Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hospitals, IV Needles and 15 minutes of fame

Friday the 25th March. Apologies to those of you who find this date important for whatever reason. I hate it. It's a stupid, stupid day and I want to forget that it ever happened.

Not every 25th March you understand. I'm sure 25th March 2012 will be extremely pleasant. 2010? Doesn't hold any particular bad memories that come to mind. No, my grievance is with March 25th, 2011.

To be honest, I'm doing the day a bit of a dis-service. The first 15hrs were fine. I got up. I went to work. I went home for lunch. Lovely. I was running an introduction to Excel at 4pm and just getting prepared for that – it was about 3.15pm. All very normal, all very uneventful. No real reason to develop a hatred for a date so far. And then....

Hmmmm, this doesn't feel stomach feels a bit weird. Mental check of food consumed today: bananas, bread and jam, biscuits, more fruit. Nothing out of the ordinary. No street food. No Indian food for over 24hrs in fact.

I find in these situations that your body instinctively knows the seriousness of the state that it's in. Is this an “I can hold on for a couple of hours” or is this an “I need the toilet right now”-type scenario? This was DefCon 3. No way was I lasting to the end of the day, but I also had time to get home and avoid the office toilet (significantly lacking in toilet paper).

So, I made my “trip”, felt a bit better for it, went back to the office and gave the training, before heading home, still not feeling great. The evening consisted of lying in bed, eating nothing, a couple more toilet trips and an early (10pm) night. Just a stomach bug, I'll be fine in the morning. Or so I thought....

I wake up. Shit. (Sorry mum!) Literally. I need the toilet. Now! This is a DefCon 5 type situation. I'm also sweating like I just ran a marathon in a sauna from a fever. I rip the mosquito net off of the bed and charge across my flat (did I mention the toilet being out on the balcony – really useful at a time like this.....).

Having done my business, I stand up (as you do) and then promptly proceed to almost pass out. (Side note – having never actually passed out, I'm guessing here, but I think when your eyes go completely black, you become dizzy and light-headed and you need to hold onto the toilet door to avoid your landlady finding you 12hrs later collapsed, lying naked with your head in a squat toilet, it's probably a safe assumption on my part....).

Those of you who read my Nepal “trip” know that I can handle a dodgy stomach. Passing out on my balcony with a raging fever is something new. I decide I need some help so I phone one of my colleagues. Two of them turn up at my flat and take me to hospital.
See - Not joking!

I say hospital – Zadar Hospital is really a doctor's surgery with some wards. There isn't any of the equipment we'd associate with a hospital in the UK. The doctor was great though, very understanding and diagnosed gastroenteritis. I got put in a ward (basically just a big room with 20-odd beds) and hooked up to an IV. I vaguely remember being given an injection in my bum as well. Nice.

I'm in and out of consciousness for the next 6hrs or so. When I finally wake I feel quite a bit better. For about 30 seconds. Then DefCon 4 presents itself. Except no-one seems to know where the toilet is in the hospital. And I'm hooked up to an IV. And the DefCon level is only going in one direction. This isn't good....

After a couple of minutes I finally get directions to the toilet. I grab the IV stand and set off like Linford Christie out of the blocks (sans lunchbox, obviously, the guy's a freak of nature). Of course, this being India and me, it's never going to be simple....

I find the toilets, In my right hand I have an IV stand. The toilet door isn't high enough to get it through straight and then there are steps up to a squat-toilet in a room whose size indicates it was presumably designed either for midgets or children. Imagine trying to navigate all of these obstacles while the impending pant-disaster ratchets up to DefCon 6.

[Further details removed in post-editing to prevent the two remaining readers from shutting down and needing treatment for post-traumatic stress...]

A few hours later, maybe 11am, I'm feeling quite a lot better. By which I mean I can sit up in bed without fainting or having a George Michael-esque desire to visit a toilet. That's about the point I notice the video camera...

My bed is at one end of the room, directly in line with one of the entrances. Through that doorway, out in the main corridor, is a man with a handheld video camera, just like you'd take on holiday, pointing it at me. Great, I'm thinking, some guy came in to video his wife giving birth and thought he'd grab some video of the sick white boy while he was here.

As “the only white boy in the village” this is the kind of attention you get used to. I just turn away and go back to reading my book. Two minutes I look up again. This was when I began to get the suspicion that something else was going on...

I'm pretty observant most of the time. I spot things. I pay attention. So, it didn't take me long to work out that 7 or 8 guys armed with video cameras, SLRs, notepads, tape recorders and microphones asking questions of my colleagues were journalists. It was probably actually about 3.5 seconds after they shoved three of the said tape recorders (complete with fluffy microphone thingy) in my face, pointed all the cameras at me and started asking how I felt. Like I said, I pick up on these things.

Anyway, the “interview” was only a couple of questions. Then they made me have my photo taken. Apparently I was looking too well at this point, so they asked me to lie back down. Sitting up does not equal news in Hazaribag, obviously.

At 2pm, after finishing the third (that I'm aware of) IV, I was told I was being discharged. I felt better, not 100%, not even near it, but better. I was happy to be going home. However, I still had the IV needle in my arm. I asked when it was being taken out.

“No, they leave that in”

Um, what now?!!? When I asked for further details, I was told they were leaving it in in case I needed to come back in. This confused me:

  1. If there's a big enough chance I am coming back in that they can't even be bothered to remove an IV needle, why are they discharging me?
  2. If I come back in, why am I going to be in a state where the (roughly) 10 seconds it takes to insert an IV needle is going to make a significant difference?
  3. Nothing happens fast in India. If 10 seconds is going to make a difference to my health, I'm screwed.
  4. Points 2 and 3 seems to make point 1 even more important....

I will also say that the above scared me. For future reference, scaring people who have shown a recent propensity to move to DefCon 6 on the pant destruction scale is not a recommended action.

"Just in case" - what??????

Anyway, I wasn't really in a state to argue, so home I went, needle in arm. It was around 2pm and had been one of the worst 24hrs of my life (which shows I've been pretty lucky in my life so far I think). Thankfully, since then I've recovered pretty much 100%. I'm heading to Delhi for some VSO work and I'll see the VSO doctor while I'm there to get everything cleared up completely and hopefully move back to DefCon 1 for the foreseeable future.

This weekend I'm visiting a Tiger Reserve, so here's hoping for a post featuring less bodily functions (although if we get attacked I fully reserve the right to wet myself – I'm no hero!)

Stay solid (as a good friend would say)

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