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VIETNAM | Tuesday, 12 May 2009 | Views [464]


Being sick is never fun but there is nothing worse then being sick away from home. You may think I am using this as a figure of speech but I genuinely believe that being really sick in an unfamiliar environment is a highly traumatising experience, for everyone involved.  Just think of all the things that are important to you when your sick: a plentiful supply of ready-meals, constant repeats of Top Gear on Dave TV, free healthcare curtsy of the NHS and most important a toilet in close proximity (that can flush); all these things are not guaranteed when you travel.

Thankfully I have been here long enough to have found myself lodgings with a sanitary toilet and have a stack of copied DVDs ready to be watched (half of which don’t work but that’s beside the point). With my “sick in Vietnam” survival kit I thought I was ready for anything, however, I underestimated just how much uncertainty plays into how sick you feel. When last Monday I started getting stomach cramps it didn’t worry me, “I must have just eating something off” I told myself. Over the following days I too convinced myself that the constant fatigue, head spinning and even the mysterious blue bruise on my right arm were all just a coincidence and would soon go away. It wasn’t until Friday afternoon when aching bones was added to the symptoms that I began to worry.

I struggled into work on Saturday morning and found myself sat in a tiny non-air-conditioned room giving one-to-one speaking tests to six year olds. As the morning progressed I found myself becoming less bothered about the addition of “s” to verbs in the third person and more concerned about getting through the two hours without projectile vomiting all over my students. If I had indeed died in that room while doing the test I have no doubt that the student would have diligently sat there waiting for the next question until someone discovered my cold stiff body.

I spend the rest of Saturday lying in my own misery, comforted only by fifteen back-to-back episodes of Lost. Come Sunday morning I felt just as bad and decided a visit to a doctor was necessary. While I didn’t want to spend too much money the though of being completely lost in translation didn’t appeal, so I went to an international health clinic and prepared myself to part with some serious Dong.

As I lay on the examination bed describing my symptoms to the doctor I could see his eyebrows getting higher and higher with alarm but it was not until the mention of a “mysterious blue bruise on right arm” that he grabbed a facemask and forced it on me.  They then set about poring liquids into me with one tube and extracting blood with another.

I think the alarm bells were ringing because a lot of the symptoms I described were similar to that of Swine Flu. I am convinced that all the publicised illnesses start off with the same symptoms (vomiting, headaches, stiffness etc..), no doubt when Mutton Meningitis breaks out we will also be warned to watch for these seemingly universal symptoms. 

After being drained of blood and pumped with water the doctors demanded I secrete numerous bodily liquids into an array of pots which all had my name nearly printed on them. After this ordeal I lay on the hard surgery bed waiting to be prescribed with some deadly disease. It was almost disappointing to be told that they couldn’t find anything wrong with me and I should go home and rest, but of course, not before I paid them in full for every test they had run. I am now a firm believer in the NHS. 

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