Virtual Vacation: Trouble in Paradise, Day 13

Last night, I found out that one member of our group, Linne, had arrived before me. She’d flown in early to give herself time to recover from the long journey. So I wasn’t as alone here as I thought. Linne and I had dinner together, comparing notes about travel while getting acquainted with each other. And I found out that another member of our group, Tawnya, is arriving today. So my dilemma of what to do with my final days of solo travel has become moot.

At 7 AM this morning, I was safely tucked in my beachside room at the Lotus Bungalows two days before the rest of the group was due to arrive. Unfortunately, I was facing two major problems. My squirrelly stomach continued to bother me, and without going into the gross details, let’s just say, things were not coming out the way they should. My stomach was cramping and I was running to the bathroom. I woke up achy and sore and it wasn’t just the bed. A good night’s sleep had not solved my intestinal problem.

My other major problem was with my laptop, the means by which I am communicating with you. My laptop also has all my notes for teaching this retreat, so it’s not an optional piece of equipment. I have a Mac with a track pad and starting yesterday, the track pad started getting wonky—not responding to the swipes and gestures I was making with it. This meant I could still type text with the keyboard, but I couldn’t navigate between documents or move around on the page. It’s only every hundredth swipe that the trackpad responded the way I wanted it to. It’s the humidity. And it was only when this problem started that I remembered having trouble with sticky keys last year. This, like my stomach trouble, is a serious problem.

It took me an hour and a lot of frustration to read my morning emails. Allison wrote and said I should eat papaya for the runs, including all of the seeds. Karyn said I shouldn’t mess around and that I should get myself to a homeopathic doctor right away.

I wrote back to Karyn and asked her to please buy me a USB computer mouse and a wireless keyboard, hoping one would at least let me limp through the next few weeks of this trip. I know she is jammed getting ready to leave the country and that I was asking a lot to ask her to do anything extra for me. If worse came to worse, I told her, she could buy them at an electronics store in the Hong Kong airport on her layover.

I didn’t really feel like moving, but I put on a turquoise and purple sundress and set out in search of Henriette, the manager of the Lotus Bungalows. She and her husband, Jan, the divemaster who put Lizzy and I through our Advanced Open Water course last year, are from Denmark, and they are both extremely efficient problem-solving people.

I found Henriette preparing the yoga props for Karyn’s yoga classes. I told her about my two problems and she immediately took charge. As she recited a litany of all her own salt and humidity related computer disasters over the years she’s lived here, she quickly located two plug-in mice and handed them to me to try.

“I’m going to call the doctor for you,” she said. “She can come over or we can take you over on the scooter. Why don’t you go back to your room and wait?”

Five minutes later, I’d figured out that the mouse could work, though it had been so many years since I’d used one, I could see that I was going to have to relearn how to manipulate it successfully.

Then, before I knew it, my Balinese doctor and her assistant arrived. Dr. Ni Wayan Putu Suati looked young (which in Bali probably meant middle age). She smiled and in fairly good English began asking me about my symptoms. I told her about drinking water from the springs, though I wasn’t sure how much of what I was saying she understood.

She, like everyone else, was shocked I was here alone. When I told her I was a teacher, and that I had to get well for my students, she responded with the same reverence for teachers that I’ve seen expressed by other Balinese. “If you are a teacher, you must be very smart,” she said.

“I don’t know,” I answered, “I may have been very stupid to drink that water.”

Dr. Wayan told me she wanted to take me to the clinic and give me some antibiotics and some medicine for “acid balance,” and put me on an IV.

I surrendered to the situation immediately, vividly recalling my chemo infusions six years earlier. An IV for hydration? That was no big deal.

My next thought (I kid you not), was what a fantastic blog post this was going to be. That’s the great thing about being a writer; bad experiences are no longer bad experiences; they’re great fodder for stories.

I packed up my laptop, my new mouse, my power adapter, my phone, the novel I’m reading, my passport, a pad, and a pen, shoved them all in my backpack, and the next thing I knew, I was in the back of a car heading for the clinic, about ten minutes away. It was a good thing I was in Candidasa, not Amed. This is no podunk fishing village. I had changed locations in the nick of time.

Wayan and her assistant, Deyani Savitri, brought me into a small room with a desk, a small couch, and a single bed with flowered cotton sheets. They wanted to put the IV in my right arm, but I asked them to use my left instead so I could use my right hand to write. Dr. Wayan told me I would get one fast IV and one slow IV. And then she said (at least I think she said) I’d be here for 6-7 hours. I was suddenly glad I’d brought all my supplies with me.

I asked if I could go to the bathroom before they started. When I got back, Dr. Wayan asked, “Just now, did you have diarrhea or pee-pee?”

“Pee-pee,” I answered.

As Deyani took a blood draw to culture and started my drip, I asked Dr. Wayan a little about her training. She said that she had been a general practice doctor for 15 years and that she had to do 6.5 years of training in Denpasar. If she had wanted to specialize, it would have meant another 5 years of schooling.

Dr. Wayan gave me a series of pills that I dutifully ingested without question. “Maybe in one day comes back your strength,” she said.

Deyani came in with a tray of breakfast: cut up bananas and white toast with butter, which I quickly devoured.

I told Doctor Wayan about the BRAT diet we used at home: bananas, applesauce, white rice and toast.”

She laughed and gave me one of her great big smiles. “Same, same,” she said.

I was taking notes with my right hand as she talked to me, and she said, “Writing is some kind of therapy I think. If we can express all our kind of feelings, it is very good. If I have problem and I let the words flow like water, all the feeling come out. It will be easier. I feel lighter. I feel finished with the feelings. We must always bring the small note (notebook) to go everywhere.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “That’s what I teach my students.”

Dr. Wayan nodded vigorously. “When I go to work, I bring a little note. If I write it down, half the problem is solved. Otherwise, not get solved. Just write. It’s an excellent habit. Meeting you, that’s good. Support to continue the habit.”

I’m not making this up. This is really what she said.

Once I had taken all the pills and was all hooked up to the IV and had been fed, Deyani came in with a couple of simple forms to sign, and Dr. Wayan asked me about my insurance. I had my Anthem Blue Cross card in my wallet, and there actually was a phone number on the back to use if you were out of the country. I had no idea if I’d be covered for my hospitalization here (I was realizing that this small roadside clinic was considered a hospital), and I had no means to call the U.S. I hoped that the indomitable Henriette could make the call for me. Dr. Wayan took my information. “Okay, Madam,” she said before she left, “My assistant will come to change you.” She was referring to the IV bag.

Can you imagine a doctor in the U.S. arriving for a house call within ten minutes of being called, being transported to a hospital, served breakfast, hooked to an IV and given medication before payment was ever discussed?

I was left alone for quite a while. When she came in to change my IV from the fast drip to the slow drip, Deyani asked, “You work all the time in your country?”

“Yes,” I answered, “All the time.”

“Morning? Evening?” she asked.

“Yes, morning, evening,” I replied. A more sophisticated response was not possible. I worked far too much; that was the truth of it. Deyani looked at me sympathetically. Then she showed me a little sign that told me how to call if I needed anything and left the room again.

I’ve been pecking out this post with one hand ever since.

A couple of hours later… Deyani came in to bring me some probiotics. She seemed to be impressed with my ability to swallow big pills easily. Maybe that’s not true of the Balinese. Deyani asked if I’d gone to the bathroom and noted the time and the consistency. She said to call her next time I had to go.

I asked if she was a nurse and she said yes. She’d had three years of training to become a general nurse. It would take three more years to become an emergency nurse, but she said her family doesn’t have the money for further education for her; that her younger siblings need it for their schooling.

She said I could have lunch at 1:00. I asked if I could have rice; she said she’d have to call the doctor to find out. Once more she left the room, and I decided to try for a nap.

I managed a few pages of Kimberley Sun, fell asleep, and woke up when Deyani brought me more white toast and bananas, a big pill before I ate and a tiny one after. I felt exhausted and hoped this treatment worked. I didn’t mind a down day in this clinic hooked up to an IV with stomach cramps, but I hoped my proactive visit here would keep my situation from worsening. I figured I had 48 hours to get myself back in shape.

Later: I’m still here with stomach cramps. I’m drinking tons of water and just got the code for a so-so wifi network. So I’ll send this out now and you’ll have to read about the outcome later.  Wish me well!

To my writing students…how’s that for a cliff hanger?

Comments

  1. Tracy Thomas says

    Oh dear… Sad you became ill, however happy it waited until you were in a place where you could receive wonderful medical attention. Hope it passes quickly! xoxo

  2. MARIA LINDSAY says

    Hi Laura ~ Your gut is out of balance. The BRAT diet is great. Can you get some rice also? It seems to absorb things. Also, if your doc could get you some Pro-biotics that also would be strengthening. If she can, please take those now, & also when you come home… and for a long time. My usual is to take them in mornings, empty stomach, & that way they absorb well. Meanwhile, I will pray! I think you will get well enough to begin the class. Lots of love & gentle hugs! ~ Maria

  3. Jan says

    Laura, sending you good wishes for a speedy and full recovery. Who knows, maybe this experience is part of the larger healing the springs have to offer???? I am loving each one of your posts and your willingness to embrace what is here in the moment, and discover treasures within and around you, all along the way. xo, Jan

  4. Annette Naber says

    Laura – I do hope you’ll get over this stomach bug quickly. Seems like you are in good hands. Love the wisdom of your doctor Wayan….
    Careful what you ask for…:-) Now you get to experience Bali beyond the hotel tourism facade – again.
    Best wishes for your recovery and say hello to Henriette for me. She is the best problem solver.

  5. Renee winter says

    Laura I hope and expect that the next installment finds you back to soaking up the sun and blue sky, iV removed and equilibrium restored. I read this after returning from my 7th treatment as I sit out on my patio on another lovely SC morning adapting to my own GI rumblings. I found it fascinating the stories of your medical providers and absence of copayment request before they hooked u up! Thanks for sharing and may this “trouble in paradise” be only of 24 hour duration. Miss you and the trip but feeling nurtured and taken care of . Even swam yesterday. I may be in the honeymoon period but this treatment too will end successfully. Just trying to give myself permission to dial back my work.
    Be well and USB port or not teaching must be so instinctive to you by now!
    Love
    Renee

  6. Linda says

    The battery pack on your mac is probably expanding–won’t get better. It’s housed right under the track pad–had the same problem–so when it expands, which it inevitably will, it cuts off the abilities of the keyboard–increasingly. Can anyone coming to the class bring you a new one if you can’t get one there? I think it’s easy to change. Eli or a friend of his could probably walk you through it via phone or Skype.

    In the meantime, if you’re in a large city atm, while you can, I suggest printing out all your notes for your classes…just saying. Been there before.
    Feel better soon!

    • says

      It’s interesting Linda, now that I’m away from the ocean, just a mile inland, the problem isn’t happening. And I’m remembering that I had the trouble last year at the Lotus Bungalows, too. And when I got my computer home, the problem went away. It’s been suggested that I submerge my computer in rice every night. I may just try that….

  7. Julie sheehan says

    Dear Laura,
    I am saying prayers for your recovery. I LOVED this post. I love that your doctor wants to support you because you help people to heal and release their emotions through writing. I love that you are able to look at hard circumstances as great posts. That is what writing has done for me too and I am so grateful to you for that. Sending you wishes for normal bowels and a restful, restorative day. Much love to you.

  8. Maureen says

    Sorry to read about your illness but glad you are having the experience of being lovingly cared for in the same way you have shared that you have extended that loving care to others in the course of this trip.

  9. Charlene Robinson says

    Laura,

    You are certainly experiencing pretty much all that Bali has to offer! (Probably some of which you might have wanted to “skip”!). I’m so glad Henriette was able to get Dr. wayan to you! I look forward to your conversations with her….sounds like two very like-minded people! I am so enjoying this virtual vacation and am ready to make my own trip there. Perhaps next year with Amanda! She loved Bali!

    Take care!

    Charlene

    P. s. don’t know if Karyn or I told you, but I finished chemo last Wednesday and finished radiation on Monday. Yippeeeeeee!

    • says

      Charlene, congratulations on the completion of your treatment. That’s fantastic. I hope your strength begins to return as well. I’m glad I’m providing some entertainment for you as well…

  10. Terri says

    I love that you thought about what a fantastic blog post your troubles would provide. Also, the way your writing helped you connect with the doctor and how she shared her insights.For some of us writing not only records experince but shapes it. Hope your intestinal and technical glitches are already clearing up. – love Terri

  11. Carole Gruber says

    Laura,

    You and your adventure are AMAZING. I wish you a speedy recovery. I’m impressed With the efficiency of everyone there — you are in good hands.

    I love your comment about how the positive thing about these problems is that it’s great material for our writing, so true.

    Thank you again for continuing your blog in spite of not feeling well. I am loving it!

  12. Karen Tracy says

    Same-same. Across cultures and continents.

    Traveling in West Africa, into a tiny fishing village in Sierra Leone where they never see white folks, crowds gathered. Driving downhill into “main street” choruses of yelling proceeded us for blocks ahead.

    “AH-BE-DOH! AH-BE-DOH!” “White people! White people!” People rushed into front yards leaning over fences to see. Children ran into the street to reach for us, as we rode in the back of a small pick-up.

    Mingling with them in the market place, I wanted to do the right thing. Not be rude. So when a small boy handed me shelled peanuts with his grimy hand, I showed them to my travel companion Michael and said, I swear, “If I get sick, this is why.” And popped them into my mouth. They tasted great but I ended up like you. Ill beyond functioning. Throwing up and diarrhea all night and all the next day.

    Finally, “white people” took me to the local hospital, a clinic really. By this time it was 8pm the next night. Dr. called in for nighttime emergency. Very competent. No discussion of money. Went right to work. Vitals, IV’s, meds, comforts…

    Next morning, weak but much improved. Released back to the care of my friends after settling my $22 bill!

    Best of health and Many Blessings to you, Laura

    Karen

    • says

      Hi Karen, I loved your story…of my God. I could relate. I was right there with you eating those peanuts. What were you supposed to do, decline? I guess next time you would. I guess I could have just sprinkled the holy water on my head; I wouldn’t have had such problems. But I’m not really sorry…but I can only afford to say that because this appears to be a very transient problem, a mild inconvenience, rather than a serious illness that derails my whole trip.

  13. Mary Bucklew says

    Well, I will say this, girl — you are surely getting your money’s worth of fodder on this trip!

    Persevere and — FEEL BETTER!

  14. Carolina Evans-Roman says

    Laura, I so hope you start feeling better soon. It sounds like you’re in competent hands although when one gets sick in a foreign country, some paranoia sets in about not being treated by your doctors back home and being in an unfamiliar hospital setting. When my daughter broke her front tooth diving into a rock at a Puerto Vallarta beach many years ago, I was so nervous about the qualifications of the dentist caring for her. She had an exposed nerve and had to have emergency care. Everything seemed too informal compared to what I was used to. The entire procedure cost $18.00. Thank goodness because I didn’t have much money with me, not even a credit card. When we got back home and I took her to her dentist, he said it was the best work he had ever seen. That taught me to not be so mistrustful of other countries medical care and so arrogant about having the “best” in the U.S. Even though your present ordeal is causing you great discomfort, we here at home, reading about your experience, are so fortunate to be looking through this literary window and being a part of your rich cultural adventure. I don’t know how you are able to continue to record all of this, but just know that we are very grateful. That is real dedication. Get better!

  15. Paula Hill says

    Hi Laura….

    I’m leaving for So. Calif. to see my mom tomorrow, and my computer has been out of commission for the last couple of weeks. So, just want to say a quick “hi” and let you know I’ve read some of your very interesting travel journal. Andrea came yesterday and set me all up….my hardward drive went kapoot, so everything had to be replaced, set up, etc.

    It is so quiet over at your house….but, it’s good to be in touch where I can vicariously travel with you, Karyn and maybe even Lizzy. The weather has been warm and delicious here…. haven’t been getting any maritime weather. AND, I harvested my first tomatoes, the dahlias are blooming and the zinnias sprouted up so obviously taller this last couple of days….By the time you get home, the garden will be very colorful, I suspect.

    So, I trust you’ll be back on your feet soon, and your computer functioning.

    Love and Be Well, Paula

    • says

      thanks, Paula. your post happened to arrive at a moment my wifi was working and i was online. what serendipity. I love the images of your garden at home. that’s a nice thing to imagine while I lay here waiting to get discharged.

  16. Naomi says

    Well Laura, since no one else has said it, I’m going to be the first to say how shitty it is that you’re sick. I’m glad you have good people loving you up and caring for you. And that you’ve gotten such a good story out of it!

    As a 12 yr old, I walked into a pitchfork and got one of the times stuck under the skin of my ankle. As I stood there, looking at the huge bulge under my skin and wondering how quickly someone could die of lock jaw and if you starved to death from it, I thought “This is going to be a good story.” Way to find the art :). Nicely done.

  17. Judy says

    Laura–do hope you are feeling better after rest, IV, diet and more rest. What a role model and hero to us. You take these experiences and write great posts. Damn, I’m down with a virus, a g a i n–got caught in a downpour on my way to acupuncture and threw myself a pity party until I reread this and snapped out of it. Eager to see your smiling face again in this virtual vacation. Truly uplifting.

    • says

      thanks, Judy. I’m just about to head out for my last two scuba dives, so I guess I’ve recovered. The group arrives in waves today, so I’m changing hat. So glad I gave myself the time to play before the “work” part of my trip begins.

  18. Bobbie Anne says

    Laura, I’m sending you prayers and get well wishes! Feel better soon! Now you may get some much needed rest. You will be up and about in no time.

    Love,

    Bobbie Anne

  19. Terry Gibson says

    So glad you’re feeling so much better, Laura. If you find out, I’d be fascinated to know what that medical bill is. They sounded just wonderful–the women who tended to you. Sure was happy they speeded up that IV drip for you. Enjoy your retreat!

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