A Life Left Too Early

originalThis morning, I received news that a friend in San Francisco had died. He was around my age and about six months ago was diagnosed with cancer. In his final hours, friends had shared stories and memories of him on his Facebook page and his family read the posts to him as he lay in bed. Then this morning my time, the family posted that he had passed.

I’m reaching the age, mid-40s, where I’m starting to encounter more deaths of people my age. A few high school classmates, a few colleagues. Of course the frequency will only rise and I know that this is part of life. But there is something that leaves me feeling a bit melancholy to see someone around my age lose their life.

Many times, I have asked myself how I would respond if I was diagnosed with a terminal disease. How hard would I fight to extend my life. Coincidentally, this morning as I drove to work I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast about this question: what is the value of quality of life versus quantity of life, when one is facing a terminal illness?

Of course it is easy to have an opinion on this when not faced with the actual dilemma, but I imagine I would opt for palliative care over aggressive treatment. I would rather enjoy the time I have left, then live longer but be in needless suffering.

Whatever the case, here’s a thought to the life of Wilson Fang. We weren’t close, but my life was better for having known him. And maybe that’s the highest tribute we can give anyone.


Good news.  My doctor arrived this morning about 9:30, very impressive for her day off.  After reviewing the chest xray from yesterday she is satisfied that the infection is largely gone.  I’m to be released by about 1:00 this afternoon after paperwork, etc. are complete.  She has prescribed me a course of antibiotics to continue taking after my release with a followup appointment and chest xray this coming Friday.

Thanks for all your patience and well-wishes this week.  Regular programming will resume tomorrow.


Third Sunset in the Hospital

As I write this I can look out the window and watch my third sunset from room 1001 at Bangkok Hospital.  More than twenty-four hours have passed with no fever and this morning my doctor, who came in on her day off to see me, asked me to stay one more night to continue the IV antibiotics and to take another chest xray to see what’s changed since Wednesday.  She’ll come back Sunday morning, also her day off, to look at the results and we’ll see where to go from there.

The nurses seem optimistic that I’ll be discharged then.  But they were saying that during my temperature and blood pressure check at 10 pm yesterday, too.  Ten pm is a busy time.  One nurse is injecting my antibiotics and another is recording vitals.  To me, it was just a blur of activity.


Tawn’s toe is better.  It is now just a bit bruised and the plumish purple has largely receded.  He’s been here all afternoon and charms all the nurses.  That’s his nature.

A few more observations of hospital life:

After a day and a half of nonstop IV drip (saline) and 10 cc in-line injections of antibiotics, the veins in my left arm started to feel painful.  At first I couldn’t figure out what it was but after an hour or so, decided to trust my instinct that something was abnormal and spoke with a nurse.  Sure enough, the veins were irritated from the higher volume of liquid, bruised and abused.  By the time they pulled the IV out, there was a nice red splotch tracing its way from the point of entry to the crook of my arm.

When it came to putting in a new line, Tawn told the nurse about the problems finding a vein during admittance.  She assured him that she would send the most beautiful nurse on the floor, gesturing to one of her colleagues.  Then Tawn said to the other nurse, “You may be the most beautiful, but I need to make sure you can also handle this special case.”  With great self-confidence she looked at him, smiled, and cattily replied that she was the best in the ward on both accounts.


Sure enough, Annie Oakley was right.  She spent about thirty seconds tapping the back of my hand and examining it, then swabbed it and struck a suitable vein in one single, smooth and painless prick of the skin.  As you can see, I’ve not let being in the hospital keep me from working.  This is my version of Sion’s treadmill desk.


Food here continues to be quite decent.  This morning I was served boiled rice, not quite Chinese style jok which I received the morning before.  This is really just watery rice.  My friend Ken really doesn’t like it so I think of him and our trip to Lampang a few years back every time I eat it. 

What really tickled me, though, was the message on this packet of chilies in vinegar: “To keep chilli fresh longer, No preservatives added.”  Anyone care to explain to me what role the vinegar serves?  It isn’t a preservative?

This afternoon Tawn and I headed downstairs to Starbucks.  I wore cargo shorts and a polo shirt in an effort to blend in to the crowd.  I’m not wearing my hospital kung fu pj’s to Starbucks!  I thought it would be funny to shoot a little video about me “sneaking” out of the ward but decided it was a bit more effort than I wanted to invest.

Okay, that’s all for now.  The night sky is now black and the city lights spread out around me.  Thanks for reading.


Reporting Live From Bangkok Hospital

Sometimes a short staycation is just what the doctor ordered.  Literally.  On my return to the doctor, much as I expected, there wasn’t any significant improvement with my lung infection so I’m doing two to three at Bangkok Hospital.  Thankfully, I bought expat insurance a year ago which covers hospitalization expenses at a pretty generous level.  Didn’t think I’d have the need for it anytime soon but there you go… better to be prepared.

Counter.jpg First off, though, a milestone passed last night.  My SiteMeter counter hit 100,000 unique visitors since September 21, 2006, an average of 115 a week.  The highest week was August 24, 2008 with 726, the week I wrote the featured post “Things I Wish I Had Know When I Started Working.”

While this blog serves primarily as a means to keep my friends and family up to date on what’s going on in my grand adventure in Thailand, I’ve been fortunate to receive so many other visitors.  To those of you who are here, who have stayed, and who actively participate in the conversations, thank you!

Having never been hospitalized before, I was eager to have a new experience to blog about.  So far all I can say is, it’s tedious!  Today was a public holiday so Tawn was with me part of the day before returning home to run some errands and subsequently stubbed his small toe, getting a hairline fracture in the process.  When he returned to the hospital he visited another doctor to receive treatment.  The plum purple toe is slowly losing its swell and hopefully he’ll be back in easy walking condition soon.  So now we’re both ailing!

As for me, I had to deal with a ongoing problem I have – elusive veins.  After poking around several times and not finding an active vein into which to run the IV line, a very sweet and apologetic nurse handed me off to someone else, who was able to strike oil on the first try.


Labels and stickers are on so I’m now officially the property of Bangkok Hospital.  Apologies for the Sharon Stone-esque shot.  The nurse did not cross her legs.

The “deluxe” rooms that the insurance covers were fully booked so they moved us to a “superior” room at no additional cost.  No kidding, this place is nearly as large as our condo!

I have an amazing view of the city and enjoyed a fantastic sunset.


The doors are locked to the balcony, though.  Will have to check tomorrow and see if they’ll let me out to take more pictures.  There’s a rooftop helipad just to the right of this picture.  If there’s a lifeflight arrival you know I’ll be filming!  =D

The food service is provided by Sodexho and I receive a menu for the following day.  Two choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the genres of Thai (oddly labeled “Oriental” food), Western, Vegetarian, Halal (labeled “Arabic”) and Japanese food.   I’m going with Thai meals as they are tastier and half the cost of the western meals.  Not clear what the prices are for the vegetarian, Arabic and Japanese meals but maybe if I stay longer I’ll experiment.  Here’s lunch as a sample:


Fruit plate for dessert, a clear soup with dark leafy greens and braised beef, ground pork with broccoli (which needed some fish sauce added for flavor) and a fried white fish with onions, green onions, carrots and cilantro in a sweet and sour sauce.  Huge amount of food and actually, not too bad!

A quick observation: I’ve been on an IV nonstop, a litre of saline slow dripping into my arm with injections every eight hours of this liquid antibiotic.  When they plunger it into my veins, I can feel it making its way up my arm, relatively cool (I guess they refrigerate it) and like an extra wave of blood heading for the heart.  Not painful but a very unique sensation.

Anyhow, I’m here for at least a few days.  No excuse not to stay on top of my blogging, I guess, as I have plenty of free time.  Ciao.


Why Don’t We Check You In Right Now?

Wednesday morning I awoke still feverish and with a worsening cough from deep within my chest.  Realizing that rest and plenty of fluids were proving insufficient to overcome this illness, I went to Bangkok Hospital to see a doctor.

Two hours, a chest x-ray, and a battery of blood work later, the doctor said that there looked to be a small infection in my left lung and that while she didn’t think it was pneumonia it would be best if I checked into the hospital right there and then so they could start an IV antibiotic.

I explained that right there and then wasn’t going to work.  For one thing, I had Tawn’s car with me, which he would need.  For another, I didn’t have my computer or any reading material with me and at the very least I would need to let my manager know that I was going to be out for a few days.  She didn’t seem to keen on that idea but she finally relented and gave me an oral antibiotic and instructions to return Thursday morning to check on the progress.

As she only prescribed me two pills and they are taken twice a day, I assume her intention is to check me into the hospital Thursday morning.

I’m not opposed to checking into the hospital if that’s the best course of action.  I am concerned, though, that her decision may be based both on taking the most aggressive course of treatment as well as a realization that my local insurance provider will pay for inpatient treatment but not outpatient treatment, so they stand to earn more by having me check in.

We’ll see how this plays out, but maybe I’ll be writing some entries soon about my first time staying in a hospital.

On an interesting note, the amount I paid for today’s chest xray, the blood work, prescriptions and doctor’s visit (none of which was covered by insurance since it was outpatient) was only US$57.  I think in the US my co-payment would have been higher than that.


Is it H1N1? Update

I like to consider myself a man of science.  When I came down with flu-like symptoms (temperature of 102.5 F / 39.2 C, muscle aches, occasional cough) I of course realized that I must have been exposed to a flu virus, although it is unlikely I’ll get tested to know specifically which one it is.

But there’s just a little bit of me that rejects the rational science expectation.  Here’s why: Sunday afternoon I went for a traditional Thai massage, something I haven’t done in at least nine months.  Like shiatsu, Thai massage is about manipulating pressure points and working deeply into your muscle tissue.  It can be painful.

Before going into the two-hour massage I felt fine but afterwards my muscles ached  as if I had been beaten up.  More than once I had to ask the masseuse to lighten the pressure a bit.  Sunday evening my face and neck were flushed and warm although a check of temperature didn’t show any notable elevation.  I drank plenty of liquids and got some extra rest.

Monday, though, it wasn’t getting any better.  I got up and worked for a while and then went back in to take a nap.  Checking my temperature, it was up to 38.1 C (37.0 is normal body temperature) and as the evening went on it spiked at 39.2 C.  Ibuprofen didn’t seem to be making any difference.  Fortunately, I’ve not had any nausea and my appetite has remained healthy.  This evening my temperature seems to have dropped a bit (haven’t check it yet but I feel cooler) and I had a light dinner of whole grain rice and some “gaeng jut” – so called “bland” soup which is broth with some ground meat and soft tofu in it.

I’ll get a full night’s sleep tonight and see how I feel in the morning.  If the temperature drops then I won’t go to the hospital.

Again, I know there’s a rational and scientific explanation for my illness.  But I can’t help wondering if the masseuse didn’t manipulate my energy points in such a way that it brought on the symptoms or opened the door to the virus by messing with my immunity.

Maybe an unfair assumption but I’ll probably be hesitant to get another full-bore Thai massage for a while.  Maybe just stick with the foot and shoulder massage, which is less painful.

Tuesday Evening: Despite taking ibuprofen for the fever, my temperature has gone up and down always staying at least a bit about normal.  Right now at 9:10 pm it is 39.0 C (about 102 F).  Chest congestion has built over the last twenty-four hours with a very deep, rumbling cough beneath my breast bone.  I’ll head to the hospital in the morning and have this checked out.