In my most recent 2015 Spring trip to Korea, I was sick – in fact, I was sent to the hospital via an ambulance and hospitalised for a night TT
It happened on 1st April 2015, when I was travelling from Tongyeong to Hadong. On one of the bus rides, after having a packed strawberry cream sandwich (which I did find it too creamy), I vomited three bags of everything-I-had-since-morning. And that was the day that I was especially blessed to have been invited by the guesthouse owners to join them for their breakfast, consisting of rice, various soup, side dishes and fruits TT
So by the time I arrived at the bus terminal, I was sick and extremely cold (as you know I am extremely sensitive to cold; in fact before this episode I was briefly down with fever but after a bowl of ginseng chicken, self medication and lots of sleep, I recovered). I cannot quite remember what happened exactly but at some point I was in such pain that I was unable to stand straight. A fellow passenger asked where I was heading to (I was heading to my guesthouse) and suggested that I get to a clinic or hospital as medical support would be further from the guesthouse should I later require them. Freezing, in tears (due to the pain?) and confused, I asked for some warm water and I was left alone there, presumably the fellow folks went to get an ambulance.
Not long later, the medical staff arrived and asked if I want to be sent to the hospital, which I agreed. At the hospital, it took some time for things to be sorted out. Meanwhile I was lying on the bed in ER and put on a drip, which I later asked and understood it was painkiller. Not long later, the doctor came around to check where I was in pain (I was in pain everywhere? haha).
To cut the story short, everyone in the hospital barely spoke any English. But thankfully to two Korean friends who spoke English (thanks to Stew who called the hospital to speak to the doctor and Prof BS who also spoke to the doctor), my poor command of Korean, and Google Translate, the situation was better managed. I was told that I had enteritis (I don’t know what it was at that time as wifi was slow haha), or inflammation of small intestines. I didn’t think it was just food poisoning since I was in pain all over. I was also freezing – despite five layers of clothing, being under two blankets and on a heated bed. There was also no public transport by then so discharged was decided for next morning. I was also hungry but I was told I cannot eat and later there wasn’t food in the hospital (by then it was 3 am).
I hardly slept since somewhere somehow I was always in pain (and cold). Also, since I was in ER, every other interval someone would be wheeled into ER, usually an elderly who fell and once a drunk ahjussi who hurt his foot (and he couldn’t stop arguing with the nurse). Going to the washroom was also a tedious task – I had to wheel the drip stand along with me.
All through the night, I had five drips – painkiller, something to bring down the fever and glucose. By the following morning, I painstakingly finished a plain bowl of porridge then felt the rumbling of stomach. Like the previous time I prepared the bags and vomited everything again. By then I also decided to depart Korea earlier. All I wanted was to go home (to a large extent not knowing how long my condition will last and how serious it was; and it was definitely discouraging when the guesthouse owner whom I was supposed to stay with for the next few days didn’t sound in any way helpful after being informed of my condition. Perhaps she was occupied but from the viewpoint of a female sole traveller who was sick and hospitalised, I think you can understand how confused/ lost I might be).
I was full of will (haha) and energy when my sister informed me that she has managed to change my air ticket back home. A pastor who sent a fellow church member to the hospital helped me with the procedures to discharge and even gave me a ride to the bus terminal. I took a 4 hour bus ride (thankful I slept much better on the bus) back to Seoul. Had dinner and vomited again. I decided no more meals for a while – save all the trouble of vomiting! The next morning I rushed to pack everything and couldn’t be happier to reach the airport. The dinner on the plane was the first I had that I didn’t vomit. In fact I must have been somehow dehydrated from not drinking for 2 days @@ Everything got better by the time I was back home (read: warm weather!).
Of course I did think if the decision to come home early (or even to be hospitalised) was too dramatic but under that circumstances of being (alone and) sick, frozen and confused, that decision was made. And some lessons distilled from this episode..
1. Avoid being hospitalised haha (obviously it disrupts your plans)
2. But if you are, it is always a blessing to have local friends who are ever so helpful and caring. As I have a few friends to meet up, over the days and even when I was back home, everyone has been so concerned about my condition and offered to help.
3. Having internet access and having purchased travel/medical insurance are certainly useful.
4. Speaking some local language will come in handy but otherwise use Google Translate.
5. Adequately pack the mediation you bring along when you are overseas – in fact my list is ever increasing, e.g. cough medicine when I don’t even usually cough back home (due to the stubborn cough I had during my #31KoreanDays).
6. For me, heattech works well only in Singapore haha though I was later told wearing two layers of them might work (will try next time!)
7. It’s a blessing to take warm and long showers back home. Even when I was well, when I am overseas, I only take quick showers for fear that I would catch a cold.
It must have been an unforgettable experience for me and for awhile maybe no more of Korea in Spring or Autumn but Summers haha!
(Yes I hadn’t completed my #31KoreanDays entries, and this is my 100th post on this blog!)