My Visit to a Cambodian Hospital

It sounds much scarier than it actually was, however I did mention to my professor, “Had I known I would be going to a hospital while in Cambodia, I may not have come on this trip.” For someone who RARELY gets sick back home, I sure have a way of falling ill when I travel *sigh*. Good thing I wore a surgical mask on my flight over from Chicago like a weirdo.

Between the poor air quality in Ho Chi Minh City (6 million motorbikes expel a lot of exhaust), our bodies adjusting to a 13 hour time difference, lack of sleep, drastic changes in diet, etc. most of us developed colds. I was the lucky one in the group whose body was unable to fully combat the illness.

I must have looked pretty bad that morning, and I had no voice. After our elephant rides to the Bayon Temple, I swear everyone asked me how I was feeling. With no voice to speak, I resorted to thumbs up and forced smiles. I was pushing through as well as I could, but was weak and having problems breathing. Katie (who became my nurse and mother for the next 2 days) and my professor insisted I go back to the hotel for rest. It was my choice, which I was VERY upset to have to make, but walking up the steps at the temple became an exhausting chore, so Katie and I hopped in a tuk-tuk to head back to the hotel.

Just moments before we left for the hotel

Katie and I at Pre Rup for sunset

Katie, God bless her, was just wonderful, asking for every detail of my symptoms, forcing me to drink water and eat a little, checking on me every couple of hours as I napped, etc. Eventually it was insisted I go to the hospital to make sure there wasn’t any “strange Asian flu” that I caught and to figure out whether or not I needed to be flown to Thailand for care (many people don’t know this, but Thailand has some of the best healthcare in the world, in fact, healthcare tourism is big business there since they offer quality services at a fraction of the cost in the U.S….it’s really a shame what liability insurance and frivolous lawsuits do to HC costs in this country, but I digress).

Royal Angkor International Hospital

So, we made our way to the Royal Angkor International Hospital, which, quite possibly, could have been the best healthcare experience I’ve had in years. The staff was attentive, kind and quick to get me to the doctor (who I’m guessing was either Khmer or Thai) for diagnosis. The nurses wore the traditional nursing uniform (which I have not seen, I think, ever) and were tiny and adorable. While the doctor and nurses spoke English, there was a slight communication barrier we were able to get through with minor effort.

It turned out I only had a double ear infection, sinus infection, slight fever and laryngitis…nothing I haven’t had at home (sigh of relief).  When the doctor said he wanted to do blood work just to be sure there wasn’t anything else wrong, I was sure to ask if they use disposable needles (they do). It seems almost silly after the fact because this is really a world-class facility but Siem Reap is MUCH more developed than I thought it would be, having had a surge of tourism in recent years.

I look really pathetic, don't I?

An hour later, the doctor went through my blood work, line by line, with a level of thoroughness I have never experienced in the states. “Your white blood cell count is high because your body is trying to fight a bacterial infection. Your hemoglobin is normal, but if it wasn’t that could indicate…” Basically everything else was fine, but my sodium level was very low since I wasn’t eating enough food (causing the weakness and dizziness I was experiencing that morning at the temple).

I was given $115 in medication (thank God for student health insurance) in a cute little gift bag you’d expect to get at the Body Shop (“Get well soon” it says along the bottom), with a total bill of $419. I was to sleep, drink and EAT to get back to normal. Katie is such a doll, she took care of me all day, ordering me room service, making sure I was slowly getting better and taking my medication.

It goes without saying that I wish I didn’t miss a day of this amazing trip, however, Dr. Shultz must be so proud of how far this country and city has come in the past 15 years. He has worked as a marketing consultant in this region of the world to promote tourism in Siem Reap and offer direction on how to create a “differential advantage” for Cambodia over other countries in Asia. When he first started travelling to Cambodia, it was not safe for foreigners, but has become one of the safest places in the country. If not for his efforts, who knows if this hospital would even be there!

And with that crazy story, I will leave you with the guy from Avicii’s video…



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