For the past two weeks I have been having mild chest discomfort. I chalked it up to heartburn or gas and just ignored it. However, it got worse over the past few days in China and led me to be concerned enough to see a doctor.
My travel insurance company sent me to the best hospital in Kunming, Yunnan, China. This is the nearest major city to Tibet; it’s in a relatively poor and undeveloped part of China. Unfortunately, this hospital is a dirty place where a *fist fight* broke out in the lobby in an argument over money. Nobody there spoke any English either, so nobody could help me (my Chinese is far too basic for medical stuff). Basically, I didn’t feel safe even being there, much less being treated there, so I went back to my hotel last night and booked a flight to Bangkok, the nearest place with a developed healthcare system. It was expensive (at $280), but I was worried enough that it was a worthwhile expense.
Today, I went to Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, straight from the airport. It is a world of difference from Kunming. This hospital caters to wealthy people from the Middle East, as does the neighborhood I am in. These are people who expect good service and tasteful style. The lobby is like that of a five star hotel. A concierge brought me water. They said “it’s probably just heartburn, but let’s make sure.” I was immediately seen by one of the top cardiologists in Thailand, who poked and prodded me, ran an EKG and then, wanting to be doubly certain, did a test called a “stress EKG.” This is a machine that took 3 people to run, and basically it made a video of my heart in operation both prior to using a treadmill and afterwards.
The result? My heart is in great condition (although the doctor warned me that I had better pay attention to my eating habits and get more exercise) and my digestive system is *really* pissed off. Too many countries in the past 2 months and too many different bacteria, viruses, and whatever other stuff I’ve introduced into my digestive system has given me a monster case of traveler’s diarrhea and a nasty helping of heartburn to go with it. The heart doctor knew what kind of stomach problems cause what I’m experiencing, so he wrote me a prescription for some medicine that should help.
The entire hospital visit, including more than a hour of a cardiologist’s time and multiple tests, cost $445, approximately 10% of what this would have cost in the US. My insurance will cover this, although it will not cover the travel to Bangkok. So, a happy ending. If anything this is a wake-up call that I must not continue to take my good health for granted.