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Trip Report – 3 nights in Bumrungrad


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Nine years ago, as a young, handsome British Navy chap, I suffered an eye injury. It fully healed but I was told the damage had left me with an increased risk of a detached retina. Because of this risk, I was medically discharged and my promising naval career (I had nearly reached the dizzy heights of Sub-Lieutenant) was cut short. Nowadays, even if “fit”, I wouldn’t go back in the Navy for love nor money. However, I was utterly devastated at the time and still look back uneasily on that fateful meeting with the grim-faced Navy Doctor who broke the dreaded news to me before dashing off for a swift G & T and snorkers.

In the last nine years on “Civvy Street”, I had participated in boxing, judo, scuba, parachuting, bungee jumping as well as a few international fisticuff sessions and my vision was still OK, retina attached. I sometimes felt like phoning that Navy Doctor and telling him I was a university boxing champion (a complete lie) or singing Elton John’s “I’m still standing”. After all, the greatest sailor in British history, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, only had one eye and if some over-zealous Navy Doctor had discharged him, we would all be speaking French and sporting Ginola/Petit haircuts now.

However, in the last week of November, all was not shipshape and bristol fashion. As I gazed out of my office window pretending to do some work, I noticed a dark shadow appearing in my right eye and I guessed what it was. 1-0 to the Navy Doctor.

I visited Bumrungrad’s A & E at 10.30pm Friday evening. Being from London, I fully expected to see a vast array of drunken hooligans with busted noses and broken fists but to my surprise, it was nearly empty. After a short wait, I saw a doctor who said I had a scratch on the front of my eye and my retina was OK. However, he urged me to see the eye specialist the following day.

In my opinion that doctor did a bad job. If I was Tommy Tourist, I would have gone straight back to Nana and forgotten all about it. That doctor was not an eye specialist so he should not have said my retina was OK. It may have been a Friday night and there may have been a language misunderstanding but some people take a doctor’s word as gospel and as I later found out, his summary diagnosis was very far from the truth.

The next day I went to the eye specialist to get my foregone conclusion. I had a partially detached retina and needed an operation quickly. I was booked in for the next day. I thought I caught a glimpse of $ or baht signs in the doctor’s eyes as he delivered his diagnosis. I presumed he would give me a quick explanation of the operation procedure another time. I know doctors are busy but if this doctor was paid 10 baht for every word he spoke, he would have to borrow money to buy Mama noodles.

If you have an operation, you must have a physical check-up first. After the usual questions and answers, “I only drink at Christmas etc”, my bits were tested, I was declared fit and promptly given a B4000 bill. After a quiet Saturday night in, my only strenuous activity being to throw away my “I’m still standing” CD, I woke early on Sunday and left for my 3 day break.

I opted for the stingy, economy class 4 bed room as in my unfortunate state, I couldn’t remember how much my insurance would pay. It was still very pleasant: personal TV, phone, Bumrungrad (BH) slippers, BH towels and boxed BH toiletry set (wow my brother’s wife is going to be thrilled with her Xmas present this year).

After several hours of TV watching and channel juggling, I changed into a blue dress and white shower cap and was wheeled off to the theatre. I envisaged the reticent doctor giving an elaborate and colourful presentation before surgery so I knew what to expect whilst asleep but I never even saw him and fell unconscious before he arrived. Incidentally, why do they strap your arms to the operating table?

I awoke; no headache, no pain but the mute medic had bandaged both my eyes shut. After being spoon fed dinner, destroying half the room in an attempt to locate my ringing phone and deciding to wait until morning for the toilet, I went to sleep.

I thought doctors came to see patients but no - not at BH. The next morning, unwashed and still bandaged, I was wheelchaired off to see the quiet quack. I had to wait a few minutes and I must have been quite a pitiful site for all the outpatients I could hear around me. If I ever get another detached retina, I’ll sacrifice all dignity and carry a charity money collecting box whilst waiting for my morning check ups.

The rest of my stay was totally uneventful and boring. My neighbour was a gentleman from Phnom Penh who had entered hospital in a very bad way indeed (Kidney failure). He was accompanied by two female “cousins” who also slept in the room on the PVC visitors’ sofa. BH rules ask people not to do this but the two ladies were very pleasant, spoke excellent English and I can only guess how expensive that guy’s treatment was for his family back home.

On the subject of money, many Thais seem to hate BH. The Thai word “pairng” is used in the same breath as BH. I was insured but I do think BH’s prices are sky high. The total cost of my treatment was B75,000. This compares to maybe B20,000 in a normal Thai hospital. All those BH accessories such as slippers, piped music and (sister-in-law) toiletry sets don’t come cheap.

I can’t complain too much. A friend in England had exactly the same condition last year. He waited in vain for five days for a free operation from the UK’s National Health Service before opting to pay 1500 pounds for a private operation. I have spoken to a few Brits in Thailand who feel safe being uninsured as they “can return to the UK for free treatment” – good luck!

One relatively unknown feature of BH is the 6th floor garden. I saw many patients meeting their visitors in the lobby. The garden is a far more pleasant place to hang out with visitors. Chatting amongst the tulips is better than sulking around Starbucks. After all, you (or your insurance company) are paying for that garden.

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From this I gather you are not impressed with BH and you attained the dizzy heights of Midshipman. Glad your eye is OK. I have a problem with one unfortunately at the moment they aren't skillfull enough to do anything,,,,,Bummer.

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