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?