Monday, October 12, 2009

"Doctor" Feel Good

Yesterday there was a festival in Kumphawapi. The highlight of the festival was long boat racing on the river or more like - flooded land that runs on the edge of the downtown center.

The long boats were around 50 to 60 feet long and very narrow. From bow to stern they were packed with paddlers. The banks along the water were covered with spectators watching and cheering on their favorite team. The main road's bridge over the water was lined with spectators and flags.

In the park where the monkeys hang out, there were all kinds of booths with games such as burst the balloons with darts, food, and drink. We also saw two small elephants being paraded around the grounds.

So why am I not posting pictures of this event? I don't have any. I could not walk. I have an injured foot that severely limits my mobility.

Three days ago I was demonstrating to Duang my Lao Loum dancing moves to one of my favorite songs. The moves involved stomping with alternating feet. I did this in bare feet on the concrete and tile floor of our living room. The next morning my left foot felt as if it had a cracked bone or stepped on by an elephant.

After two days I decided to listen to Duang and have the foot checked out. She knew of a "doctor who has Santa Claus inside him who take care of people good". The translation is "There is a doctor who has the spirit of God in him which allows him to take care of people well" Her cousin was going to see him yesterday so I could go too and be taken care of. Since Duang was putting both of her good feet down and insisting that I see a doctor and would not allow me to go photograph in Kumphawapi until I had the foot looked after, I agreed. Besides this sounded interesting - "a doctor with Santa Claus inside..." I am open minded and besides this had a sense of adventure to it. Despite my open mind and sense of adventure, as my late grandmother used to say "I am not crazy ... yet".

Prior to going to see the miracle worker of the paddies, I had duang, her son and his girl friend take me to the emergency room of the private international hospital here in Udonthani. I saw a doctor and had my foot x-rayed. I do not have a cracked bone or a broken bone but I do have a sprained or bruised foot as I had suspected. Years ago I had the same injury when I cut firewood for my children in Yellowstone National Park using Rambo karate kicks. Knowing that nothing can be done other than rest the foot, elevate foot, ice the foot, take Motrin, and wear an elastic bandage on the foot, I was reassured that consulting the "doctor with Santa Claus" would cause no harm. The total bill for the emergency room visit - $23.53 U. S. dollars.

We went to Tahsang Village to pick up Duang's cousin to see the doctor. Well in the end 10 of us ended up in the pick up truck. We had to go through Kumphawapi to get to the doctor so I was able to glimpse the festival.

We drove way out into the middle of the rice farming region. Six times we had to stop to ask or to confirm directions to the place we were going to. Surprisingly, everyone knew about this guy and was able to guide us on our way. After about an hour we arrived at a typical Isaan village and found the doctor's place.

Several people were there ahead of us. I hobbled inside of his house and sat down on a wood couch in his living room which was also his clinic. Three woven reed mats, sahts, lay on the floor. Each saht had a patient laying on it. On the floor next to me were several, as in 50 or more, medical syringes. Along with the syringes were just as many hypodermic needles - factory fresh in their sealed packaging. This was a relief to see that he was exercising good practices for injections. A stethoscope lay on the floor that the doctor used to listen to each patient's heart through both their chest, and neck. Next to the unused syringes were many bundles of injectable medicines scattered about the floor. There was a cardboard box that contained different sized vials of injectable medicines. A small plastic bag was used to contain the disposed of empty vials. A Glass jar was just about filled with discarded needles.

Duang's cousin although a young woman, is partially paralyzed on her left side - I suspect fro polio or a mild stroke. I know that she also suffers from epilepsy. I asked Duang why her cousin was seeing the doctor and Duang explained to me that her cousin had been getting dizzy and passing out lately.

Her cousin laid down on the saht and the doctor checked her heart with the stethoscope and felt her ankles with his hands just as he did with every other patient. He spoke about 30 seconds with her and told her that she had a bad heart. He then gave her two injections. Since I could not move well, I had Duang bring me one of the empty vials that had been used on her cousin. The vial was "Diazepam" more commonly known as "Valium". That did it for me - there was no way this doctor was going to be doing anything for me! There was no way he was going to be doing anything for Duang! Prior to entering his house he told me that he could "take care of me one time only - 100%". I did not see a medical diploma or license on the walls. The lack of medicines other than injectables seemed suspicious to me. The fact that everyone ended up with 2 or three injections made me extremely suspicious. Knowing that he injected someone with a "bad heart" with Valium scared me. I declined as best as I could without him losing face and I was adamant to Duang that she would not be examined.

Of the 10 people in our group that went to the doctor - 6 received injections and paid their $2.94 USD. I was appalled. When we got back home I explained to Duang why I didn't let the doctor treat me and would not let him treat her. I told her that the doctor did not cure anyone but only made them "feel" better. The trip back to Tahsang Village was quiet, just about all the patients had gone to sleep.

As I was writing this blog, I discussed yesterday's events once again with Duang. I told her that I did not think that the man was a real doctor and that I knew more about medicine than him. She said "No he not doctor, he man that wants to help people. He go to school to be a doctor but not finish after two years. he learn some things in school to help people (no doubt giving injections). Santa Claus (God) told the man to help people and complained that the man had not been a Monk yet." The man went to the local authorities and told them that he had two years of school and wanted to help people so they apparently allow him to "practice medicine" She told me that the man was going to be helping people for five years and then he was going to become a Monk. She said the people felt better that he had helped them. I explained the difference between being cured and feeling better.

Doctor Feel Good makes his patients feel better but I doubt that many are cured by his efforts.

Absolutely scary - another reason why we need to know as much as we can about everything in order to make informed decisions.

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