My stomach and I have never really gotten along. In my second year of post secondary studies, its hatred for me amplified when I contracted the bacterium H-pylori, and was a bit to leisure searching for a diagnosis. I didn’t take it seriously when I’d land myself in the hospital with a bad hangover, or when I’d regurgitate my food mid sentence because of a burp. Instead I hoped that marijuana would be the cure -all for my symptoms and turned a shoulder to the issue. I had gotten way to familiar with my bathroom floor before finally getting to the bottom of the issue, almost a year later.
If I’m being honest here, let’s just say the indulgences of my 20 something life style may have had a direct influence on the way my body broke down that year. I binge drank my way through high school, and started experimenting as any University student does. I also, like most young females had my fair share of body issues, and may not have always given my body the proper nutrients its so rightfully deserved. Because of this bacterium I was underweight, my stomach bled from time to time, and I contracted a few ulcers. I did resolve the problem, but I struggled to get to get back to a healthy BMI.
I’m happy to say that my young and notorious lifestyle is now behind me, and I now conduct my life in an extremely healthy manner, eating the right foods, attending regular yoga classes, staying active, and I don’t party like a rock-star as much as I used to (what can I say though I’m still young ;)). But I’ve always known my stomach would get back at me one day, with a vengeance, for the hardship it endured at my hand. I did not however, expect the misfortune that took place on Koh Phi Phi during my adventure.
From the moment we set sail for Koh Phi Phi Don I was in complete wonderment. The boat made its way into the bay over transparent turquoise water, in front of us lay sparkling white curvy beaches nestled in front of luscious jungle vegetation. The dramatic limestone cliffs embraced us as we neared the pier, and even though the shoreline was extremely over crowded, it still appeared a tropical paradise. There are no roads on Koh Phi Phi Don, and subsequently no vehicles either. Everything is accessible by walking, and the entire traverse from the east to west end would take no more than an hour – though your likely to be distracted along the way as the strip resembles a maze framed by hundreds of attractions, shops and restaurants. For such a small space its actually quite overdeveloped, even after the rebuild following the Tsunami that tore through it in 2004. The beaches are absolutely exquisite, and the island itself is a tropical idyll, its hard to ever want to leave.
But hopefully for you, you never end up in their hospital.
Our first night there, I left the festivities early because my stomach was feeling unease and set out for bed. But as I tried to doze off couldn’t help but notice the rumble that took over my stomach and headed for the washroom. Ill spare you the details, but the extreme fluid loss I experienced for the next 2 hours sent me into a state of delirium before I called for Alexis to help. She immediately went next-door to grab Nick, and the two helped carry me to seek professional help. We hadn’t a clue where the hospital was at the time and the night was dark, it took 45 minutes to get there. I kept dry heaving the whole way, and nothing seemed to make it stop even though some of the helpful Thai women were shoving their remedies up my nose. The walk reminded me of a scary carnival maze of horrors, but the memory is such a blur as the dehydration had me confused and extremely out of it.
When we finally got there we were refused entry. Im not sure if they thought I was drunk, or that it wasn’t a serious issue, they simply kept repeating “doctor is no here”. Accepting defeat, I lied across a couple of chairs and started to cry, I knew there was no way I would make it back so I may as well sleep there and wait for a doctor. Nick demanded they get the doctor, and banged on her door when he found out she was merely sleeping in the other room. She finally came out to help and they put me on the hospital bed, stuck an IV in me to get my fluids back up and help with the vomiting, then started running some tests.
The scariest part of receiving health care in a foreign country, especially in a less developed area like on an island, is the language barrier. Doctors and Nurses can speak English, but not well. The doctor came back half hour later from running labs and said something like this “bad infection….. you, VERY bad infection.” I asked her to help me, see if she could administer antibiotics and let me go my way, but unfortunately I was required to stay overnight. She then said something that made little sense, but from what I gathered she was testing to see if I was allergic to the drugs she would hook to the IV (I never knew what drug it was, I still at this point didn’t even really know what kind of infection I had). I’m pretty good with needles. Obviously they’re uncomfortable, but I never scream out in agonizing pain – and that’s what I did that night. The pain from the needle sent me into such a fit of exasperation that it almost made Alexis throw up, and she had to leave the room. Shortly after, whatever was coming through the IV line began calming me down, and even making me sleepy. When it seemed like the needles were done, I told Alexis and Nick to get some sleep and come get me in the morning – there was no reason for them to have to sit and watch me overnight (Boy do I wish I could see into the future).
As soon as my friends left, the doctor followed, and the nurse asked me if I needed anything else. I didn’t at the time, and was so docile all I wanted to do was sleep, so they retreated as well after turning the air conditioning off and opening the windows. Now I’m not sure if they were trying to save money, or thought it was a good idea. But I woke up an hour later to the sounds of buzzing in my ears, and as I opened my eyes couldn’t help but notice all the mosquitoes attacking the arm that still had an IV in it. It was 3am, 40 degrees out, and all I had was a tiny blanket that couldn’t cover my whole body. I looked around for any sign of assistance- nothing. It was just me, alone with a needle probing out of my hand, hooked up to a drip, drowsy, confused, sore, and no one to help me from the attack of the mosquitoes. Alexis had taken my shoes, my wallet and passport in an effort to keep them from being stolen. The washroom I had to use was crawling with cockroaches and spiders, and the mosquitoes were still attacking me full force. I kept looking around for help, knocking on the doors I believed the nurses to be in. No one came to help. No one came to check on me at all. I tried to catch some sleep, but between the buzzing, the itching and the overall discomfort maybe saw an hour. I thought about ripping the IV out myself and making a run for it, but I had only seen that done in moves and was in no state to find my way home at 5 am. I relate the experience to a scene straight out of a saw movie, it was pure torture.
When the nurses finally came out of hiding at 7am the first thing they did before checking up on me was turn the air conditioning on, and close the window. Then one came over to me, stopped dead in her tracks, pointed to my face and said “oooooohhh bugbite”. I probably had 200 bites on my face and upper body combined. Turns out I was also allergic to these foreign insects and swelling was extremely evident at this point. They sent me on my way with a 400 dollar bill, and instructions to return every morning for the next 4 days for another antibiotic drip. The entire ordeal made me wish for my bed back home, it was the first time I doubted myself on the other side of the world.
There will always be bumps along the journey though, and as terrifying as it was it only took a day of recovery before I was glad I hadn’t flown home. The rest of our days were spent lazing around the beach, and spending our evenings watching movies in hammocks on the rooftop of banana bar which I have to say is a MUST if you ever head to Koh Phi Phi Don (then find the guy with dreads). Make sure you also take a day excursion around the sister islands, specifically one that brings you to the famous Maya Bay. The tour we hired also took us island hopping, cliff jumping, and snorkeling, we even got to take an evening swim with plankton that glow when in the dark.
If I learned anything from Phi Phi its that the simple things in life (and places like banana bar) are the best things. Oh, and try not to eat the seafood, don’t accidentally swallow the water, and DEFINITELY don’t underestimate the mosquitoes.