For the last 20 days now my family and I have been holed up on Koh Chang in our effort to self-isolate. We have found a villa in a private location that is away from everyone. I have my computer to work from and my kids can run around outside. We are safe and we are away from others. Well, my plan to be more safe almost backfired spectacularly and could have even separated our family during this crisis.
The Covid-19 pandemic has really hit home with locals on the island and if my family go to eat at local Thai food stalls, I see fear in their eyes when we turn up. Being an all-Western family, as opposed to having a Thai wife, they jump to conclusion that we are tourists. I have to quickly reassure them that we live in Thailand, have been on the island for over 2 weeks and very quickly they all calm down and become Thai again (‘friendly and accommodating’). To be fair, we try and eat indoors most of the time, now is not the time to take chances.
This island is on heightened alert and scared the virus may spread to Koh Chang, all perfectly understandable. I wanted to frame my story with the opening insight to let you know the attitudes on this island towards foreigners at the moment.
Horrific Stomach Cramps
On Saturday, late afternoon, I started to get horrendous stomach cramps. I took my temperature and it was a mild fever at 37.5 degrees. Now is not at a time to get a fever as you cannot go anywhere without getting your temperature check and that includes access to my resort and supermarkets.
I tried to ignore it and hoped it would pass. So I had dinner indoors with the family and then went to bed to watch a movie.
I had pretty much just fallen asleep for about an hour and woke to the most horrendous stomach cramps. It was unbearable. I really didn’t know what to do. All night I could not sleep, when I moved the pain would get even worse. It was just a horrific night.
In the morning, once my family had arisen, my wife could see my pain I was in and I also had a mild fever. At this point I felt even too weak to get out of bed. I was exhausted. Now my challenge was what to do next.
Visiting a Hospital during the Covid-19 Pandemic
My choice was simple, I needed to go to hospital and on Koh Chang the options are limited. This is one issue with self-isolation in a location not well equipped to handle hospital treatment. Anyway, this was the situation and I had to deal with it, so I drove to the Bangkok International clinic on the island.
It was just a short 15-minute drive from where I stay. I parked up and walked towards the entrance with my mask on, and although in pain, I was more concerned that the locals and staff would jump to conclusion I was infected with Covid-19. A ‘farang’ walking into a hospital on the island must mean that, hey?
As I approached the front desk from the entrance, two Thai nurses pulled their masks up and put a full faced visor on. This virus felt very real at that moment, it was like being in a movie. They immediately made me sterilize my hands from the santizer at the entrance and starting the consultation with me standing outside.
The first thing I said was that I had bad stomach pains to try and appease the fear, however as this stage they were only concerned about whether I may have Covid-19. They took my temperature, which of course, showed a mild fever. It put them on even more guard. For the record, their service was very professional and they still made me feel welcome.
Next they wanted to know how long I had been on the island and where I lived. All very fair questions, given the current climate. Step by step they started to calm down and then finally let me into the empty hospital and sat me down in the reception area.
Once sat down I was told to complete a survey, related to Covid-19, and again they asked me questions related to the virus, such as “Have my family been coughing?”. They again took my temperature and this time my blood pressure – all pretty standard when you to see a doctor I must add.
As the checks showed I was most likely Covid-19 free they moved to me to the doctors waiting room. Once sitting here, the same two nurses moved to the waiting room with me and phoned the doctor. Once more I was asked questions related to the virus rather than my stomach cramps. Remember also, I was in a lot of pain and it was clear my stomach was causing me problems.
Maybe I would need to leave the island for treatment
Finally I was called through to meet the doctor, who again had a mask and visor on. You have to respect these doctors and nurses who are putting themselves at risk each day to help patients. Right now, I really needed their help and advise.
He checked my stomach and could see the pain was centering around my appendix. He was sure the appendix had not ruptured and said I needed a CT scan to ascertain if it was appendicitis. He recommended I took the ferry back inland and drive to the Trat nearby International hospital. All this at a time when a province to province lock-down was in place and various road checks were in place (Koh Chang is part of Trat province). Further more, as a foreigner driving through a province with minimal tourists and foreigners living there would put the locals on high guard against me. Fearful of Covid-19 and the assertion that this virus is only in Thailand due to tourists.
At least I would have my doctors papers with for the drive which would give me clear passage, but could I then guarantee I could get back on the island and back to my family?
If I had appendicitis, then I would most likely need an operation. All this when Covid-19 is rife to boot. All of the sudden I had one heck of a problem on my hands. No body wants to be around hospitals at the best of times, let alone have an operation in times of a virus pandemic. Furthermore, If I couldn’t get back to the island then my family and I could be apart for a long time.
I decided to wait one night and see if my stomach cramps improved. If it got worse then I would take the trip inland to the hospital as, let’s face it, what choice did I have?
That night as I lay in bed, I could still feel my pains but they were not as intense and my fever returned to normal. When I awoke in the morning, although dull pains still existed, I felt much better.
It was a worrying time for sure and showed the risks of isolating in more remote locations. For now though, I am feeling much better and have to it appears to just be food poisoning. My wife finally admitted the eggs she cooked for me two days ago may have been past their sell by date.
Stay safe and remember in these delicate times, any form of illness or injury requiring medical treatment will have implications effected by Covid-19. Lesson learned on my behalf.