Bernd and I were relatively healthy for the first 4.5 months of this trip but last week we succumbed to so-called “Delhi Belly”. I suppose it had to happen at some point, so I tried to accept it with good grace. After procuring some antibiotics at a street pharmacy (I can never get enough of the Asian “no questions asked” drug dispensing policy) I waited for it to pass. Sadly it did not. Bernd was definitely on the mend 4 days later, while I was still exhibiting all of the classic symptoms (I’ll spare you the details).
Unfortunately the worst of the illness coincided with a travel day; we hired a taxi to take us from Kochi to Munnar, a 4 hour journey winding through the mountains. It was unpleasant. Our driver, Mahesh, is driving us around for 5 days. On the second day he took one look at my greenish face and plastic bag and insisted I visit the local hospital. I don’t doubt that his concern was as much for his upholstery as for my health. I agreed.
The “hospital” (above) was located in a row of shops. I turned a blind eye to the obvious “sick Western lady” queue jumping Mahesh facilitated and entered the line at the front. Mahesh came into the consulting room with me. I would’ve objected but the “door” was a flimsy curtain, so the entire waiting room/corridor may as well have come in too. If you have a venereal disease in Munnar the entire town sure as hell knows about it.
I had low blood pressure due to not retaining food or drink for several days so was sent to “casualty” (another curtain) to be put on a glucose drip. Nobody wore gloves but I saw them take the syringe out of the plastic packet so it seemed hygienic enough (Bernd pointed out that gloves are not generally considered necessary for routine injections anyway, he’s quite a reassuring fountain of wisdom at times).
I lay on a bed in the tiny “ward” with my eyes closed as the glucose started to drip into my vein. Suddenly Mahesh loomed over me: “Are you better now?” I assured him I was on the mend. Then I observed the developing cases around me with interest (no partitions between beds). A young woman next to me was moaning and wailing about her cannula. Elderly people were taking turns on some sort of mechanical inhaler. Another lady, who seemed to be 150 years old, was receiving an infusion of the same yellowish liquid as me.
After an hour I was unhooked and the cannula was removed. I saw the doctor again and was prescribed a range of medicines. I obtained them then and there (why haven’t WE seen fit to combine clinics and pharmacies?) I can’t say for certain what some of the drugs are because I only have parts of the cards containing the pills, not the box or the “patient information” leaflet. One of them has a name ending in “done” so it could be anything.
Then the doctor asked me to positively review the hospital online and with that, I was done. Total cost $10. Take that, NHS.
The day took an even more positive turn when we checked out of the terrible guesthouse we were staying in and into the Panoramic Getaway, in which our room boasts such luxury features as a comfortable bed, freshly washed bed linen, a fridge, digital tv and 24hr hot water! The sight of the little lady hooked up to an IV definitely loosened the purse strings.
As we completed the hotel paperwork the lady at the desk asked “Are you unwell Madam?” – my hands were covered in wads of cotton and plasters from failed cannulation attempts. Classy. I assured her I was on the mend and luckily was allowed to check in. 4 luxurious days await!