For weeks, my colleagues have urged me to try a private hospital in town, just for a second opinion. I've got time for swim lessons, reading books, and finding new smoothie shops, but not for private hospitals. Frankly, after dabbling in personal injury, I've got a sincere cynicism for physical therapy and tissue injury treatment. Boon agrees, these things just take time, and besides, three doctors in Vang Vieng Hospital already checked it out. But after five weeks, it's time to drag my stubborn butt to a hospital.
I walk into a clean white building, cheerfully decorated for Christmas, and sign in. I need my passport or work permit, and within five minutes, a nurse is telling me I can probably avoid the whole appointment by just doing some stretching exercises. Heifer, if stretching was working, would I be wasting my Wednesday here? I think to myself, but politely nod and ask if a doctor can review my Vang Vieng x-ray, just for shits and giggles.
A few minutes later, a boy in scrubs walks out to the waiting room, leans forward in a bow, and politely but pointedly asks me "So, the doctor you saw said your arm was not broken, right?"
He goes back to the triage room, and from what Boon can roughly translate, he's apparently really a doctor (just insanely young looking), and he's not sure what he's looking at. I'm called back, and the x-ray is displayed on a bright screen. I don't know anatomy, but I know children's art, and the shoulder bone looks like a little snow capped mountain. As in, there's a clear jagged line going across, which apparently is the fracture I got on the day of the incident. The one nobody told me about. The one I've been treating with tiger balm and gin.
After much talk, a second x-ray, confirming several times which shoulder is damaged, and another doctor's review, I get the call: yes, it was fractured, but it's basically healing back into place. An older doctor in the radiology department reviews the new x-ray with a nurse, and since I'm so clearly foreign, they speak in loud tones. All I catch is "Vang Vieng... falong... jeip kaan... ga-dai..." which I believe means "Crazy foreigner in party town hurt arm, it's ok." Just as he turns the corner, I see his smartphone: it's open to google, search "fractured shoulder." I know, because I was just on that google page, and I recognize the images of shoulder x-rays. This does not bode well for me.
A lovely elderly doctor eventually explains the mending process to me, assures me that it doesn't need to be re-broken or pinned, as it's healed back into place. Boon asks "so do you have a physical therapist you recommend? I used one for my torn rotator cuff in high school," and the doctor laughs like the good-natured Dr. Hubbard from the Simpsons. "We need a lot of doctors don't we... we don't have that here. Have you tried acupuncture?" and proceeds to draw a map for me of the acupuncturist he trusts. He just warns me, "it might look strange, just don't run away screaming, give it a try," and assures me they'll use fresh needles when I broach the subject of hepatitis.
|Boon and I create a homemade X-ray viewer|
I walked out with a bill of $47.00. I'll keep resting it and slathering on tiger balm. I'll go back in a month to take another x-ray and make sure I'm really on the mend, although the doc made it clear "if you feel fine, don't come back, you're probably fine." For the first time in my life, I really don't have any health insurance or way to wiggle under a family member's policy. I spent an hour and less than the price of my co-pay for treatment. I don't know what this would have cost me in Virginia. I don't have a conclusion yet, I don't know what I think about all of this.
And all I wanted to do was hike a mountain and swim in the blue lagoon...