Thursday, June 13, 2013

In Sickness And In Stress

An eye infection, X-ray test for pneumonia, and high fever in the middle of the desert. Each a horror in its own right. When one of these happens to your toddler while on the road, it will surely make you swear off long term travel (though deep down you know you'll soon eat your words when the tot gets better).

You'll go to great lengths, as far as paying with your soul, just to find a cure. I know I did. Okay, maybe not the 'paying with your soul' part. Not yet.

1. Mongolia  

For one whole week we endured bumpy, unpaved roads (even the paved ones are a mess) aboard a hired badass Delica in the Gobi Desert with a European couple we met through Couchsurfing. And during the first five, Luna vomited everyday. Hubby puked on the sixth. The ride was that wild.

gobi1
Not your usual stop in Gobi Desert.
 
Then there's the infamous desert climate that seems to possess a multiple personality disorder which was an entirely different challenge. Even with the lack of clothing, we sweat like pigs in our van-turned-sauna during the day. While at night, we froze like porkchops in our ger-turned-fridge.

So it wasn't surprising that on the fifth day, Luna contracted a fever. Thanks to our Mongolian driver Ganba, we found a hospital in one of the remote towns. The two-story hospital was as deserted as the Gobi. Luna was given pills that we had to slice in halves because it's too strong for her age, suppositories, and vitamins that looked like Airsoft pellets (which in my opinion should come with a "choking hazard" warning). We never gave her the pellets. I mean, the vitamins.

2. Laos

On our last days in Laos (where we traveled for three weeks last March), Luna had an eye infection and we were totally clueless where she caught it. A sign of such infection, by the way, is having a yellow watery discharge from the eye. Hubby and I searched for eye drops in a bunch of convenience stores but found none.

We were supposed to visit Pha That Luang the day before our flight out of Vientiane. We saved the best for last. However this didn't push through for we stumbled upon an ophthalmologist's clinic while we were walking towards it. The clinic's business hours run from 5:00PM to 8:00PM only, so we thought, might as well stick around and wait for it to open.

The ophthalmologist did not speak much English (he proudly mentioned that he speaks fluent French though) but managed to say "bacteria". Not a comforting word to hear but at least he seemed to know what's going on. He gave us three bottles of eye drops, and struggled to explain the doses. Cost us a whopping $20.

3. Turkey

Our limited time in Turkey (no thanks to my fifteen-day visa) pushed us to fly six times in two weeks. Every three nights we changed hotels. And we did sightseeing almost daily. Luna's health gave in after she climbed Pamukkale's "Cotton Castle" twice. The freezing water streaming down the travertines partnered with the strong gust of equally cold wind must have been the culprits for her cough-cold-fever combo.

sanliurfa
 Intoxicating cocktail.

Five days after and about a thousand kilometers away from Pamukkale, our hostel's owner in Şanlıurfa walked the hubby and Luna to a public hospital. Şanlıurfa Province shares a border with Syria, and the culture is evidently more Middle-Eastern than European. Arabic is widely spoken and only a few people speak English. Suffice it to say that the owner Mustafa had to accompany them in the hospital to explain the situation.

Mustafa assured us that he "knows everybody". And true enough, even if Luna's a foreigner, she was given a free injection for her fever. The doctor prescribed about five bottles of meds and were surprisingly cheap. In case you missed it... Five bottles!

4. U.S.A.

Ahhh. U.S. Health Care System. Why on earth did we have to deal with you? Five wee hours of waiting in line with a baby who hasn't eaten nor drank the whole day. 

Okay, to be fair, the doctors were able to give her the right treatment. With just one pill, Luna started craving for milk in an instant (had that not worked, they would have given her the drip). We were never told what caused her loss of appetite.

Total damage... And I mean DAMAGE... Almost $700 + trauma. Closest we got to paying with our souls.

5. Brazil 

I've seen hubby cry only three times in our life together (he cried several times while watching Naruto but he was good at concealing tears). During a hospital visit in Brazil's one of 'em.

What caused our rush to the hospital: Luna's struggle to breathe from twilight to dawn.

At seven in the morn, we asked pharmacists in a drug store a few blocks from our hostel for a nearby hospital. They only spoke Portuguese. One of them pointed at their staff who was sweeping the parking lot and exclaimed, "Spanish!", as if it was the biggest light bulb moment in her life.

I took the directions in a language I barely understand, a language that the Brazilian actually barely speaks!

cabo2
Bubba breaks down.
 
Miraculously, we found the hospital after walking for more than a kilometer toward the town center. And as expected, nobody spoke English at the hospital's front desk. They were able to call in someone who does though and I couldn't tell if she's a nurse or a doctor or a beauty queen in costume from the way she's dressed. She was wearing an ensemble that's similar to a nursing student's white uniform, accessorized with huge, dangling gold earrings. She sashayed the hospital's hallways in five inch heels and chewed gum. Even with all the panic, the gum annoyed me in an indescribable way.

She served as our translator the whole time we were with the doctor. When he mentioned that Luna will undergo an X-ray test for pneumonia, hubby and I both silently broke down. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. Like, up there with giving birth and losing Luna in a department store for five whole damn minutes.

We picked up the result ourselves from the X-ray room then handed it to the doctor in his office. The translator soon followed. There was a quick conversation between the two, then we were told that the result was negative. Apparently, it was just too much mucus. Doctor gave us a prescription for meds then signaled with the classic Brazilian thumbs-up sign.


Have you been in a similar situation? If you don't have kids, have you had any serious health issues while on the road? How did you confront it?

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18 comments:

docgelo said...
June 13, 2013 at 8:04 PM

magkasakit na tayong mga magulang, huwag lang ang anak. kung pwede nga lang akuin ang karamdaman ng bata kapag nagkakasakit sila e...
i really felt you gay in this post. more than the hassles of shelling out (what? USD700?!) money & language barrier, the torture of seeing our kids in uncomfortable situation, much more ill states is indeed unbearable.
to aedes, anopheles, sandflies, triatomine bugs, ticks and other vectors of viruses & parasites, damay na natin mga pesteng bacteria, stay away from luna, will you?
be safe always. :)

Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com said...
June 13, 2013 at 8:43 PM

OMG I don't have a kid yet so I can't fully understand. But I do have two cats, and whenever one of them so much as lose appetite, I'd worry the whole day and to the vet we go. I can imagine your worry must be 1000x more, and it's much more difficult when you;re traveling and you have to worry about translation issues!

pinaytraveljunkie.com said...
June 13, 2013 at 8:47 PM

Sakit sa puso ng $700, pero mas masakit sa puso makita si baby na matamlay :(

pinaytraveljunkie.com said...
June 13, 2013 at 8:55 PM

True, Aleah. I cried over sick pets before myself. And yes, 1000x more ang panic at terror.

Filipina Explorer said...
June 13, 2013 at 11:10 PM

Geez, a clinic that opens from 5pm to 8pm?


Sorry, natawa ko dun sa front desk personal cum nurse who's chewing gum in her 5-inch heels. Maybe a drag queen? LOL.


You know, I would never wish it on anyone to have their kid sick. It's miserable as hell. Lia got sick with measles at 10 months and we were at home, but still I broke down in pity of the poor kid by the third day. The fever, the refusal to nurse and eat, the inconsolable tantrums, how agonizing their pain/ discomfort is - ay, truly would make any parent trade off their souls for instant recovery. If I were in your shoes, I might probably have sworn off traveling altogether for a veeery looong time.


Stay safe. And healthy! :)

pinaytraveljunkie.com said...
June 14, 2013 at 12:24 AM

Hahaha!The clinic's actually part of his house. I have a feeling the doc's got 'office hours' in a hospital or something. Poor Lia with measles. When's the measles vaccine na ulet? Luna's all covered with the basic vaccines (and then some) so I can't remember na.

The Nomadic Pinoy said...
June 14, 2013 at 7:17 AM

US health care for the uninsured can induce heart attack in itself. Although if you actually go to a hospital, they're obligated to treat you in an emergency.
Didn't your travel insurance reimburse that? I pray you guys never have to go through illness down the road!

Filipina Explorer said...
June 14, 2013 at 7:34 AM

Ah yes. Probably affiliated with other hospitals nga in the morning. It was the three-day measles/ roseola. Ironically, she got that right after she had the measles vax - from another tot. The one for measles (rubeola) is given at 9-12 months then the 2nd dose is around 12-15 months ata :)

Claire | Traveling Light said...
June 14, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Awwww...Makes me dread the moment when I finally experience this. I plan to keep traveling like you too, even with a baby.

Congrats to you and your hubby for successfully taking care of Luna amid all these mishaps!

N Moore said...
June 14, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Next time in the US (cali for now), pls give me a call if the lil one (or anyone gets sick). I do house calls and won't charge plus, can easily call in prescriptons..(ehem, btw, I dislike the US health care system as much as u do..actively fighting for a change but not holding my breath just plowing thru the system for now the best I knw can =)

pinaytraveljunkie.com said...
June 15, 2013 at 4:21 AM

We didn't have travel insurance then :(

pinaytraveljunkie.com said...
June 15, 2013 at 4:21 AM

I'm sure you'll be able to handle it well :)

pinaytraveljunkie.com said...
June 15, 2013 at 4:23 AM

Argh! That "admitted to the hospital" is such terrifying phrase especially when it's about ze baby doll.

pinaytraveljunkie.com said...
June 15, 2013 at 4:24 AM

Thanks Nadge! Just unfortunate it happened in Santa Monica.

lawstude said...
June 15, 2013 at 4:35 AM

I could only imagine the horrors Gay. Although I remember whenever I travel with my grandfather when I was really young that I often got sick too like having those headaches (motion sickness) and puking in transit. Glad thou that Luna is fine. :)

Michelle Lopez said...
June 15, 2013 at 9:42 AM

$700??!?! shet.

pinaytraveljunkie.com said...
June 15, 2013 at 7:59 PM

Na malagket, yes.

pinaytraveljunkie.com said...
June 15, 2013 at 8:02 PM

Aww. Kawawa pa naman kids when they puke while in transit. Ako rin mahiluhin sa byahe nung bata, may plastic bag lagi mama ko nakahanda. Exactly how I am now with Luna. LOL.

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