A visit to the doctor – finally


No one likes to go to the doctor, least of all me. Even when I tore my knee up in Malaysia, I opted to rehab vs. surgery, which ended up the wrong choice. However, if  I had made the “right” choice, my global travels would probably have come to an end.

My bank account simply cannot pay for surgery, which means I’d have to return to the States and wait for VA healthcare, all while having to use what’s left of my savings for living expenses.

The logical question is “Do I have medical insurance?” The answer is “no”, again because of budget concerns. A real Catch 22. I’m pretty much hoping nothing bad happens to me, or my journey will be over.

In the eight years I’ve been global, I’ve only seen a doctor one time, in the hospital in Penang after I tore my knee up. They put a cast on it, sold me some crutches and sent me on my way, expecting I would avail myself of the medical facilities in Batam, Indonesia, where I lived at the time. I didn’t.

I have used dentists a few times – in Costa Rica for cleaning and to replace a root canal, and in Indonesia to pull out the tooth where that root canal had been replaced. Not a stellar record.

Now, after more than two years in Thailand, I have finally found myself needing a doctor. It’s an experience I’ve been anticipating, but not really that eager for.

Like I said, generally going to the doctor, especially when something is wrong, is not something most people look forward to. When you are in a foreign country, where basic communication can be difficult, there is added stress.

We have three hospitals in Hua Hin. Which one to go to?

There are dozens of clinics in town, too. Again, where do you go?

The expat community in Hua Hin has a pretty good network going on Facebook for recommendations on such matters. It seems, however, if you ask for a recommendation, you will get so many that the exercise is futile.

Four days ago, I had a sharp pain coming from my right side buttocks, at the top of the hip. I figured it was just routine muscle pain. It was worse the next day, and worse still on the third. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t sleep. I started considering my options.

I knew the clinics would not have x-ray equipment and was sure my problem was internal and needed an x-ray. Mostly, I think the clinics dispense medicine.

The hospital, on the other hand, would be more expensive but it would have the requisite medical equipment on hand.

Thailand is known for its medical tourism, much like Costa Rica was (is?) when I lived there. People come here for medical care and add a vacation – and still save money from what they would have spent just for the same medical care in their home country. Like my root canal experience, however, it doesn’t always work out well.

I’ve also heard mostly good reviews of the Hua Hin hospitals.

doctor office

The clinic’s front desk

Finally, on the fourth day, with the pain progressing down my right leg to the calf, in spasm bursts, and finding it difficult to move the leg, I decided to take the plunge.

Let’s go see your clinic, I told a friend. It was 4 pm. My friend’s clinic, it turned out, was open in the morning and at 5pm.

Generally, it’s best to get to a clinic early, to get ahead of the line, so we arrived at 4:30, first in line. It was another 50 minutes before I would see the doctor, by which time there was an overflow crowd waiting to see him.

The clinic sits next door to the veterinarian I take my cat to. There was a staff of four who seemed to have everything in order. I simply wrote my name down on a pad with pencil, added my age, and waited for the doctor to arrive.

There were six chairs for waiting and a big very-much-needing-a-good-cleaning fish tank. A narrow hall led to several side rooms, including where I met with the doctor.

Nowhere in this whole “adventure” was money mentioned. I had brought my passport and a credit card, and ample cash, but most was not needed.

The doctor, Dr. Sarun, was well dressed, in tie, and bespeckled. I asked if he spoke English. He did.

He had me sit on a small metal stool next to his desk while he asked me questions almost in a whisper. He asked what the problem was, probed the area, asked what I had done before the pain started (walked home from the grocery store?). Very low key and precise.

Finally, he says it’s muscle spasms probably caused by my sitting situation as I work daily on this laptop.

As expected, I was given (sold) four different medicines for pain and muscle tightness. Warm compresses also recommended, as was a change in my workspace arrangement.

If I had gone to a hospital, there might have been a blood test or other tests, and this clinic doctor maybe should not rely so much on his guts. But if his diagnosis is right, and the pain goes away, all great.

If not, there’s always the hospital.

But the clinic experience was absolutely nothing to be concerned with. And the cost? 900 baht ($30) for the consultation and the medicine. As comparison, the last time I was in a clinic in the U.S. (for pneumonia), I was given a shot and some medicine and the bill was $175 – 12 years ago.

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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