I made my third and fourth trips to the hospital yesterday. And, jumping ahead a little in the stories, I woke up last night having nightmares about hospitals and medicine.
Yesterday was a long day.
About 7:45am I walked out to find the little boy with the burn. I piled into the car with him and his two older sisters, who both speak Burmese, and we headed off to the hospital to get his dressings changed.
They told us it opened at 8am, and I was trying to get an early start since I had somewhere to be at 8:45am.
But having lived in Thailand for a year and a half now, I should have known better.
It actually opened at 8:30am, at which point you have to get a plastic number, which are apparently worth running and scowling at the white person for. We ended up with Number 8.
(I would not have survived the Hunger Games.)
We then proceeded to sit for the next two hours waiting for our turn. I did get to see the Thai national anthem play: it plays every day at 8am and 6pm in more public areas of town that have televisions; mostly places I am not usually at these hours.
Stephen kindly came at 8:30am to take the truck to pick up volunteers and a Partners staff member to deliver them to our house. We had planned to do a health check with our neighborhood community.
I arrived around 10:30am, just as hand washing was in practice.
The next six hours were spent checking kids and families for ear infections, skin infections, scabies, school sores, lice, chest infections, and malnourishment. It was a great experience to reconnect with the families and bring some basic help. A visiting nurse from New Zealand, Ruth, worked with our medical staff coordinator, Hsar Paw, to take time with each child or mother. They had brought medicine with them, which we handed out with instructions in Burmese.
We found an upsetting amount of lice, but that doesn’t take much and didn’t surprise me. There were two ear infections, including one little sweetheart who cried when Ruth went to check his ears. She eventually had a look, determined it was an infection, and he promptly fell asleep exhausted in my lap. Probably one of the highlights of my day.
I’m not sure I’d call this a highlight, but another anecdote about the day: some of the antibiotics we were giving the families needed to be refrigerated. I was willing to have them come to our house to take them, but it seemed wise to ask if they had access to a fridge first. I asked Hsar Paw to ask them if they had a fridge. After asking, they responded very enthusiastically. Hsar Paw replied, “Yes, they would love to have a fridge!” I quickly explained that we weren’t actually giving away refrigerators today, but just wanted to see if they had access to one. They said yes, they had two, but another was welcomed. 🙂
By the end of the day Ruth & Hsar Paw had checked most of the children and many adults, maybe about forty? As we walked around the community to see if there was anyone else, someone mentioned a woman down the road that was having some issues. They went to get her, and she came up to the house obviously in pain. Her leg had been bitten by a dog yesterday, and it was quite clearly infected. Not only did it need to be cleaned, but she probably needed tetanus and rabies shots, too.
Thus, hospital trip number four arrived at my door. After coordinating to drop off Ruth and the volunteers from Arkansas, I headed off to the hospital with Hsar Paw and this elderly woman. And this is where the real adventure began.
The woman spoke Poh Karen, which is another dialect of Karen. Thus, although a few words are similar, we couldn’t really communicate. Thankfully, Hsar Paw knows five languages–yes, five–and Poh Karen is one of them.
I won’t go through all of the details of the hospital except this: I did get to see the Thai national anthem play again, which to me was simply a clear sign I should spend less time at the hospital. Oh, and rabies treatment is expensive, requires another four visits to the hospital, and appears very uncomfortable. Oh, my.
Around 7pm, Hsar Paw had to go pick up another woman and her baby who had just arrived from Chiang Mai after the baby went up for surgery. In the end, we had this younger mother with her two-month-old baby, this elderly woman, and I in the car. Hsar Paw left on her motorbike to go home. The plan was this: I drop off the mother & her baby at one home, stop by Hsar Paw’s house for medicine for the older woman, and then drop the older woman off at her house, which is very near to mine.
When we arrived at our first stop, I told the mother in Karen than she & her baby could get out to stay here. She said thank you and climbed out of the car. It was at this point that the older woman in the front seat began to stand up on the seat. I try to tell her to sit down, stay, wait, etc., but none of these seem to be the words that are the same between Sgaw Karen & Poh Karen. Or she was ignoring me.
Either way, I now have a very elderly woman standing the seat next to me.
She then starts climbing to the back seat, and eventually out of the car. I had no idea what she was doing, but I began to get out. She ran to the front of the car and looked around the corner of the road. She then ran to the back of the car and looked around that corner.
At this point I was thinking maybe she had to go to the bathroom or vomit. I decided to see what she was going to do, until she started to walk away, pointing, and said, “Hsa Thoo Lei?”
And it clicked. Hsa Thoo Lei is a migrant school right near our house; I realized she thinks I’ve taken her home but doesn’t know which way it is. In reality, we’re a good 5 kilometers from her house, and she won’t make it there in the dark and with the sense of direction I’m observing.
As she started to walk away, I tried to convince her to get back in the car. Fail.
I tred to call Hsar Paw and explain. This took a little while anyway, because Hsar Paw was trying to convince me it was okay for the mother and baby to get out of the car. It took a minute to explain it was the old woman I couldn’t get back in the truck.
There was a Karen man nearby, so I went for it. I tried to tell him in Karen that she speaks Poh Karen, and I don’t. I told him she thinks this is her house, and it’s not. And I really just need her to get back in the car and I’ll take her home!
And then he and I chased her around the car a few times trying to convince her to get in.
Eventually, she did, and I thanked him heartily.
When we got back to our house, she hopped out pretty quickly. She did thank us as she walked away, but I kind of wonder if she’ll come to the hospital with me next Monday for her next rabies treatment. I can’t say it seemed like a good experience for her.
Funnily enough, Stephen, having not been there for all of this, says to me, “Is she okay? She looks terrified.”