I felt that most of the doctors, especially the male ones, were fighting for a cause. They still took time out of their busy schedules at Nakornping Hospital to teach us and inform us about whatever disease riddles their peoples but I also felt their need and their yearning for help. Here in front of them were a bunch of ambitious kids from the western world, privileged enough to travel overseas and receive a little insight into the field of medicine, and they had to stop what they were doing, pause between the countless number of patients to repeat the same thing over and over to us in broken english. It seemed so mundane, we felt like we weren't learning too much after the first few explanations but what I think they were trying to say was, they need help. I don't know what they wanted exactly, be it a donation, pity or just to spread knowledge that the people of their country are suffering. That the medical technology needed to treat the greater majority of their patients exists in the world, but they're unfortunate enough to not qualify for it because of where and when they're born.
I spent the first week in the Pediatric ward in Nakornping, one of Chiang Mai's biggest government hospitals and every morning when we'd walk from the change rooms to the wards we needed to be in that day, the hospital would be packed with people crowding the walk ways and they'd almost all be gone by lunchtime. Their outpatient department is nothing like ours. They stick to their approximate appointment times and the patients are on time and a consultation with a doctor usually lasts no more like 2 or 3 minutes. I'm not sure if this stems from their proactive attendance to scheduled doctors appointments, so that each time they do visit it's to solely address one problem, or if the doctors aren't required to be thorough, but it was so different.
We spent a whole afternoon in an HIV clinic and that experience made me realise how ignorant I was. I was expecting to see adults, forgetting that I was following a Pediatrician, and not only that, I had this idea in my head that the patients that I would see would somehow appear that they had HIV, like they'd dress provocatively or wear a malicious grin on their faces when they'd see others - I don't know - in my head they just seemed like they brought it on themselves. And it's only that way because I'm an ignorant westerner. Almost all of the patients were kids, who had contracted the disease from their parents. They looked normal, they dressed well and of course they were polite and respectful to the doctors. I couldn't believe that a handful of the kids were actually orphans and they were abandoned because their parents had died from HIV/AIDS or they had simply been abandoned because they had the disease.
There was one woman who really stuck out though. She had HIV and she was about 6 months along. Drugs exist which can help suppress replication of the virus and it's ability to reach the cells within the womb for the duration of the pregnancy, giving the baby a 98% chance of it not being born with HIV, the mother was on a pretty tough regiment of about 3 pills and she just decided to stop taking them, saying that the medicine made her tired and depressed. The 5 of us sat along the wall and just listened as the doctor tried for 20 tireless minutes to convince the mother to take the medicine again, although now the baby had a slightly elevated chance of contracting the virus. The entire conversation was in Thai, but we all knew what she was saying. I found it so hard to make eye contact with either of them, so I just wrote in my journal and others were writing things down on their phones. The entire duration of the pregnancy must be terrifying for the mother and having to sit down and be lectured almost by a doctor with 5 foreigners sitting and watching in the same room must've been so daunting and embarrassing.
Abortion is illegal in Thailand with the only exception to the rule being a child who had Thalassemia alpha mutation, which is basically a mutation in one of the chains of haemoglobin, which ultimately affects the red blood cells ability to carry oxygen. A child born with an alpha mutation will not live more than a few months after birth, and even then that is a rare case. It's maybe a week at best. They're not so lenient for cases such a rape, congenital diseases or even HIV. When we were walking through the wards, so many kids had to undergo phototherapy to get rid of their jaundice. There was one, a toddler who had a fatal liver condition. Everything they treated her with was purely to manage her symptoms. They couldn't treat the cause because her liver was so far gone that the only thing that would save her was a liver transplant. I asked if they had considered the possibility of getting her one, but unfortunately the only donors who do come through are older and not usually a match and so are reserved for other patients. When I asked if a family member could donate, I got that look again. The one that pleaded for compassion and filled with hurt at the knowledge of the futility of the situation. He tried to cover it up by laughing. He said that in our countries, they're able to do partial resections of the liver and have a family member donate, but that kind of technology doesn't exist in Thailand yet. I regretted asking.
I spent a weekend at one of the local Hill Tribes and I noticed that they are such an intelligent peoples. Their resourcefulness and innovation, the use of their knowledge to turn the things they have into the things they need, is so clever! I mean they're able to turn bamboo into cooking apparatus, cups, plates, chairs, houses! and just about anything else. It's such a shame that they're plagued with disadvantage. Just pure disadvantage. In this world where a handful of countries receive the things that exist purely because of their history, Thailand was unlucky enough to be given the short straw, as with so many other countries in this world. This week really was an eye-opener.
So I recently came back from my first solo trip to Thailand! I met so many amazing people and I saw so many amazing things. Here are some photos of the trip, they're out of order but they'll help me remember this when I'm old and wrinkly, haha.
Our group at Thae Pae gate. This was like central Chiang Mai for us because there was a market here and we'd always meet up here and eat around here and do things around the gate LOL (it's not actually the centre of CNX doe)
First day of placement. I did not bring the right clothes, but I made do with my basics.
Induction arvo with Tik, who looks after gap medics. He got us to eat these, bamboo worms. They were more texture than flavour. Crispy with a hint of salt
We went to a temple
Pix with a monk
Taught him how to take a selfie
Selfie with this soldier. He was amused :)
I think this was on a Tuesday, after placement. A bunch of us went on a bike ride up a never ending hill.
On the way home, Pat and I went a little too fast down the hill. He had to use his shoes along with the brakes so we didn't die LOL
Second bike ride. We took a different path and climbed up a hill
The Jess' from NSW
Hill tribe weekend with our tour guides and the locals who were so kind to let us stay and show us around :) They had very monosyllabic names like Nok, Ake, Kan and Sook.
Don't mind the blur, I was just in a Thai sauna for a good 20 mins. It smelt so nice! Super relaxing :)
I really liked this outdoor bamboo shower
No seat belts for the daring
Our lovely elephant riding attire
Go pro qual
W/ my girl ellie
I should've instaged this
This was the first day of placement. It got kinda boring and I had a scratchy throat so I asked the doctor to examine me. She then go the nurses to take my temp and BP LOL
I think this was in the middle of the Pediatrics week. We really like this doctor. She took the time to go through each patient with us and even though she left for a good hour to do an emergency C-Section, we learnt so much from her
Adam, Anina, Kim and Kristen
On the back of a red taxi
Eating d*ck, the usual
Visited an orphanage. The kid was so amused at his own reflection on the selfie cam! This was probably the most heart-warming hour of my life
Chicken feet salad at the market outside Nakornping Hospital. It was Thai spicy (> 8 chilies per serving)
Back to hill tribe
Pat, Niamh, Jenny, Julie
They got us to release lanterns. We were told it was something that originated in the south after the tsunami hit. People would light and release lanterns as a symbol of letting go of the past and all the bad in your life, to make room for a brighter future. There's now an annual lantern festival throughout Thailand to commemorate those in the tsunami so many years ago. It was such a beautiful thing.
Week 2. Muay Thai after placement
Thai cooking class. It's actually so do-able. Just gotta go out and get all the ingredients
Am I a chef or what? No joke, this was the best tom yum I had in Thailand! and I made it!!
When we were too chicken to watch the C section
Ellie and Shelly in Koh Phi Phi
The sun set was nice
We went scuba diving!!
Aren't we cute? :)
Coral fan, whoa
Snorkel at lunch. Hey Juan
Our dive instructors name was Juan. He's from South Africa
There were swings everywhere!!