Anyone who has tracked our recent medical dramas knows that we live a two-hour flight away from the nearest good hospital.
This doesn’t mean we’re devoid of options when we run into medical trouble.
For starters, there’s always Dr. Google. This good doctor’s wealth of knowledge is seemingly inexhaustible. You can ask Dr G anything. Anything. You can, for example, type in: “I’m 22 weeks and 3 days pregnant and I’ve thrown up 4 times in the last 6 hours and 6 minutes. I think I got sick after eating spring rolls from a street vendor in northern Laos 10 hours and 17 minutes ago. Should I be worried? What should I do?”
And chances are someone else has asked this exact same question, and someone else has answered it.
Granted, sometimes those answers run along the lines of, “drink a liter of goats milk seasoned with the blood of a three-day-old chick and stand on your head for an hour with your eyes crossed and you’ll be fine.”
But, still. Dr Google is on call 24-hours a day and always willing and eager to provide you with a wealth of useful information.
Well, information, anyway.
Then we have Dr Souphan, just down the road. Under protest, I went to see Dr Souphan just last week. To be fair to Dr Souphan, the protest had less to do with her than with the great inertia that seizes me when I’m afflicted with maladies that are more uncomfortable than dire. I just prefer to wait these things out.
Mike, however, is more proactive I am in the face of such problems, especially problems that have been going on for four days. So when we walked past her little clinic and saw that it was open, he gently suggested (read: almost frog-marched) that we stop in.
Dr Souphan’s clinic is one big room on the first floor of her house. While you’re waiting, you sit on chairs in the front half of the room. When it’s your turn to see the doctor you step to the back of the room where there’s a desk, two chairs, and a camp bed. No office door, though. Not that it mattered this time, because everyone else waiting was far more preoccupied with clucking over the little foreign baby with the big cast on his leg than with listening to me try to describe my intestinal disorders.
So we’re not entirely devoid of medical resources here, but what have we done when confronted with problems more severe than spending four days running to the bathroom? We haven’t relied on Dr Google or Dr Souphan. We’ve relied on good doctor friends in Australia, the UK and the USA. Just in the last eighteen months, these doctor friends have:
- Looked at photographs of Mike’s staph-infected legs and provided advice on which antibiotics to try and whether or not to seek medical evacuation to Thailand.
- Advised me about what to do when, at 22 weeks pregnant, I came down with a severe case of food poisoning.
- Let us stay in their house and use their car for a week while they were out of town (nothing to do with medicine, but much appreciated nonetheless).
- Given Dominic his two-month immunizations for free.
- Written very specific instructions for us on how to seek appropriate immunizations over here (including brand names) and answered our detailed questions about whether and how we could adapt the immunization schedule according to our shifting travel dates.
- Given me an entire course of appropriate antibiotics to take in case I get mastitis.
- Advised me via skype on splinting Dominic’s leg, appropriate pain relief, and how to make Dominic most comfortable until we could reach the hospital in Thailand.
- Reviewed pictures of before and after X-rays and written detailed letters explaining why the doctors in Thailand probably made the decision they did about Dominic’s care, we might have received conflicting advice about Dominic’s prognosis, and the pros and cons of additional corrective action within the next two years.
Ironically, Mike and I have found ourselves the recipients of more good old-fashion communal medical care here in Laos than we would have ever received (or asked for) if we had been living in Melbourne, yet all of this communal care has been delivered virtually. It’s all come from a “community” living on the other side of the world.
In the olden days, these people might have received some chickens or maybe a sack of potatoes for their help. Now they get nothing but heartfelt thanks.
Thank you. And thank you again. We’re so grateful that so many of you are willing to share some time and expertise via facebook, email and skype. You have eased the stresses that come with living somewhere with limited medical facilities more than you may ever know. Should you ever want to come to Laos, our guest room is always open and we’ll be happy to get some of those chickens and potatoes for you, too. Heck, we’ll even throw in a needy dog.
Love Lisa, Mike & Dominic
How have your friends reached out and helped you virtually?