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Wednesday, 01 May 2019

How They Patched Up My Head in Luang Prabang, Laos

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Mardena knew what had happened, she said, as soon as she heard that “thump, thump, thump.” It was my head, bouncing down the staircase of our guesthouse in Luang Prabang, Laos.

I’d gone downstairs to check that the night clerk had requested a tuk tuk to take me and my wife Mardena to Luang Prabang airport at 6:00 the next morning. Our flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was scheduled for 7:30, and I wanted to make sure that we’d get to the airport in plenty of time.

The clerk confirmed he’d ordered the tuk tuk, and I headed back up the stairs. Ten or twelve steps up, my right hip gave out; I grabbed for a nonexistent railing and fell head first back down the staircase.

My wife rushed down from the second floor and the clerk hurried over. “I’m okay,” I mumbled.

My blood was smeared all over the hardwood floor, my ribs hurt, and my left wrist was throbbing, but I was able to push myself up to my hands and knees. Already I knew it could have been worse.

It was obvious what had happened. I’d had a right hip replacement six months earlier. The hip had held up through the first couple weeks of travel, but the stairs had been too much. Ironically, the hip had come through the fall just fine; it didn’t hurt at all.

More than anything, I was embarrassed. I pulled out a piece of Kleenex and started wiping up the blood. “Don’t worry about that,” my wife said with a hint of irritation.

The clerk hurried back to his desk and called a tuk tuk to give us a lift to the local hospital. I hated all the fuss, but I didn’t stop him. I remembered a guy I’d known a few years back in the U.S. who’d taken a blow to the head, had been examined within the hour at a local hospital and then released, but had collapsed and died a few minutes later in the hospital parking lot.

My wife helped me to a bench outside the front door. We talked while we waited, but I could hear myself slurring my words.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 01 May 2019

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