It’s early morning now on 27th November here as I look out the window of our sixth floor room in the Bangkok Hospital, Chiang Mai (BCM), and the sun is just starting to peek out from behind the clouds. Karen is sleeping nearby in her hospital bed after a long day yesterday and six hours in surgery and recovery early this morning.
Yep – you’ve read it right – Karen has injured herself – her wrist, specifically – and she’s just had surgery on it to fix the damage.
Backing up a bit, yesterday morning we were packing up our gear after our second night of camping with Aad and Mike in the Salawin National Park, 8km out of Mae Sariang, when Karen slipped over and landed on her right wrist, breaking her forearm in the fall. She was clearly in a lot of pain, and my first look at her right wrist showed a massive deformity – normal forearms shouldn’t flop around like that. Aad grabbed our first aid kit out of our top box and I applied a simple sling using a triangular bandage after Karen refused to be splinted – she may be a good part-time ambulance officer but she makes a lousy patient at times !
A local man – possibly a park ranger – came running up and using sign language he confirmed our need to get Karen to a local hospital via a car, so he organised another man and his wife to take Karen and myself to Mae Sariang hospital, whilst Aad & Mike started to pack up the rest of our camping gear.
The lady who accompanied us to hospital was able to get medical assistance to Karen quickly – and we were fortunate that the female doctor we saw in the rudimentary but overflowing hospital could speak good English. X-ray’s proved what we had already surmised – a broken radius and ulna. A splint was applied – this caused Karen a lot of pain, and the pain relief administered did nothing to ease Karen’s discomfort.
The doctor explained that her hospital didn’t have the necessary equipment to perform the required surgery on Karen’s arm, and recommended that we go to Chiang Mai. With no ambulance available locally to transport patients, and an estimated six-hour trip for an ambulance to come from Chiang Mai to collect Karen and return her to Chiang Mai she decided to travel there on our motorbike – what a brave girl she is!
Aad had come to hospital at this stage, so we left Karen in the care of the hospital staff and returned to the campground to get our bikes, and then we were back at hospital. Mike helped Karen onto the back of the BMW, and then we were on our way. At this stage it was 11:45am, and the accident had happened at 08:30am. Aad & Mike needed to refuel their bikes before they followed along behind us, but the big BM had enough fuel to get us the 200km to Chiang Mai without stopping.
We had a good ride to Chiang Mai along Route 108 – the southern section of the Mae Hong Son Loop. We didn’t speed – there was no sense in compounding one accident by having another one – but we didn’t have any traffic to contend with and we got into a nice rhythmic flow and ate up the miles without any distractions. Karen was as good as gold on the back – resting her arm on the softbag and her chest – she rode without a jacket as I didn’t want to try and pull it over her arm, and she didn’t complain once about the pain.
The GPS led us straight to the Bangkok Hospital and they were already expecting her as the Mae Sariang hospital had sent through her x-rays, and the orthopaedic surgeon had already decided on the required course of action – screws in both broken bones, or wire if the screw doesn’t hold.
Another round of x-rays, finally some effective pain relief (morphine), paperwork, admittance to our room (very nice – a standard room but it’s like a hotel room), and then the long wait for surgery – originally estimated to commence at 9:30pm approx, but delayed til 11:15pm as the surgical screws needed to be flown up from Bangkok.
Aad & Mike joined us at hospital, before checking in at the Panda House Guest House, where we had stayed last week. Originally I thought Karen would be discharged overnight but the surgeon has said she needs to stay in hospital for three days minimum, so Aad has canceled our room at Panda House as I can sleep here in Karen’s room. Aad had returned to hospital in the evening via tuk-tuk on the promise of riding the BMW from hospital to Panda House as I was going to accompany Karen in a taxi, but he went away empty-handed – he’ll get his chance on the bike next week I’m sure!
Beyond that I’ve been in touch with our travel insurance company – World Nomads – and I’d recommend them to anyone planning an overseas trip. Very efficient, very quick, very caring, and to get an email from them this morning confirming that our medical expenses will be covered is a welcome relief.
And that pretty much sums up yesterday and early today. Stay tuned for more instalments!!!