Visiting a Hospital in Chiang Mai
Somewhere around Amsterdam the toll of carrying a heavy pack for 12+ plus hours a day and sleeping in small hostel beds started to take effect on my body. My shoulder, which is sometimes a little twingey after my routine dance classes, started to ache. The ache then turned into a pervasive strong pain and my mobility started to decrease in my right arm. By the 3rd day in Chiang Mai I was unable to sleep all night due to intense pain and my right arm was unable to rotate far enough to put on deodorant. With over a month of travel left I decided that it was unrealistic to wait until I got home to get medical care.
Making a decision
I'll be honest and say that I was nervous to visit a hospital in Thailand. While I have no great love for the US health care system, it's what I know. I was also nervous about the coronavirus and whether utilizing a hospital would increase my risk. Lastly, while I sometimes purchase travel insurance (and had in this case) I had no idea how to actually access it. I didn't even know how to make a call to their 24/7 hotline since I have no service on my cell phone while traveling. But eventually the pain overrode my concerns and I looked up my travel insurance plan and chose to go to Chiang Mai Ram Hospital since it seemed I wouldn't have to pay out of pocket and was fairly close.
Chiang Mai Ram Hospital
The moment I arrived at the hospital I felt instant relief. The staff welcomed me at the door and gathered my information. They explained to me the process of checking in. I realized shortly after that I did not have my passport with me, but they were understanding and let me use a photo of it on my cell phone. After checking in (and being screened for coronavirus) I was led to the orthopedic department.
The department was quite busy with patients and nurses. I waited a short time before having my vitals taken. The nurses themselves were working very hard, at times even running to catch a doctor in the halls. Everyone was very friendly. After about 30 minutes I was brought in to see a doctor who did a physical examination and diagnosed Bicep Tendonitis before sending me to xray to rule out any more serious issues.
Diagnosis and treatment
A nurse escorted me get my xrays done and I was then able to meet with the doctor almost immediately after. They had me sit outside his office while he met with another patient and I could clearly hear every word of their meeting- seemingly medical confidentiality is not as big of an issue culturally in Thailand. Next he met with me and confirmed the diagnosis using xray. The doctor went over the options with me and together we discussed the possibilities and what I would like to do. He seemed very open to my opinion. We decided together on a cortisone shot (2 actually) and he administered these right then and there in the office. He then informed me he would recommend 2 prescriptions- an anti-inflammatory and an opioid based pain medication. The same nurse whonhad escorted me earlier escorted me again to the cashier and pharmacy.
I had hoped my travel insurance would cover the costs up front, but it turned out the hospital wanted to hold my passport until they received the payment so I opted to pay out of pocket. I was very nervous about the potential cost sans insurance, but it ended up being only $187. This is much less than I would have paid without insurance in the US for this level of care (a specialist visit, xrays, 2 medications and 2 cortisone shots). I paid my bill and was out in the door about an hour and a half after I went in.
All in all the experience was very pleasant. I began to get pain relief within a few hours and increased mobility after about a day. It's wild to think I almost suffered through more days, even weeks, of intense pain out of fear of getting medical care in another country. Now obviously medical care varies widely around the globe, but I hope this story can be helpful to someone if they were in a similar position as I found myself in!
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