Vacations, Stomach bugs and Wonder drugs
Okay so here I am in a foreign place, unfamiliar surroundings, being careful about what I eat and drink. Remember years of living in the US has robbed you of all your immunity, warned my Mom before I left for my vacation. So I tried to be careful. But looks like the US can really mess up your constitution and years of building a strong immunity through fighting all those Indian germs have deserted me completely in these few years. Within a week of landing in this South East Asian city, I get diarrhea. Now what is the big deal about diarrhea you ask. I mean I've had diarrhea before. And it's never been much of an issue. Lay off the spicy food, easy on milk products, plenty of fluids per mouth and it takes care of itself. Even the most watery and cramping kinds. So when I started frequenting the restroom a little too often I thought I just had to be a little careful and it would heal on its own. Except I was wrong.
As my Dad put it, I was fighting an Asian stomach bug and it required more effort than a fluid diet. On the second day of my diarrhea with no signs of improvement I realized that I needed to find a pharmacy and get some sort of medication. Unfamiliar with the kinds of drug one can find over the counter in this place I went to the drug store next to my Hotel and asked the lady to help. She pointed me to a shelf containing activated charcoal and smiled. I shook my head and said I needed something stronger. She says, "you need doctor". At this point I am still not sure whether one can get anti-diarrheal medicines over the counter. I ask her where I can find a doctor. She directs me to a clinic half a block down the road. I follow her instructions and go to the clinic only to find out that they do not see patients on weekends (yes, it was a Saturday) and I would have to go to the Hospital pharmacy to see what they could give me. Thankfully the Hospital was quite close, on the next street.
I go to the Hospital pharmacy which looked much better and well equipped than the one I had been to in the morning. I walk up to the Pharmacist and ask her if she could give me some anti-diarrheal medicine.
"Is it for you?" she asks.
I nod my head and say yes.
Then she asks me, "What medicine are you looking for?"
And I almost roll my eyes at the question. This was like being at a grocery store and being asked what kind of tomatoes I was looking for. What if I weren't a doctor and I had no clue. What am I supposed to say? What kind do you have available?
"Something like Lomotil or Imodium," I say with hope in my voice.
The girl looks at me and asks me, "What kind of diarrhea are you having?"
The unwanted kind. The bad kind. The kind that is killing me. I try not to sound irritated as I tell her "watery diarrhea".
"How many times have you gone since morning?"
"I lost count."
"More than five?" she asks.
I nod. She then asks me about signs for dysentery, dehydration and infection. And I shake my head saying "no" to everything.
But she suddenly decides that I look pale, with sunken eyes, dry parched lips and tongue and says, "You are having mild dehydration and you have to go see a doctor. You need intestinal antibiotics which require a prescription."
At this point I am really feeling tired and exhausted and cursing myself for not travelling with anti-diarrheal medicines. I ask her where I can find a doctor and she says I need to go register at the front desk and they would help. Except by the time I figure out where I had to go register I was told that doctors were gone for the day and that I needed to go to the Emergency room. Now I was really getting tired of the entire charade. I just had diarrhea and there was no way I was going to go sit in the ER for half a day for something so trivial.
So I march back to the Hospital pharmacy and this time get to talk to the senior Pharmacist. I tell her that I needed some anti-diarrheal medicine and that I was taking plenty of fluids and assured her that I did not have dehydration and that I would see a doctor on Monday if she would just oblige and help me for now. I guess something touched her. And she took out a pack of Imodium and hands it over to me. I could have hugged her with joy. She gives me the usual warnings that come with taking the medicine and I walk out of the pharmacy feeling victorious.
It took almost 48 hours for the medication to kick in, check my diarrhea and regain my appetite. But it worked and I am glad. And I'm never stepping out of known territory without an array of medication that I may need. Which my Mom still cannot believe that I actually did.
Doesn't matter where you are going you always take an emergency supply of medicines. And this is Asia for crying out loud!
Yes, now I know. The hard way.
But the good news is I'm back on my feet and ready to tackle the next culinary delight. Right on!
Labels: Travel tales