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Wednesday, 01 May 2019

How They Patched Up My Head in Luang Prabang, Laos - Page 2

Written by Paul Michelson
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When the tuk tuk arrived, Mardena and I squeezed into the little open cart attached to a motor scooter—our Lao ambulance. “Luang Prabang Hospital” Mardena told the driver, and we puttered off through the night, bouncing over bumpy roads, past dusty, dimly lit parts of town we’d never seen. It took awhile--tuk tuks aren’t exactly Maseratis--but finally on the outskirts of town we came to the hospital.

The driver pulled up in front of a one-story building I assumed was the emergency clinic. I paid and tipped him, and we got out and pushed through the glass doors.

The room was huge and dim, a dreary contrast to the bright, sparkling clinics I was used to in the U.S. Except for a wooden desk with two metal chairs in one corner and two gurneys covered with white sheets in the other, the room was empty. The place looked barren, almost bereft.

Two chunky middle-aged nurses in white uniforms motioned us over to the desk. A thin younger man in glasses and a white lab coat, a doctor I guessed, was with them. Neither Mardena nor I spoke Lao apart from a few amenities, and the nurses and doctor clearly didn’t speak English. I pointed to my bloody, matted hair and tried to convey that I’d fallen down stairs. One of the nurses put some papers in front of me. I filled in some personal information, and they guided me to a gurney.

I lay there on my stomach while the three of them stood over me a few moments and talked, probably about how to proceed. Then one of the nurses began shaving off the hair over my wound with an electric razor. When she finished, the other nurse applied sterilizing fluid to my scalp with a gauze pad. They stopped working and the three of them consulted again.

After a couple minutes, one of the nurses said “sting,” repeating the word a second time to make sure I heard, then injected my scalp with painkiller. She waited a minute and began stitching the wound. Lying there unable to communicate I felt about as passive and childlike as I ever had.

I’d assumed I’d need an x-ray, but I didn’t know how to ask. That, plus the fact that the facilities looked so bare-bones, made me feel a bit shy. The bleak, barren room, the dim lighting, and the absence of the sort of gleaming medical equipment you’d typically see in an American clinic suggested a distinct lack of resources.

Another patient, a big bearded fellow in jeans and black boots, hobbled over toward us alongside his wife and lay on the other gurney. He sounded Australian. According to his wife, he’d injured his leg when he fell off a motorcycle. One of my nurses walked over and started attending to him. It all seemed very matter of fact. I had a feeling the nurses and doctor were used to seeing travelers like him and me, western types who’d managed to injure themselves in all sorts of inventive ways. I wondered if they ever got exasperated.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Wednesday, 01 May 2019

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