Emergency Surgery in Thailand: My Epic Ovarian Battle

surgery in thailand

foreign-correspondent badge finalI was on my second treatment plan for a relentless stomach ulcer, when overcome with cramps and excessive vomiting, I scrounged my way to the closest hospital, Bang Po. When I arrived at the ER, I told them I had a lot of stomach pain. It took about twenty minutes to see the only doctor working. They took an X-Ray and found lots of “free- floating fluid.” They said they would need a CT scan to figure out what it was. Then a surgeon came in and told me the CT scan was 2,000 baht which changed to 20,000 baht–at which point I thought maybe I should skip it.

Then the same surgeon said, “We need to monitor you over night and do a CT scan in the morning. In the meantime we want to monitor your urine.”

Then two nurses walked over with tubes and told me, “We want to do a catheter for your stay.”

“Mmm, I think maybe no.”

“Are you denying our recommended treatment?”

“Yes.”

The next day, they took me down for the CT scan that I couldn’t afford. They handed me a bottle of green water and told me to drink as much as possible. Then they told me they were going to put intravenous fluid through my veins while also putting a tube up my…you know. I was lethargic the entire time I stayed there, but when I learned what they were going to do, I flew upright and responded, “You want to do what?!?!”

“Your anus,” was the response.

“Oh, I cannot.” It was clear that the doctors hadn’t received this type of reaction before. Another doctor came out and said they could give me an ultrasound instead.

The ultrasound revealed that the free floating fluid was blood. There seemed to be a large amount surrounding my uterus as well as floating in my abdomen. This is when I got handed over to a gynecologist–my only English-speaking doctor. She gave me two ultrasounds and concluded that the blood was likely coming from an ovary as there may have been a burst cyst.

With only theories instead of diagnoses, I laid in bed for hours at a time, strapped to an IV and generally unhappy. Nurses came in and out to give me pills or sponge baths and never bothered to say which beforehand. One unlucky nurse came in to give me medication and I broke down crying when I couldn’t understand her. She had enough English to say “Oh no,” and at that moment, my Thai friend, Tan, walked through the door to see me in all my glory; sobbing in a hospital gown with hair days away from cleanliness. He restored my sanity for the next 24 hours, handled all of my insurance claims with the staff, and translated everything between the nurses and doctors and me.

The next morning, the gynecologist came in and told me she’d heard about me refusing the CT scan. She asked me to take it so they could check that it was an ovarian cyst rupture bleeding since there was a chance it could have been my pancreas or appendix.

Before I go on, I just want to say that there are certain things your body will never forgive you for. Human decency does not live in hospitals. I share this with you solely for your own entertainment.

As they wheeled me to the CT scanning room, I had reached a new low. I was depressed, lethargic, and dirty, and the only thing I could do was throw my hands up and say, “Fine, put the tube in my butt. I don’t even care anymore.”

Of course they built up to the back door business, first making me chug some fluid to highlight some organs, and then having run out of IV real estate, they put the IV in the side of my wrist. When they started to pump the medicine into my veins, it was so painful, I yelped like a dog that had been kicked in its ribs.

I can’t say what they did behind me, but four different people were doing it and when the scanning was over, I told them to get me out immediately. The nurses panicked and couldn’t get the IV out so they ended up ripping the cap off and my blood spewed all over the floor. I grabbed my IV and booked it to the bathroom.

That evening, the gynecologist said the CT scan showed my organs weren’t bleeding, but they still weren’t 100% sure if was an ovarian cyst rupture, so they needed to do surgery to clean out all the blood from my abdominal cavity and the clots around my ovaries. She said if they couldn’t clear the whole rupture and cyst they would have to take out the ovary as well. I cried again, but this time more on principle.

Before this, I had never spent a night in a hospital nor had surgery. The first few days in the hospital during which I couldn’t communicate with the staff were stressful and as I said, I had my breakdown. But after the gynecologist said they would do surgery, I felt relieved. There was no longer a sense of urgency or panic of not knowing. They were going to stop the bleeding, because it’s what had to be done. I could finally sit back and let someone else deal with it.

The following evening, I went into surgery at 6:30. The anesthesiologist spoke with me about ‘the risks’ saying, “It’s a medium surgery, not minor or major, so the risks are medium, just the risks of doing surgery. But you are the perfect candidate because you are healthy and young.” That was it. The financial team came in and handed me a note that read, ‘We take valuables in case of finance this.’ Having no idea what that meant, I handed over my rings expecting to never see them again.

Tan came in about ten minutes before the surgery and walked alongside as they wheeled me to the OR. In America, they put you to sleep before you go into the OR, but not in Thailand. I laid in the OR, as they strapped down my arms and covered me in a sheet. The room itself was freezing and there was nothing in the center of the room except me and the lights above that looked like they were from a 1970s dentist’s office. Only half the people in the room were wearing gloves when I got in and I could see a surgeon picking tools out of a bin and hear the clinking of the metal. I felt like I was in an Asian episode of Dexter.

Continue reading the fully uncensored version, on Kaytia’s blog here.

About Kaytia King

Kaytia KingKaytia started her more avid traveling career in 2010 with the study abroad program Semester at Sea that led her around the world. Since graduating from Colorado State University, she spent roughly a year and a half traveling and working in South East Asia. Most recently she has been traveling the northwest of South America.

You can read more about her travels and everyday struggles at thetravelingkaytia.blogspot.com.

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