Well, that escalated quickly.
I started writing this post whilst waiting for minor surgery. In true Asian private hospital style, I only came in for a consultation, but left with a hole in my back, a suitcase of medication and a bill that made me break down in tears in the doctor’s office.
I miss the NHS.
I have had what appeared to be an infected boil on my back for the last three weeks. An online consultation with a UK-based doctor (via an absolutely awesome service provised by ny health insurers) seemed to confirm that I had an infected sebaceous cyst. I was prescribed an antibiotic and told to wait for it to burst.
I am already allergic to penicillin; unfortunately it appears I am allergic to erythromycin as well. Having your face and lips go numb and tingly in the middle of the night is not a fun experience. So I stopped taking the antibiotic and settled in for the wait, somehow resisting the urge to hand Phalla a hot needle and some wet wipes.
Then, on Friday, fever struck. Unsure if I was suffering from complications of the infection or merely the particulalry virulent lurgy which is currently rampaging through our school, I called the online GP again for advice. She said that complications couldn’t be ruled out and I should get someone to look at the cyst asap.
So Saturday found me in the Emergency department of a nearby hospital. I actually wanted to go to a cheaper, more local clinic, but my inability to speak the language, combined with the inability of anyone I know to recommend anywhere in the local area, meant that I had little choice but to pay over-the-odds for a private hospital with English-speaking doctors. I waited for over an hour (admittedly, not bad by UK A&E standards) before being admitted into the Emergency Ward, where I waited for another hour for the doctor to come and see me.
“What is problem?”
“I have an infected sebaceous cyst that needs draining.”
“You want blood tests for an infection?”
“No. I have a cyst. On my back.”
The doctor prodded me slightly through my shirt.
“Yes, when you prod it.”
“You want biopsy?”
“No, please just drain it.”
“OK. I will hospitalise you overnight.”
“Um, no. It is just a small incision. I really don’t need hospitalising.”
“Yes, to drain the pus.”
For the first time, the doctor asked to look at the cyst. After 10 seconds of staring, he announced that he was off to find a surgeon.
Eventually he returned.
“Surgeon no available. I make you appointment. For Monday.”
“Can you not do it now? It only needs a small incision and draining.”
“No, no, the pus is very deep. It needs a surgeon. Come back Monday.”
For the privilege 2 hours of waiting and 2 minutes of consultation, I paid around $50. Havig ascertained that the necessary procedure would only cost a further $50 or so, I went home with an armload of antibiotics to wait for Monday
It turns out, by the way, that I am not allergic to these antibiotics. They merely make me feel so sick I wish I was dead, which is apparently a common side effect that I don’t need to worry about.
So, this morning, I turned up for my 10am appointment. At 11:30, I was admitted to see the surgeon. He listened to my tale of woe, spent 10 seconds staring at my back, and announced that I needed minor surgery to remove the cyst. At a cost of around $350-400.
“But surely it is just a small incision. The emergency department said 600,000 rupiah ($50).”
“That is for consultation only.”
“No. They said for incision.”
“You need surgery. This is not a small boil. They were wrong.”
In the end I agreed to the surgery. Less than half an hour later, I found myself lying face down on a bed whilst the surgeon sliced, poked, prodded and stitched. I am very squeamish, so I will skip over the fibromyalgia-induced panic attack; the wonderful oxygen; the strange cutting, tearing noises emanating from behind me; the worrying laughter of the doctor and nurse as they poked my back and made comments about “lots” and “here” and “there”. After an indefinite amount of time, the surgeon announced he was finished for the fifth time, made a few more stitches and left the room. I sat up, slowly, and was handed a much-needed cup of sweet tea to help me recover. The nurse smiled reassuringly at me.
“Here, Mrs,” she announced, and thrust something at me on a piece of paper towel. Off-white, surprisingly large, it quivered, like a half-eaten crème brûlée.
“Ugh,” was the only response that came to mind. The nurse laughed, and tossed the offending article into an open waste bin under the bed.
Finally, around $300 and one cyst lighter, I was allowed to go home. Once there, the pain kicked in. I spent the rest of the day dosing up on pain killers and gesturing at things with T-Rex arms, as the cyst’s location just below my shoulder blades on my spine makes any form of lifting, carrying or arm extending impossible. Now I’m off to bed to attempt to find a comfortable sleeping position which won’t result in Nathaniel kicking me in the back, and to plan the next four days of making family and students my personal slaves before the stitches are removed on Saturday.
Next time, I’m going out to buy a needle and some wet wipes.