient or family member get all the supplies in order for the hospital to keep supplies in stock.
Let me paint the scene. The Emergency Room is just that; a room with a reception and 6 beds with moveable curtains to obtain privacy at times. Each hospital bed is equipped with an IV pole and lined with a light blue fitted sheet, covered with a darker blue sheet that keeps it sanitary between patients. I rarely noticed them being changed unless some kind of body fluid made a stain.
My doctor asked me a variety of questions; what are my symptoms, how long have I had them and if I had taken anything for relief. I noticed he didn’t ask if I had any allergies, though I knew they wouldn’t be giving me any of them, so I didn’t offer the information. My blood pressure was taken and he listened to my chest and abdomen with his stethoscope. I was asked if I wanted a drip of saline and I agreed it would be helpful. He wrote up a list of supplies and Manish and Graham walked across the alley to pay and collect what was needed. The nurse came and drew blood, first asking if I had ever had an IV before. She allowed the fluid to drip onto the bed and floor until she knew there were no bubbles. Soon enough, I was hooked up and starting to feel a bit more hydrated. Manish and Graham arrived replenishing the supplies I was using; needles, tubes and a water bottle with fluid. They left again to grab food promising to check on me soon.
Conveniently, Manish’s girlfriend is the head nurse and she was calling to check on me and expedite my tests so I could get out of the hospital sooner. Finally the blood tests came back and the nurse handed me a small cup and an even smaller container to collect my urine and stool.
Here’s where I had to laugh, incredulously asking them, You want me to do WHAT.. in THAT?! They were indeed serious and pointed to the outside door, I traipsed out and around the corner where a small closet in the alley served as a bathroom, with no toilet paper or a place to wash hands. I did my duty, carefully and thankful for my days on a yoga mat while I balanced precariously as I peed in a tiny hole and used the small cup to collect a bit of whatever came out. I walked back into the hospital desperate to wash my hands.
I found a sink with no paper towels, or any towel and slinked back to bed #4 to wipe on the sheet, hoping whoever had been there previously wasn’t contagious.
I was hooked up to another IV and sent Manish and Graham back over to replace that fluid bag, this time it was only 100rs (about a dollar). We sped the drip up so I could leave sooner, but then waited for my doctor to return with the tests from my waste. As we waited, Graham walked over to the Orthopedic office to get an X-ray of his spine, sleeping meds and a variety of other pills the doctor didn’t hesitate to write him a script for. Twenty minutes later he arrived triumphant as I continued to wait. We waited for another hour before I got antsy and threatened to remove my own needle. Manish took my chart and walked to the doctor’s office across the alley demanding him to return and give prescriptions so I could leave.
About 10 minutes later, Manish returned leading my doctor who calmly and with a wonderful smile explained the medications and when to take them. He also suggested I only eat curd and bananas for a few days until my intestines could properly digest. I was finally released and walked up the block to the pharmacy where the pharmacist further explained my mystery drug, Cipro and probiotics, adding to my pile of electrolyte powder.
Once home, Graham made me a batch of powdered soup and boiling water, I took my meds and fell asleep. I now feel human again, able to eat and walk around without a terrible pain in my stomach. Manish jokes that I’m true Nepali now that I’ve survived Nepali Hospital and their medications.
There are many things that are expensive, strict rules and wait lines in the US, though I’m thankful for toilet paper, sterilized everything and a place to wash hands. In Nepal, everything must be paid for in the moment if you want treatment. It’s cheaper for me, but what if I hadn’t had the money, what if I had gotten even more sick from sitting next to a patient with a contagious disease?
I saw a man getting a blood transfusion while sitting in a chair, I witnessed a baby being shaken upside down in order to get him to quit coughing, a man threw up in a trash can while old men walking with their visible catheters to use the bathroom, not a single patient washed their hands upon the return. In fact I’m not even sure how often the nurses changed their gloves or the sheets on the beds and my curtains were constantly opened to remove any privacy I may have wanted. I watched as a nurse took the temperature of the violently coughing man in bed #5, afterward simply returning the thermometer to her pocket, nothing was sanitized.
In the paper I’m reading about how they have problems in hospitals outside the city where doctors will go on vacation leaving nobody to man the hospital and equipment too expensive to keep in working order. Dialysis is a common treatment while heart issues require expensive equipment. Miscarriages and pregnancies can be prevented easily by just making sure there is at least one doctor at each hospital. Ambulances are rare and can’t typically get through traffic, carrying many patients who die on their way for help.
I’m lucky as a foreigner who can afford the treatment, I had a translator and the head nurse on my side, luckily I wasn’t in a life threatening condition. I’m thankful to be healthy again and look forward to my next hospital experience, in the United States which is much more expensive though a lot more sanitary.