Monday, July 11, 2011

Medical Tourism for Cheapskates

I wonder which bad African road killed the DVD drive on my MacBook, I thought last week as I googled for ways to remove a stuck DVD.

Perhaps it happened when my daypack was thrown from the motorbike at the Gabon-Congo border. Or maybe it was when we were airborne in the truck the next day. But given how seldom I use my DVD drive, I had to admit it could have broken the day after Apple replaced it late last year. Did this model laptop have a bug?

I did, I suspected. Something was the faintest bit amiss in my guts, and had been for some time. That's not surprising given the places I've lived and the water I've blithely used to brush my teeth. It's not like you can be vigilant for a half-year at a time, the same way you can on a two-week holiday.

But if I was going in for a check-up, I was going whole hog. Bangkok is famous for its inexpensive medical care and hospitals here do comprehensive check-ups for the cost of a doctor visit with lab tests at home.

I hunted around online for a good place for my comprehensive check-up. I did check the Khao San travel clinics, but one was always closed while the other suggested that if I wanted more than a few travel vaccinations, I should go to the hospital.

Bumrungrad...generally considered the top hospital in Bangok. Yowza. Too expensive.

BNH...another popular hospital. Eek. That's too much as well.

So I did what I usually do when I need to solve a problem, which is research it to death.

And I found this in the end.

Bangkok Christian Hospital has a health screening package that is about $250, less-than-half the price of the most famed medical tourism hospitals but with the same services—EKG, eye check, chest X-ray, ultrasound, gut check, blood work, all kinds of fun stuff. It may not be as swank—its audience is Thais, not medical tourists—and the doctors and nurses may not have the same English-language capabilities, but so what. I intended to take the full report back to my own doctor and she could interpret it. Of course, I could probably sort out most of the lingo with the help of Google anyway.

There were no shocks in the end. No secret diseases waiting to pounce. The worst part of the experience was eating or drinking nothing first thing in the morning until they took my blood. That meant navigating the river taxi and skytrain without caffeine or food. Ugh.

Going without breakfast, liquids, or caffeine in the morning turned out to be far worse that eating Flagyl for the next week.

But we won't know for a while if it worked. My parasites may still be with me. Perhaps we should name them. How about a name-your-parasites contest?

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