Finally I decided we needed to go to a clinic about my injury on Thursday 7th May. I can hear some of you sighing and rolling your eyes at me for not going earlier and I’m sorry, I probably should have. The effort it took to get me out of the house though was pretty full on and I know I definitely would not have been able to manage it on day 1. So here I was on day 20, since the drunken incident which left me unable to walk or straighten my knee, donning shorts and porter sandals – I was rocking it!
First of all it took me a long time to get down the 4 sets of stairs on my bum. The stairs were dusty, slippy and of varying heights which doesn’t help and the bits in between each set were pretty dirty. Captain Caveman had prepared a bag with hand gel, drinking water and a bumbag for my phone and stuff. Once downstairs I saw that our drive was completely covered in rice on tarpaulins all the way to the car! I worried I would slip but it turns out rice husks are quite grippy on crutches. I decided to get in the back seat, this was the first time I’d left the house in almost 3 weeks, and I was already a sweaty mess desperate for the AC. I wobbled a bit on the uneven slope down to the road but Captain Caveman helped me by shouting at me, out of sheer frustration.

Photos by Captain Caveman

Captain Caveman had to drive slowly as I was quite uncomfortable but we got to the clinic, met Bao (Oxalis guide and our translator) and attempted to get inside. There were numerous parked motorbikes, uneven paving and shiny steps to navigate but I made it and numerous staff came to help me. I saw some seats and headed for a sit down but that was not to be, I had to go up to the second floor for an x-ray (again on my bum, up the flights of stairs). I was worn out when I got to the top and into the x-ray room and asked Captain Caveman for water, I didn’t even have time for a sip before the nurse was doing her thing.
Good news!!! Neither my ankle nor knee were broken! I bum-shuffled back down to the ground floor and the doctor did ultrasound scans to check for any signs of damage or fluid. I’m not sure what he found, if anything, but he said I needed to go to hospital for an MRI scan and that he would contact the hospital around the corner to let them know we were coming. The cost of x-ray and ultrasound was less than 500,000vnd (£17.50) and they were very thorough (except for the bright idea of having the x-ray machine upstairs when there was a perfectly good room downstairs)!
I got back in the car and we went to the Cuba hospital where I sat outside the locked toilets while Captain Caveman and Bao went to book me in and pay. (I didn’t know until afterwards that it cost around 3.5m dong for the MRI scan). They told me we had to come back for the MRI scan at 1.30pm and so we agreed to meet Bao back at the hospital just before. Captain Caveman drove us for lunch at Tree Hugger and the waiter had to help me to a seat because Captain Caveman insisted on going to park the car across the street. There was a guy we knew from Phong Nha there, who used to work at Easy Tiger, so we had a chat but I was a bit uncomfortable with my leg and we had to sit outside because it was the first seat I got to. We ordered passion fruit smoothies each, had free herbal tea and ordered some lunch. Captain Caveman had his usual egg salad sandwich while I had a salad. I was conscious I needed something light before going back to the hospital. After lunch I needed the toilet and so we had to get me inside Tree Hugger where Captain Caveman had to move tables and we had help from a kind man and the staff.

Back at hospital I sat waiting to go in without too much concern but when I got in the MRI room and realised what it involved I freaked out. I’m so claustrophobic anyway, the lack of language made it more difficult and we ended up having to have Captain Caveman in the room with me, holding my hand and trying to calm me down. I had the 20 minute knee one in a cold sweat panic attack mode but the 30 minute ankle one was a bit better, especially when Captain Caveman started dancing to keep me entertained.
By the time we got out (passing a stretchered man covered in blood) I was desperate for the loo and of course there was no toilet paper or soap in there! (Good job I had my hand sanitizer). We waited not more than an hour before we had to go in to the emergency room to see a doctor. I sat on a stretcher which still had a patch of some ‘mystery liquid’ where I placed my hand and a guy with a bleeding head injury was next to me. The doctor looked at my ‘photos’ on the light box then came over for a very thorough feel! He also asked if I had sprained my ankle before (which I had about 20 years ago) and then told Bao I had torn ligaments on the right side of my ankle and the left side of my knee, with a little bit of damage to my cartilage. My recommended treatment was to not move, or put weight on, the ankle at all and to exercise the knee only by trying to bend and straighten it as far as I could. He gave me a prescription for some stronger anti-inflammatory tablets and said I should rest for another 2 weeks then come back for a check up before starting some physio.
I was relieved we finally knew what was wrong and lucky it wasn’t worse.

On the way home, I was in pain from all the prodding and very tired but Captain Caveman said he would treat me to dinner out, since we had the car. For a treat Captain Caveman took me to Namaste so we could have Indian food and see Raj in person! He was actually so pleased to see me and it was lovely to see him too, especially to thank him for all the amazing takeaways we had been having. We had a delicious meal and we even met a cute puppy who lives next door. Back home Captain Caveman went ahead to put all the lights on and unlock the doors while I ‘crutched’ from the car to the house door. I got up steps on my bum and managed to get back in the house before Captain Caveman had been to drop the car off, so it wasn’t too bad! I was so tired that I nodded off while watching TV!

One thought on “Phong Nha – a trip to Dong Hoi hospital

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