Posted by: facetothewind | December 28, 2009

The face of Thailand


After the 30 hour journey over the oceans, I started out the trip with a bang (and scrape, and zap). First things first in Asia: catch up on all the medical procedures I cannot afford as an uninsured in the US. So, day one was spent at Bangkok Christian Hospital as the only Westerner in the facility. To me, this meant two things: the care was going to be inexpensive and require a lot of gesticulation.

The higher-end hospitals in Thailand, which have tourists in their crosshairs, have better English skills at all levels. Bangkok Christian is more of a hospital of the local people and so that meant that only the doctors speak English. (I’m not faulting them — I am in THEIR country, after all.) Still, I managed to indicate to the nurses that I had some derm issues to resolve and needed to check on my nascent kidney stone. They lasered off all my pre-cancerous problem spots and then I went for the ultrasound to check on a 1/2 cm kidney stone they spotted last year. The result was that it is now at 3 mm (the reduction probably a result of ceasing my vitamin pill regimen). But, they discovered that my prostate was larger than normal. So then I went for a blood test to screen for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer — two words than no man wants to hear and that most will hear one day sooner or later. I was hoping for later, thank you very much.

I went back to the hotel on the back of a motorcycle taxi carrying my ultrasound negatives, a harrowing experience as the taxi drivers take you on a mad hatter’s ride through the congested streets of Bangkok passing perilously between cars, buses and tuk-tuks. My life always flashes through my mind — as I’m gripping the shoulders of a complete stranger I’ve entrusted my life to.


I waited back at the hotel for the phone call about my blood test while I rehearse my end-of-life scenario…would I be dying in Thailand? Who would come this far to help take care of me in my last months? How would Sebastian get on without me? That precious little thought brought forth the waterworks, which was soaking my wound dressings on my cheek. Fortunately jet lag overtook the waterways and a nap rescued me from my grandiose doomsday scenario. I awoke to the phone call of my doctor (who is not Doctor Kittiporn, thank goodness) telling me that my blood was normal.

I was relieved I hadn’t started ordering funeral floral arrangements. With my new lease on life, I went out for a bite with my Japanese friend Massaya and finished off the evening with a $9 massage. Bedtime in Bangkok. Onward to optometry and dentistry. Sebastian arrives Thursday for new year’s.


Oh and here’s a hospital accounting of the day:

6 laser removals and derm exam: $140
1 ultrasoud: $60
GI doctor’s consult: $6 (less than the cost of a US burrito)
Blood draw, lab work and doctor’s phone call for cancer: $40
Total: $246

That is my entire year’s expenditure on health care: $246 + flu shots and home remedies in the US.



  1. Dear David,
    Well, glad to know your farewell bash at Esalen is not imminent and your prostrate only benignly enlarged. We’ll celebrate with hugs and kwai tod the day after tomorrow!
    Gillian and Nic

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