Friday, November 11, 2011

Medical Attention

It all started with a sinus infection. I’ve had it for weeks if not months but I finally couldn’t ignore it any more and decided to suck it up and go to the doctor. I’d heard some horror stories about the doctors here in Georgia. Doctors that don’t speak a word of English, bribing people to pass their certification exams, and prescribing dangerous medicines for the wrong illnesses. But, I figured this was just a sinus infection and couldn’t be that hard to screw up.

For us TLG teachers to go to the doctor, we must first call the health insurance hotline (whose operators speak amazing English by the way) and get recommended to a clinic. They text messaged me the address of a clinic in my city and told me that the doctor would wait for me to show up since I would be a little late.

I arrived at 4 o’clock and was shuffled into a room where a woman who didn’t speak a word of English took my blood pressure and pulse and took all my information. I was getting worried that this woman was the doctor, but then I was shuffled into the next room where I was met by the doctor and to my relief, he spoke perfect English. I lucked out by getting a doctor that has worked for various international organizations before. He was very professional, more professional that I’ve seen in Korea, that’s for certain. He listened to what I said were my symptoms and he agreed that it was probably a sinus infection , but he’d have to do a blood test to check my white blood cell count. After the nurse took my blood he told me, “I’m going out for a while, wait here for the blood test results and I’ll be back.” I didn’t think it was possible to run a blood test that quickly, but 30 minutes later he was back and had the typed up results in his had. Slightly elevated levels of white blood cells. He wrote me out a prescription and sent me on my merry way to the pharmacy to get my antibiotics and nasal spray.

The nasal spray started to work immediately and I started feeling much better by the next morning. I took my antibiotics with my breakfast again and then again with my “lunch” (which is just cake since that’s all my school serves in the food department) at 11. After school, I went to the internet café to check some email and make some skype calls. I go to one particular internet café because it tends to have the most working microphones. But, the downside to this place is that the air inside is terrible. I can’t put my finger on what makes the air so bad, sometimes it’s from people smoking, but even when no one is smoking I tend to leave there after my time is up feeling a little nauseous. But, usually with some fresh air I feel better. Even after my 15 minute walk home I still wasn’t feeling better. Perhaps it’s the fact that stepping outside doesn’t mean getting fresh air anymore. Once evening time comes around everyone starts lighting up their wood stoves and burning, not only firewood, but anything and everything combustible from broken lacquered furniture to plastic bags and everywhere in between. I used to love the smell of a wood stove in America, but here the air reeks of burning trash. Not helpful to my nausea.

I lied down for a while but still didn’t feel better. Then I threw up. There wasn’t much in my stomach to throw up, considering all I’d had in the past 8 hours was one cake, a persimmon and a cup of tea. Then I threw up again. Then I threw up again, but there wasn’t anything left to throw up this time and I just had the dry heaves. I felt for sure that some dinner would help, maybe it was just my empty stomach making me sick. But no, 20 minutes after my small dinner of one piece of bread and sauce, that came up too. And again.

Then my family started to worry about me. They send the son out to the store to buy me some Borjomi mineral water, which is the Georgian version of ginger ale for an upset stomach. They thought for sure that would work. I wasn’t so sure. Then all that Borjomi came back up too. And again. I lied down on the couch under a blanket shivering and went to sleep. A while later I got a phone call from the health insurance folks I had spoken to the day before. My host mother had called the TLG representative and she had called the health insurance. “Ms. Lynch, you have two options. First, we can call you an ambulance and you can go to the hospital to be treated,” woah, woah, I’ve only been throwing up for 4 hours, there’s no need to call an ambulance. “Otherwise, you can wait until tomorrow and you can go to the doctor.”. I told them that I would be fine, I would wait until tomorrow to go back to the doctor.

Then another phone call came. This time it was the TLG representative again. I told her that I was fine… well, relatively speaking, and I wasn’t going to die. Then I asked her to translate for my host mother that I would go to the doctor in the morning and not to worry about me. Dispite even getting a translation for “don’t worry” for my host mother, she clearly was still worried. I fell asleep again and then I was woken up to my host aunt telling me that my host mother’s brother, who happened to be a doctor was on his way over with some “medicament”. She said, “He will come in 10 minutes.” This was at 9 or 10 o’clock. At 1 AM I was woken up when he finally arrived, with an IV pack in his hand ready to rehydrate me. I kind of had a feeling this was going to happen. At this point, it’s too late to say no. Plus, I probably did need it. How long would it take? 25 minutes. Ok. Now the only question was, how safe is it to administer an IV in one’s home?

 This was too priceless of a moment to let it go by without a photo...

They set up a table with a chair on top to hang the IV from next to the sofa where I had been sleeping. He swabbed my arm down with vodka to disinfect. The doctor found the vein without too much trouble, but then they realized that whenever he leaned over to put the needle in, his shadow blocked the light and he couldn’t see the vein. Eventually he got the needle in and started the IV but after 5 minutes, he decided that this was a “tsudi vena” bad vein. Oh, did I mention he didn’t speak a word of English?

He decided that he’d have to set up the IV in my hand rather than my arm, but he needed a smaller needle. Half the folks in the house jumped into the car and went with him to some hospital somewhere to get another needle. They were back just 10 minutes later and before I knew it I had an IV drip into my hand. This, however, did not stop the vomiting. My poor host mother had to hold a bag for me while I threw up more since I couldn’t hold it myself with my arm in the IV.

The other problem now was that it was getting close to 2 am and now the IV was on a slow drip since hand veins are smaller than arm veins. My poor host mother stayed up until after 3 am when the IV finished and took out the needle (the doctor had long taken off by then). I stayed on the couch to sleep because I couldn’t have possibly gotten to the toilet from my room in the middle of the night in my condition (it’s not easy when I’m healthy now that I think of it). They brought me another blanket and I slept fitfully the rest of the night, but without throwing up again.

In the morning, I was able to eat a piece of “dry bread” and a cup of tea. I finally got to the doctor around 2 pm. Everyone in my family had been making theories about why I was sick. I attributed it to the medication. My host mother and aunt believed I had eaten unripe fruit because they saw that I had eaten an orange that was still green with my breakfast. But, the orange tasted fine and I refuse to believe that an unripe orange at 8 am could give me dry heaves 15 hours later. When I explained to the doctor what I had done the day before he immediately asked me why I had taken my antibiotic so early at 11 am. That was my only break when I could eat I explained, but he told me that I really should wait at least 6 hours, preferably 8 hours between taking pills.

Anyway, I guess we’ll never know the real reason why I got so sick, but he decided that I needed another IV, which somehow turned into two more IVs. I sat laying in that cold office getting my IVs playing games on my cell phone for the two hours to pass the time. But, when I was finally finished, I felt rejuvenated. I had had to take a taxi over to the clinic because I just hadn’t had any strength to move, but now I felt like I could walk home, heck, I felt like I could even go teach a class or go do something, anything. I left there with orders to start taking my medicines (properly spaced this time) as soon as I was feeling better again. And the next afternoon I was on a bus to Tbilisi to spend my weekend in Kakheti. I just hope that if I follow the instructions this time I won’t have any more problems!

1 comment:

  1. Oy!!!!!

    That is quite the ordeal! At least you were able to get help. I really wonder what was the problem here. It seems like something to do with the meds you took, but not sure.

    Hope you continue to mend. I love that they sent a nurse to admin the IV at home! Awesome!