Saturday, September 24, 2011

It happened...

It took exactly 350 days of travel, but finally, it happened. Every traveler's (and parent's) dread. We had to make a trip to a hospital. A Nepali hospital. Just to clear it up from the beginning, it was nothing major and all is now well (ok, still on the mend). Almost a year of travel, the majority of it in Asia, and we figured we were safe. We had stomachs of steel. We figured wrong. It was myself (Kristen) that was the reason for the hospital rendezvous. This was surprising in its own, seeing as though we had long considered my stomach to be the stronger of the two. I was actually quite proud of my belly, showing no reaction over the last eleven months on the nights when poor Jonathan's little gut was rather violently disagreeing with our choice of dinner. It was waiting for its 'big' debut, I suppose.

I'll spare you all the gory details, though. To summarize, after almost two days (including the whhoooole, looooong night) of merciless diarrhea, a pounding headache, throwing up, exhaustion, sore bones, being starving but nauseous, taking turns sweating and shivering and generally rolling around moaning and whining, for both our benefits, we decided a visit to the Nepali hospital was in order. Its easy to get overwhelmed and a little paranoid when you get sick while traveling in Asia. There are just so many more things that could be wrong. And the infections or diseases that you could possibly get while traveling could not only put a damper on current travel, but also can affect you for the rest of your life! I could have malaria, or typhoid or dengue fever or hepatitis or giardia.... The symptoms are all quite similarly vague. 'You feel awful,' they might as well have written in the Health section of our guidebook.

Jonathan was fantastic. What a good nurse! He ran around buying me cold water and Sprite, he paced the restaurant while they made me toast, found boiled water to dissolve the re-hydration powder into, rubbed my back, fixed the fan, changed the channel on the TV and regaled me with stories from his frequent visits to the chemist (pharmacist). He had been looking for something for me to take to calm my pounding headache. No one knew what 'acetaminophen' (tylenol) was, so they gave him something called 'Nimesulide tablets,' which they said would clear my head. Being the good husband he is, he looked the pills up on the internet and discovered that this drug is banned in more countries than its not, including Canada, because of the severe damage it is known to cause to the liver! Guess we'll be flushing those... Back to the chemist. Did Jonathan want Codeine? Morphine? The pharmacists were trying to be helpful. You can get anything over the counter in these parts! Anyways, more research by Dr. Moon revealed that acetaminophen is also called paracetamol (good to know) and then, of course, it was easy to find. Five rupees for eight 500mg pills! That's literally almost free. I did the math. One pill costs $0.0085 Canadian. Not even a penny! Think of all the money these drug companies make in the West with the mark up that they sell it to us at!! Actually, I don't want to think about it.

So, back to the main event. Jonathan went to call our insurance company so that we could make a claim when we got home. We didn't know how much anything at the hospital was going to cost, and wanted to be sure we would be reimbursed, especially if it got pricey. Who knew, maybe even the hospital had 'tourist prices.' I had literally just, the other day, been thinking how lucky we were to have been traveling for so long and not had to go to a hospital. What a jinx. Our travel insurance is through Travel Cuts. When Jonathan got back to the room after phoning the insurance agent, he told me that he was incredibly impressed by the our plan's coverage (which we had partially forgot about) and the insurance agent on the phone, and that it was the best phone service he had ever received! He even talked to a real person after only three rings! That makes a difference to me. Anyways, everything was covered, we were set to go to the hospital and a taxi was on its way. Perfect.

Three hours in the hospital and we were on our way home with antibiotics for my dysentry. The doctors were great, spoke English and were helpful. The security guards lead us around like VIPs and never let Jonathan stand in line to pay for anything- they ushered him to the front every time (aka: an authorized butt.) The worst part about it all was the disgusting 'orange' flavoured re-hydration powder that the doctor insisted Jonathan mix into a litre of water for me (and then prescribed me THREE more packs to take home- great). This stuff is truly horrible. Ew! Ew! I think Jonathan enjoyed forcing me to gulp it down, 'for my own good.' Ew! Ew! Ew! Essentially, its salty water that is supposed to replenish all the stuff I have lost with the diarrhea...and, for the record they shouldn't be able to say that it is 'flavoured' anything other than gross. Ew! Isn't this what Gatorade is for? Electrolytes and all that jazz? Seriously, I want to know. Why can you buy morphine here and not Gatorade?!

Anyways, it might be of interest for any travellers who read our blog to know approximately how much such an adventure to a hospital in Nepal would cost (in Canadian dollars). We went to the Christian Mission Hospital ('We serve, but Jesus Saves' is their motto) in Tansen, recommended the super helpful owner of our guesthouse. The phone call to our insurance in Canada was supposed to be a collect call, but the Nepal operators weren't able to mediate one. Our hotel probably would have charged us the same price anyways, and regardless, it will still be reimbursed by the insurance.

Phone call to Insurance: $11.85 for 13min
Taxi (return) to the hospital: $6.85
Emergency Room fee: $3.08
Stool test cost: $0.82
One week of Antibiotics and horrible Re-Hydration packs: $2.05

Yes, ridiculously cheap (for us) but hopefully affordable for Nepalis. We had no idea what our trip to the hospital would cost. Turns out, not a lot. Ironically, the phone call to the insurance company was, by far, the most expensive part of the whole thing! Don't worry, we'll be making our $20 claim when we get home. Big bucks.
Well, that's why we have insurance, isn't it?

ps. We are in Nepal now, but our blog will be in India for about another month. What can we say, India is one very interesting country!

pps. Welcome Home Mom & Dad Moon!

ppps. Happy Birthday, Mandy!

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