I’ve been sick in the U.S. and I’ve been sick in Thailand–and believe me, Thailand is better.
Recently a cold that I thought had disappeared from my life and lungs resurfaced and with a vengeance. After six days of coughing and using a box of Kleenex every twenty-four hours, a rapidly rising temperature sent me off to the local clinic in search of a palliative other than my usual Tiger Balm and ginger tea remedy.
Neighborhood clinics are staffed by doctors who arrive after their shift in a hospital, so while I was there when the doors opened by five in the afternoon, the doctor arrived some minutes later. Soon I was directed to a simple office behind a faded floral curtain that served as a door. I was asked a few key questions, had my throat examined, and since the receptionist had already taken my temperature and pronounced it well above normal, was told somewhat briskly that I had an infection. "Get lots of sleep," I was told and when I responded that I'd slept badly for five nights, was asked, "Do you want me to give you something to help you sleep?" (Do you want me to give you the keys to the gates of heaven? Oh yes please...)
A nurse met me in another small room where I lay on an examination table and had a shot of penicillin injected so gently that I could barely tell when the needle went into my skin. I was then given five little plastic baggies that contained medicine, a face mask to keep me from infecting others, directions to drink warm water and eat vegetables, and was sent home to bed.
No blood pressure taken, no climbing onto a scale for public humiliation (always such fun when in a weakened state), no pre-scripted questions about smoking, alcohol intake, or possible domestic abuse–just medical care of the most basic and effective kind.
The cost? About twenty-six dollars. The conclusion? If you’re going to be sick, be sure that it happens in a developing country