A Ride In the Wheelchair

We arrived back in Phuket Town and took a taxi to the Phuket International Hospital. Our travel doctors back in Boulder had given us an electronic booklet with recommended hospitals in every country we planned to visit. Phuket international hospital was highly recommended. Immediately, I was impressed by the cleanliness of the hospital and even enjoyed the nice lilac scrubs and hats that the nurses wore. Within about two minutes after we arrived, I was being sent off to x-rays, without even seeing a doctor. I was extremely impressed with this because I have had my fair share of injuries back in the US and waiting for x-rays (and paying for them) is always a nightmare. A few minutes later, the doctor was ready to read my x-rays and give me the diagnosis. We sat in his office, anxiously awaiting the verdict. His English was decent, good enough to understand his advice. He said, “you are lucky, looks like no fracture, just sprain”. I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief for about two seconds before he continues, “I think I just cast it for 3-4 weeks.” “WHAT?! Like a HARD cast?!” I was speechless. John took over for me since I was just sitting there with my mouth open. We had read online that usually it is best to stay off the ankle for a few days and then use a removable air cast to walk until it heals. As a result, John explained we were leaving Phuket the next day and we needed something which didn’t require me to return to the hospital for removal. It didn’t take long to convince him and we were soon on our way with a removable ankle brace. He told me to wear it for 3-4 weeks. Once the pain went away, I was to wear the brace for another week. I was so thankful to have something removable so that I could shower normally and enjoy the ocean for the next few weeks. He told me I could begin walking on it immediately but the pain was too severe. Since it was nearly impossible for me to walk, he sent me to get crutches in the physical therapy center. I was wheeled up there in a wheelchair and taught how to use crutches up and down stairs. This was appreciated, but not necessary since I have had 2 knee and 2 ankle surgeries in my younger days. I’m a crutch veteran. While we were in the physical therapy office, we saw a guy about our age laying on a bed with bandages and cuts all over his body. No doubt a motorbike accident from driving around Phuket. After seeing him, I appreciated the fact that we could still continue our trip and considered this incident a minor speed bump.

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We went back down to the main office and paid for everything and picked up two prescriptions and some icy-hot type ointment. I didn’t take any of the meds but the menthol ointment proved to be very useful. We took a taxi to our hostel for the night – 2W Cafe. The place was really nice and we finalized our research on where to go for my ankle recovery. We decided on an island called Koh Lanta, which promised to be a very relaxing, cleaner Thai island. We found a place to stay a block away from the beach and booked it for a few nights. That evening, we celebrated no fractures with the best Thai food we would eat from two spectacular food stalls in Phuket Town. That put smiles back on our faces, at least until the next morning…

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As we packed up the next morning, I asked John to hand me some bandaids from our medical bag so that I could bandage the cuts on my knee and foot from the fall. He looked in the top of his bag where he had put it the day before and it was nowhere to be found. We spent the next hour tearing our bags apart and searching the room. I was freaking out. It had taken us months to assemble our medicine between our anti-malaria pills, antibiotics, and miscellaneous meds for stomach issues, colds, headaches, etc. I knew we couldn’t easily obtain all these meds in Asia, so I was feeling panicked. We called the hospital, our hotel in Koh Phi Phi, and the ferry company, and the bag was nowhere to be found. We realized it was probably stolen on the ferry back to Phuket. We usually lock our bags up or keep them with us, but we let our guards down on that ferry because I couldn’t carry my own bag and John was helping me get to my seat since I couldn’t walk and didn’t have crutches yet. The meds had been thrown in the top of his bag in a hurry as we left Koh Phi Phi because we had been using it the night before for my wounds. Of course, the one time we let our guards down. We think someone opened the top zipper of John’s bag and thought the little blue bag had money in it and stole it. They probably realized later that it was medicine and was no use to them and probably just threw it away. Unfortunate for us.

We wanted to make it to Koh Lanta on the 12:45 ferry, but it was after 11:30 and we also needed to file a police report about the stolen meds so that our insurance would cover it. We sprung into action and took a tuk-tuk to the “tourist police” where we met a surprisingly helpful officer who spoke English and created a report for us. We didn’t finish at the police station until 12:30 and still had to make it back to the hostel to get our bags. We got back around 12:40 and the extremely nice lady at the desk called the ferry company and told them we were on our way and asked them to wait. She assured us that we could make it and we took another tuk-tuk to the pier. They did indeed hold the ferry for us! We hopped on and took a deep breath. Nothing like experiencing a Thai hospital and a Thai police station all in a 24 hour period and all within 3 days of arriving in Asia.

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Now to Koh Lanta, let the recovery, both mental and physical, begin!

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