Getting to Thailand with a Kidney Infection (and other things you don’t want to tell your mom about)

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March 14, 2018 by Darlene McC

Greetings from Koh Pha Ngan!20180314_182050.jpg

On Monday, March 12 around 7p I started my journey after a nice dinner with one of my best friends.  JFK was mercifully easy that night and I basically breezed through security.  Then I called my mom to tell her the Cipro and Advil were kicking in…

Oh right… that.  Let me rewind a second…

As sometimes happens when you’re female (and therefore have female equipment) I woke up in early March with that feeling.  If you’re a woman you know the one.  We don’t talk about it with polite company; because as women it’s impolite to talk about these things.  I mean that little tingle/burn/ugh feeling when you pee.  Here I am leaving for Thailand in 6 days and getting a UTI.  I really don’t want to head to Asia pumped full of antibiotic, so I called it in to my doc for a prescription and hit the cranberry juice hard.

Even though I’d picked up the ‘script I didn’t start it because, as has happened plenty of times before, the tingle/burn stopped.  Yay for cranberry juice!

Funny thing about lady equipment.  It can be complicated.  And insult to injury: I was on my period, so a lot of the discomfort you’d get from a low grade bladder infection can be masked by bad cramping.  Or so I’ve recently learned as the owner of this body.  You know what can happen when you don’t treat a low grade UTI?  You can start getting back pain, up under your ribs.

That’s not something you want to fuck around with.  Because that’s your kidney.

Luckily I’ve put the time in to find a good doctor who keeps space in her schedule for just such an occasion.  She fit me in at 2p, the day I flew out, to do basic in office testing (at her desk, while I sat there chatting with her).  It’s either a kidney stone (unlikely) or a kidney infection (pretty likely) and unless I needed to be hospitalized (unlikely) Cipro would knock out whatever I have.  Ok, let’s do that.

So I got my scrip, got a good dinner, got through airport security – and now I’m on the phone with my mom explaining that yes, I’m still going to fly to Asia with a kidney infection and my doctor and I both think it will be fine.

Bless her heart, she didn’t freak out.  I’ll remember that when my adult daughter someday does something that makes me want to turn inside out.  She was already having a problem with this adventure.  Good work mom!

The Advil kicked in and the back pain got better.  The first leg of my trip was uneventful.  My seatmates were a German couple that knew how to share the armrest.  9 hours later we were touched down in Frankfurt for an hour to turn over the flight crew and clean the plane.  My back didn’t hurt, the wifi worked, and all seemed well.

When I boarded the next leg, 12 hours to Singapore, I was starting to feel the nausea that’s common with strong antibiotics.  Unfortunately, I also met my new seatmates; two early 20s women, also German, but these were the kind of travelers who insist on folding their feet up on the seat underneath them (thereby kneeing the person next to them) and did not know how to share the armrest.  Not my new best friends.

Somewhere above the Middle East my back started to hurt and my gut started to cramp.  They’d served “chicken and rice” for lunch, which turned out to be a spicy Singapore curry.  I love curry…but that was not the time or the place for it.  This may have been my big mistake moment.  I started to bloat and got a hive on my face.  I took a half dose of Tylenol PM to knock me out and got up to pee every hour, pounding water every chance I got.  The Wunder-twins invaded my space and couldn’t seem to coordinate their getting up with mine (and mine was so frequent).

BUT – it was fine.  I landed in Singapore dizzy, nauseous, and underslept.  I laid on the floor with my legs up for an hour before boarding my connecting flight.

Up to this point my trip was largely laid out for me… connecting flights and modern airports.  The next leg was going to be a little more Wild West.  I’ve been planning this trip for almost a year and had invisioned myself walking into that moment put together.  Relaxed and calm, ready to breeze through.  Instead I was descending into Thailand disoriented, concerned, swollen, and in pain.

We landed into a beautiful, green world.  I grinned up at the mountains on Koh Samui as the plane touched down, still cozy in the air conditioning an feeling confident.  Then I stepped out onto the tarmac and got into the tram –  it was humid, and I was the kind of uncomfortable and disoriented where that heat and humidity was making me feel sick… but the journey wasn’t over yet, so I pressed on.

20180314_091645.jpg

Passport control in the open air – the smaller sign warns what happens when you overstay your visa.

Baggage claimed, money exchanged.  Found the right taxi to the right ferry and got on the right boat.  In America we’re so coddled to avoid liability for our own missteps; but that’s clearly not the case here.  At the ferry dock we were given a ticket and pointed down a pier and you just walk and walk aimlessly.  Exhausted women with babies, old people, they don’t care…take care of yourself.

20180314_112840.jpgI more-than-kind-of love it.

Arrived to Koh Pha Ngan on the ferry and recognized an old racket: “taxi drivers” meeting you as you get off, offering you a ride for 3x what you should be paying.  It doesn’t work on me at JFK, why should it work here?

20180314_120911.jpg

These taxis are not yellow

Found the “legit” taxis; but even those are insane.  Open backed pickups with benches and an inclosed roll cage!  200 Baht got me to my “bungalow”.

I’ve been joking for weeks I’d be living in a shack on the beach; little did I know.  It’s not a joke.  It’s a plywood hut up on cinderblocks, 300 yards from a beautiful beach.  A padlock to secure the (sturdy) door from the outside and a deadbolt when I’m inside.

20180314_123337.jpg

Connected to the crappy wifi, let my mom know I’m not dead and slept and slept and slept.  Got up to buy water and citronella oil, slept more.  Ate dinner so I could take more Cipro, got a massage from a woman named MaMaNim and took a nap.

I left at 7p Monday and settled in around 2:30a Wednes EST – 32 hours of continuous travel.

I woke a few hours ago to find a festival in the village – the women running the fundraiser at the temple didn’t know enough English to tell me what it’s for, but they lead me through the prayer ritual when I made a donation to the temple.

It’s beautiful here.  It’s quiet and loud at the same time.  Everywhere there are Western tourists acting like they can do whatever they want (and it seems like maybe they kind of can?).

It’s 1a.  I’ve got tired-but-wired Jetlag, the Cipro is making me nauseous but my back doesn’t hurt (good sign!) and I’m a long way from home.

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