Injured Abroad

Normally I wouldn’t write a post about how I haven’t blogged regularly enough over the past week because, honestly, my mom is probably the only person who wants to hear the reason, however, the reason is what has inspired this post…so this time, I’m going to give you my excuse.

As my readers know, I’ve been on a 4 week holiday in South East Asia and it’s wrapping up today. My second to last stop was in Saigon, Vietnam. One of my take-a-ways was that Westerners are really the only people who call it Ho Chi Mein City and all of our guides and locals we met preferred Saigon. The other take-a-way was a shoulder injury. I’m really not sure what I did to hurt it, but the end result was an extremely painful shoulder and stiff neck. Well, I knew I wasn’t going to seek treatment in Vietnam so I decided to diagnose and treat myself. I got a massage and took some Advil. The next day it got worse, but we were flying out that night and I figured I’d get treatment in Thailand if it didn’t get better in a few days.

I continued with the self medication for several days – including New Years Eve & New Years Day – when I finally couldn’t take it anymore and saw a nurse at the hotel. She provided me some topical cream – something like Icy Hot and recommended a light massage. Everything seemed to hurt it, rolling over in my sleep, lifting up my bags, carrying my pocket book, and especially typing! Hence my excuse for missing a lot of blog posts this past week.

Another day went by and nothing improved. So when I finally got back to Bangkok I decided to see a doctor.

Many hotels, especially resorts, have an on-call or on-site nurse or nurse practitioner. Often times they can provide information assist with getting medications, etc… They can also contact a physician if necessary or direct you to a clinic or hospital. In the larger cities you have many more options.

Your hotel can help you connect with a doctor who speaks English and has Western training. Your embassy will have a list of clinics, hospitals and providers in the city. If you have friends, family or know people in the city they can be a good source of information as well.

I got a recommendation from the American Embassy and then asked the hotel to help me contact them. There is an organization in Thailand called Global Doctor and they provide 24-hour medical care. They have an office in Silom, one of the popular areas for tourists, and will come to your hotel.

First, I spoke to a doctor over the phone and explained my symptoms and what home remedies I had tried. After asking a few questions, he suggested that I see a doctor. Within an hour, the doctor was at my hotel. He was trained in Singapore and Europe and had a nurse with him as well. After examining my shoulder, doing a lot of test and asking me a ton of questions he explained that I most likely pulled a muscle in my shoulder. He prescribed several medicines, which he provided to me at a very reasonable cost, and gave me some directions.

The nurse prepared an invoice and the doctor prepared a form that I could submit to my insurance company. They take credit cards, which is extremely convenient. A 45 minute visit and 3 medicines cost me $175 USD.

Throughout the entire time the assistant duty manager at the Le Meridien stayed with me in case I needed any translation – the doctor spoke perfect English so I didn’t really need that – and to make sure everything went smoothly. The doctor had told me to take one of the medicines on a full stomach and the duty manager asked if I needed any food brought to the room so I could just rest my shoulder and asked that I call her if I needed anything. This is the type of customer service that keeps me loyal to the Le Meridien Bangkok.

Today the nurse called to check and see how I was feeling and she reminded me that just because I was feeling better today I shouldn’t over-do it. So this will be my only post today J I’m extremely glad that I finally decided to see a doctor because I can actually feel a difference today and I should be on the mend. So if you get hurt or sick away from home – a travel doctor can be just a call away.

If you get injured or become sick abroad there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Be prepared – get travel insurance! I tend to get insurance that covers emergent care and medical flight transport to a country of your choice. In S.E. Asia, I choose Singapore because medicine is very westernized, hospitals have a high standard of care and you don’t need a visa to get into the country.
  • Have a list of the medicines you’re currently taking and make sure you include the non-brand name. For example, you might list “Z-Pack” as an anti-biotic you’re taking, but some countries may not be familiar with that name, so you should also list it as Azithromycin, the actual drug name.
  • Have an emergency contact and list their phone number (with country code) and their email address.
  • Register with the State Department so that they can assist in case of emergencies and will have permission to speak with individuals you authorize.
  • Ask questions – if you’re unsure what the doctor is telling you, ask! If language is a barrier, ask for a translator. The hotel can provide this, or in a hospital there are often members of staff who speak multiple languages.
  • Carry over-the-counter medicines and supplies with you – if you’re going to be on an active vacation bring things like band-aids, antiseptic cream, etc…If you have aches and pains, bring a hot pad or something like the Icy Hot Patch because you don’t know what the country you’re visiting will have (or as I found out, everything might be in a foreign language making the directions really hard to understand.)

Here are some helpful links related to travel health

Vaccination & International Travel Heath Information

Sanofi-Pasture Travel Vaccine Info

World Heath Organization (WHO) International Travel Information

Center for Disease Control (CDC) Traveler Health Information

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