I can't afford a Hospital! Don't worry, our leader pays for you
I slept like a baby to be honest but I woke up rather early, half four to be exact which isn’t unusual given that I’m usually asleep by eight or nine. The first sign that something was wrong was my excessive gas and then the small rumblings in my guts. This was always a bad sign.
My first real illness of this cycle touring trip thus far
I lay there and prayed it would go away. Yesterday had been a great day and I was making noticeable progress towards the border. The last thing I needed now was to get ill but this is precisely what happened.
The grumblings in my stomach only became more frequent and pretty soon I was beginning to feel some pain down there too. I tried to sleep some more but then I started having these mild contractions in my stomach. They would arrive every five minutes and it became so unbelievably painful I couldn’t help but cry out. I decided to lie on my front as this was the only way I could position myself so as to not feel so much pain.
I lay there not knowing what to do. I couldn’t move and I was in the middle of nowhere. The thought of getting back on the bike wasn’t even a possibility in my state and so the hours ticked by as I lay there in the most awful state imaginable.
When 09:00 had been and gone, I thought I had better start doing something. It was probably just some minor food poisoning but I knew I needed to get some medicine and a hotel quickly.
I decided to pack up.
Everything became a long drawn out affair though. Any time I bent over to roll up my sleeping bag or mattress say, the stomach cramps just intensified. I was in agony.
I somehow managed to get back to the road and began to push my bike up the hill, stopping every ten paces in order to scream out in pain. After five minutes, I came to a house and asked the man for some water, thinking that I shouldn’t even touch the water I had been using. Whilst he got me this, I walked into his house, apologised profusely and lay on the floor. I was a bit of a mess.
God only knows what he thought seeing this strange foreigner spread out on his floor. Guess he didn’t expect that when he woke up that morning.
I dragged myself back up, thanked him and walked outside. I then shouted at the two dogs barking at me to move out of the way and continued on a little further, hoping some form of help would arrive soon.
Next door stood a construction workers compound and so I wasted no time at all in repeating the process. I just collapsed on the floor next to a group of workers. I couldn’t even try to tell them what was wrong with me, the pain was just too intense by this point.
They got me a chair and then some hot water. Then a lady came over with some herbal medicine. I downed this liquid in one. Another ten minutes went by and the contractions were becoming less frequent what with me resting and all but then another lady came over with three boxes of pills for me to take. I was then given some clean clothes to change into.
I just continued to sit there thanking everyone for their help as the crowd around me became larger and larger. Pretty soon, there must have been ten or twelve people stood around me and that didn’t even include the three police officers who had turned up.
They wanted to see my passport and visa and once it was confirmed that I wasn’t an illegal, they told a guy whom was translating through his phone that I should go to a hospital. I didn’t think this was necessary though and told them I just needed to rest in a hotel and if I still felt like this in the morning then I would indeed get myself to Anlong and the hospital there. There were insistent however that they take me to the hospital directly and so, not wanting to argue with three police officers, gave in there and then.
I changed into the clothes I had been given as I didn’t want to turn up there in the filthy clothes I was wearing. It was at this point that I was given 500 yuan from the workers there. I still don’t know why they gave me it but suspected it had something to do with paying for my treatment. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Things were just getting stranger.
I continued to sit outside with the police officers not sure what we were waiting for. I thought I was leaving my bicycle here to come with them in their car to Anlong but we just waited and waited. After half an hour, an ambulance turned up where I was told by the two nurses that I must go to the hospital. So into the ambulance my bicycle went with both myself and one of the officers too. I was then given a couple of bottles of fresh water by the workers and two tins of delicious rice porridge too to take with me.
It was a ten kilometre ride to Anlong. The sirens blared out as we raced through the country and I was feeling dazed and confused by this point. Last night when I had gone to sleep, everything was going well but here I was only hours later sat in the back of an ambulance. How things change.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was taken to a building where I was quickly checked over by a couple of nurses after which I was escorted – I think this is the correct word to use – by the three officers and about six nurses across the hospital to another building where I was seated in a large waiting room to wait for further examination.
It was just an odd experience being escorted around the grounds by all these people. So many people were trying to get a look at what all the commotion was but I’m afraid to say that it was just a dirty tramp in the midst of it all. No one famous whatsoever.
Well I was seated on a bed where they examined my belly like they do when you go for an ultrasound. Many 'umms' and 'ahhs' followed but I couldn’t gather what was going on. I just lay there with several doctors stood around waiting eagerly for the outcome. Eventually I was given a smartphone and was told that I just had loose bowels. Yay! Wahoo! I can live with that. I’ve done that before and I’ll be right in a day or so. I was ecstatic like you wouldn’t believe.
I was escorted back over to the other building where I was requested to lie on a bed in the hospital ward whilst I was given several drips. Two young ladies turned up at this point who could actually speak English and whom I thought were students or something. They later turned out to be from the government. I lay there whilst several other patients and one of the officers took pictures of me on their phones. Will this ever end? Even in a hospital bed the smartphones were clicking away.
I had to use the toilet several times whilst on the drip and so the officer had to go with me too. It was the first time I had taken a leak with a police officer looking over my shoulder.
Well I need to push onto Vietnam and so I will just say that the ladies from the government told me that their leader (the president) wants to pay for me and that everything was on the house. I was then escorted across town by them and the officer who pushed my bike to a four star hotel that I was again told would be free of charge. Needless to say, I stayed three nights.
Last night I was sleeping in a tent by the side of the road and this night, I would be tucked up in bed in a swanky hotel. I was even brought food to my room in the evening too. Thank you PRC!