musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Bangkok Hospital’

Last Minute Flurry

I’ve spend most of the past 48 hours trying to pack and prepare for my trip this week to Myanmar. Very excited about seeing my friends again, but also having to try and arrange a multitude of tasks ahead of time, both in Mandalay and here in Bangkok.


One item on the agenda was getting my hospitalized friend’s Thailand tourist visa renewed. He’s been in hospital since mid-October and at first they were giving him 30-day extensions. Due to his critical condition they’ve now seen fit to give him 60-day extensions. Each time the visa was about to expire, the hospital would phone me up, ask if I could come down and pay the visa fee, I would do it, and everything was set.


But now that he’s been transferred to a nursing home, and no longer officially under the care of Bangkok Hospital, that complicates matters. In order to help arrange the renewal I contacted the fine folks at the Sutlet Group in Bangkok, who also operate PB Legal Services.  They are the ones that handle all the paperwork for my own annual business visa and work permit renewals. After getting a definite “no, we can’t arrange the visa this time” from the hospital, I contacted Patara at PB Legal and explained the situation. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough time to collate all paperwork and documents needed, but within a few short hours Patara had contacted the doctor at the nursing home, scheduled a pick-up of some essential documents, and gone to the hospital to finish making the final arrangements. Amazing service, and very much appreciated!



Meanwhile, I’ll be attending to matters at that same friend’s apartment when I get to Mandalay. We still have most of his possessions in storage in a back room at the apartment, but now it’s time to move things out and store them at a local monastery, donate a few things, and perhaps try and sell some of the nicer items. There will be plenty of work to do. On top of that, my friend Zin Ko’s father died last week, and I anticipate more than a bit of sadness on 90th Street when I arrive this time. Poor kid; last year around this time one of the friends who was swimming with him drowned in the river, and now he loses one of his parents. Life can be cruel, but I always try and maintain some sense of optimism and I hope I can spread some of that to Zin Ko on this trip. Wish us all luck!




And this time I’ll also be travelling back to Shan State to visit friends in Nyaungshwe and Tat Ein village. I haven’t been there in almost a year, so I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again. I heard back from Ma Pu Sue this week and she confirmed that Pyinya Sawda is still at Shwe Yan Pyay monastery, so I’ll be bringing him a copy of the book that has his photo on the cover.


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Nursing Home Blues

It’s been almost four full months now, and one of my best friends, an American who I will refer to as “H”, is still hospitalized in Bangkok. The long story short; he collapsed and was unconscious for a few days and was put in ICU, some tests discovered “masses” in his brain, he was treated with heavy-duty antibiotics, a biopsy revealed no tumors but instead a very serious brain infection, more treatment, more tests, but no improvement. At one point his doctor told me frankly, “The damage has been done.” Even if my friend survives this infection, and isn’t struck by a secondary infection (he’s also had breathing problems and is using a tracheal tube to breathe), he’s going to need round-the-clock care for the rest of his life.


So, it’s a pretty depressing scenario. This guy is in his early 70s, but until very recently he was teaching full-time at a school in Mandalay, riding a motorcycle around town, and generally living a pretty full, healthy life. And then, wham, bam, boom; he’s in the hospital, and within a few weeks is not able to talk or communicate, or seemingly aware of who’s been visiting him. At this point, he’s maybe never coming out, and most certainly never coming back, at least in terms of his mental capacity. In a situation like this, you almost hope for a quick end to it all.

And then at the end of January, his health insurance policy expired. Uh, what now? Since I’m his closest friend in Bangkok, I’ve been acting as a go-between between his closest relative — a cousin in Alabama — and other participants in this drama; the hospital (we’ve also had to arrange with Thai Immigration to get his Thailand tourist visa extended every month, now every 60 days), his school in Mandalay, the insurance company, and his bank in Bangkok.

And that’s the catch. He had a considerable amount of money in two separate savings accounts in Bangkok, but how could we access those funds to pay for either a renewal of his insurance policy or to pay for his medical care? I discussed the logistics with a local law firm, and then we contacted the bank who in turn got in touch with the hospital. The bank agreed to pay the hospital for any additional charges after the insurance coverage lapsed.

Which was good news, expect for the fact that the daily charges at Bangkok Hospital Medical Center, where “H” has been most of the time, are quite expensive. He eventually was moved out of ICU but still needs special nursing care. The hospital called me and suggested moving him to a private nursing facility in Bangkok that was managed by one of the hospital’s doctors. The monthly rates, including medicine, would be a fraction of the cost of keeping him at the hospital. Great plan!

But then there was another catch. The bank’s head office said that they would authorize payments to the hospital but not to the nursing home. Urrgghh!!! The hospital then came up with the idea of the bank billing the   hospital and then the hospital would bill the nursing home. Sort of a roundabout way of doing it, but perhaps that would work.

On Thursday this week I got this e-mail from the hospital:

Good news! The bank manager has just confirmed to me this afternoon that the hospital could be the mediator between the bank and the nursing care facility. We are preparing to move him to his new place within tomorrow.

And indeed, it finally happened. I never thought that moving to a nursing home would qualify as good news, but in this case it certainly is a positive thing. However, I’m still concerned about how much money is remaining in my friend’s bank account. Between the time when the insurance expired and when he was finally moved to the nursing home, nearly two weeks elapsed. Using the figures that the hospital quoted me on the phone, that two-week total is the equivalent of about six months at the nursing home. Ouch!

Obviously, this whole situation has been very depressing. But everyone I’ve talked to at the hospital — the nurses, doctors, and administrators — have been extremely kind and helpful. “H” was never a very social person and didn’t have many friends. I wouldn’t exactly call him a misanthrope, but he didn’t care for the company of most people and was pretty much of a loner. And yet teachers from his school came to visit him a few times, as did a few guys from his apartment complex. I also got really sweet notes from a childhood friend of his now living in Georgia, and a woman who used to teach with him, now retired in Spain.

Friends and strangers, living in faraway places, connecting and sharing memories, trying to help a friend in need. It’s been both agonizing and comforting. But hey, such is life.


Mid-Week Blues

It’s Wednesday night in Bangkok and it’s raining again, although very, very lightly. Just finished listening to a World Party CD and now I have an old James Gang live album playing. “Just turn your pretty head … and walk away.” Coming up next: a compilation by The The. And if you have to ask; “The what? … well, forget it.

And I’m stumped as to what to write about tonight. It’s been a few days since I posted anything and I feel like I should write something or post some photos, but I just don’t feel inspired. Must be the mid-week blues.  blues01

I could write about the latest rash of bombings in South Thailand; the violence that just won’t stop. Or I could write about the historic visit of Myanmar President Thein Sein to the US, where he’s meeting with Barack “O’Burma” Obama. Or to take that story a step further, I could mention the misguided protesters who think Thein Sein is some sort of heinous villain because he hasn’t been able to stop the sectarian violence between Muslim and Buddhists in Myanmar this year. Or the idiots who think that Obama should not have invited Thein Sein at all, reasoning that it’s “too early” to lift sanctions and “encourage” Myanmar without the government releasing all political prisoners, and blah blah blah. I tell you, nothing pleases these so-called “Free Burma” groups, and it would kill them to acknowledge, much less praise, any improvements or changes that the Myanmar government makes. Hell, it would kill them just to say the word “Myanmar.” I’m certainly not in the pro-junta camp, but some of these so-called human rights groups need to put things in perspective. I think some of their “policies” have done more harm than good in the past decade. I think “democratic” changes will take time to fully mature in Myanmar, but things are on the right track and Thein Sein should be encouraged and supported rather than criticized and condemned.

What else? Oh yeah, there was the efficient transvestite nurse that waited on me at Bangkok Hospital last week, or the Thai doctor who they sent me to at that same hospital. He had a very American-sounding accent, so I asked him if he had spent time studying in the states. “Well,” he said, “I grew up near Cincinnati, but I attended university here in Bangkok.” And the good news: they couldn’t find anything wrong with me!

Or I could write about some of the cool customers in my bookshop this week: David the 75-year-old pot-smoking fan of Louis L’Amour novels; the guy from Sweden who admitted to being “old school” and preferring real books over digital ones; the guy from Prachin Buri who bought the entire series of Gabriel Allon novels by Daniel Silva; the sweet expat lady from Poland who is reading anything we get by Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse, or Graham Greene; or the female Thai customer who regaled us with tales of spitting on the feet of Red Shirt protesters last week; or the street guy who likes to “drop his drawers” to passing cars in front of our shop. Oh yeah, it’s a colorful neighborhood!

Or could write about the two nice guys from France that treated me to dinner at a Thai restaurant on Monday night. Good food, pleasant company, and they introduced me to a wicked-good drink that they say is popular in Brazil. I just wish I could remember the name of the drink! Yeah, it was that good. They were departing the next day on a trip to Myanmar and will be back in Bangkok in early May.

Then there were the phone calls from friends in Cambodia, e-mails from friends in Myanmar, and requests for money from friends in Thailand. In the case of my Thai friend Tam, his wife just gave birth to their third child and he needed money to buy some essentials … like food, so I was inclined to help him out.

But alas, I don’t have the energy or inclination to write about any of these things with any additional depth. All in all, it was just another weird and wonderful, and perfectly normal, week here in Bangkok. Let it rain!


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