Stayin’ alive

Welcome to my first post of 2017!  I’d wish you a happy new year but…

….I will wish you more good days than bad instead. My goal is to get out of this year alive!

So, regular readers know that I rang in the New Year in the Philippines.  The trip turned out to be about half as good as I hoped.  I’m going to do a post about the travel portion of that visit soon.  This post is about the bad part.

Here’s a helpful hint:  Don’t take a vacation when you are sick.  I had my meds and figured I’d either get progressively better or stay about the same.  Didn’t think things could get worse until they did.

I arrived with my “tour guide” at our chosen Puerto Galera lodging, the Tribal Hills Mountain Resort pretty much on schedule at 1600 on Thursday the 29th.  I’d left home at 0430 though, so that constituted a long day of travel and I was pretty bushed.  Now, the day after Christmas PG had taken a direct hit from Typhoon Nina.  Lots of downed trees and the roads were pretty much a mess, but the resort was not in bad shape.  Except that the power was out.  No worries, they had a back up generator.  Although from 1300 until 1700 it was down for maintenance.  So, we arrived in our room without power, or more importantly, no air conditioning.  Took advantage of the wonderful deck off our room with outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and the ocean.

It wasn’t long before I noticed a bite on my arm from what I presume was a mosquito.  I belatedly got out my insect repellent and liberally applied it to the exposed areas of my body.  Shortly thereafter, a worrying rash appeared all over the arm that was bitten.  Then it spread to my neck and chest.  And then the other arm.  What the fuck?  I took a long shower and after a couple of hours the rash receded into nothingness and I felt no further ill-effects from the experience.

I had no idea just how isolated the Tribal Hills Resort actually is.  It’s on top of a mountain accessed by a narrow road that goes straight up.  I’d judge it to be a steeper climb than getting to the top of the stairs on Namsan.  And given my diminished lung capacity and bum leg, that was a non-starter.  They resort does offer a free shuttle to the base of the mountain near White Beach.  Although truth be told White Beach seemed like a sleepy little village with nothing much of interest to do there.  And the shuttle stops running at 2200 hours. So the resort has a restaurant and pool bar, who needs to leave, right?

Except late on the first night I experienced a new low in my battle with my lungs, as in a prolonged period where I had shortness of breath.  Which felt like drowning to me.  I tried not to panic which would lead to hyperventilation, but it felt like I was going to pass out at any moment.  My tour guide asked if I wanted to go the the hospital in Sabang, a good 45 minutes away under the best of circumstances.  And these weren’t the best of circumstances in Puerto Galero.  Imagining the nightmare of a small town provincial hospital in the PI, I declined the offer.  Back home during coughing jags I’d work up a sweat and found some comfort and relief having my fan blowing into my face.  I mentioned how I really longed for that fan now, and to her credit my tour guide set out on a midnight quest to find me one.  I assumed it would be fruitless because the resort basically shuts down after the last shuttle run, but she had roused a staff member who came to the door with fan in hand shortly thereafter.  It did provide a modicum of relief and I made it through a mostly sleepless night.

Things went better for most of the next day, which included a visit to Sabang.  So glad I didn’t try to go there for medical assistance!  That night I had some breathing problems again, but with the fan and some deep breathing exercises I learned from the web I was able to deal with it.  Again, just a couple hours of sleep though.  Decided to check out one day early and head back to Manila.  Call me a pussy, but the thought of not having access to emergency medical care should it be required was fucking with my mind.  Besides, there was just not much to see or do in PG and it seemed like a pointless place to ring in the New Year.

Had a nice New Year’s Eve celebration on P. Burgos street in Makati, coincidentally located very near the hotel I accidentally booked (I’ll cover that in the trip report installment).  More of the same, felt fine mostly until it came time to lay down for some sleep, which brought back the coughing fits and shortness of breath.  Managed a little more than 2 hours sleep from pure exhaustion, and woke up with the zit from hell on my cheek.  What’s up with that?

Last day in country had the worst bout yet and the tour guide suggested I get a nebulizer. I considered it briefly, but figured what I really needed was a doctor’s opinion, so I opted to wait until I got back to Seoul for that.  The plane ride from Manila went without incident, even managed a bit of sleep.  Once we landed I made it through immigration, bag claim, and customs in a jiffy.  Started walking to the AREX station and got hit hard with the lack of breath thing again.  The train departed in five minutes so there was no stopping to rest. Made it on board and collapsed in my seat.  I did my breathing exercises and told myself to suck it up and calm down, and eventually I did.  No other option really, it was after 1900 so my doctor’s clinic was long closed.

Caught a cab from Seoul Station and somehow managed to successfully navigate the cabbie to my villa’s front door through grunts and gestures.  Good thing too, because carrying my suitcase up two flights of stairs set off another lack of breath incident.  This one wouldn’t go away.  Around 0100 I was seriously thinking I needed to go to the emergency room for some oxygen.  Couldn’t think of anyone I felt comfortable calling to take me at that ungodly hour, and I figured trying to explain to 119 where I lived was pointless.  So I somehow managed to get through the night.  Through the power of sheer exhaustion I even managed a couple hours of sleep.

As I prepared to depart for Soonchunhwang hospital this morning, I stepped on the scale. 201 pounds!  A new record low for me, and down an amazing 6 pounds from last week.  I obviously haven’t been walking at all and on vacation I don’t strictly keep to diet (had a fantastic mango split for example).  The weight loss I’m certain is the result of my body and heart working overtime lately.  My fit bit advises that my resting heart rate has been in the high 80s to low 90s.  During my fits I’ve pushed it up to 130.  Prior to my illness my resting heart rate was around 70 and I only saw 130+ at the summit of the stairs to Namsan.  I DO NOT recommend this weight loss program however!

Arrived at the International Clinic without an appointment.  Receptionist asked if I preferred to see the hilarious Dr. Yoo or the sexy Dr. Kim.  I opted for Dr. Yoo who has been treating me for years.  But I felt compelled to mention in all other things I would pick Dr. Kim.  The receptionist smiled and said she understood.

Explained to Dr. Yoo (who coincidentally also has a cough and he blames Chinese pollution) what was going on, basically everything I’ve said above in more abbreviated form.  I know, why is HE so lucky?  Get over it!  I told him I needed to get this fixed.  He said if I had a fever he’d want me in the hospital.  I told him being hospitalized was something I really wanted and needed to avoid.  So, he had me do blood work, an EKG, a chest x-ray, and a nebulizer treatment.  After completing these rounds, I returned to see what Dr. Yoo’s conclusion might be.  I was happy that my hard working heart was still doing it’s job.  The blood work showed all indicators in the normal range.  The x-ray revealed that my lungs remain congested (no duh).  And the nebulizer treatment as far as I could tell was a success.  At least I wasn’t coughing.

He told me I was on the “borderline” for being hospitalized, but if I was willing to come in everyday for some nebulization we could try that.  I suggested that I just purchase my own nebulizer and do that at home. Dr. Yoo was down with that.  He also had mentioned having me hospitalized to administer intravenous antibiotics, but he was willing to try something stronger in pill form to see how that works out.  So, as of now I remain a free man!

My new best friend!

Don’t we make a nice couple? And check out that zit! Massive!

The doctor does wants me back in the morning for a follow-up, I guess to see how I’m reacting to the meds.  I’ve done two nebulizer treatments at home now and have had no issues with the cough or breathing problems.  I also had an uninterrupted two hour nap today which left me feeling surprisingly energized.

I’ll go to bed tonight feeling hopeful that the corner will indeed be turned and I can avoid the nightmare of being in a Korean hospital alone with no one to assist me.

I tagged this post in the “me, me, me” category which obviously fits.  I’m thinking I need to add a category of “aren’t you glad you’re not me?”  I suspect many of my readers come here to feel better about themselves.  Hey, glad to be of service.  No man is totally worthless, he can always serve as a bad example.

Cheers!

2 thoughts on “Stayin’ alive

  1. happy new year! sorry to hear about your medical issues. i had mentioned once before but i think it is worth repeating–living in an exotic locale like the pi or thailand sounds great–until you are faced with a medical emergency. and lets face it john, as we age, we require more medical care. so again, if i were you, i would consider a retirement haven with first world medical care. you seem fixated with southeast asia and i get it but have you ever considered other parts of the world? there are parts of europe that are incredibly cheap and please don’t forget costa rica. hope u feel better my friend and as always, peace out!

  2. Thanks as always soju.

    Quality medical is always a factor to be considered for sure. The area I’m looking at (Subic) has a couple of decent hospitals and you can find good doctors in Manila as well. So, for routine stuff I feel I’ve got it covered. I’ll be maintaining my current health care plan (Blue Cross) and will keep an emergency fund in the bank should a catastrophe strike requiring me to leave the courntry for “first world” care. I think it is a manageable risk.

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