Day 11 – To Thailand

3 May 2013

Last night after I finished writing on this blog I realised that everything from here on is going to be awesome!  I now have crutches which makes a world of difference in being able to get around, and all I need to do now is heal myself.  I am so looking forward to all the cool places I’m going to walk and run!!!

Today we ordered a minivan to pick us up at 9.30 or 10ish (Lao time) and we told a few of our friends around town that if they know of anyone who wanted to go to Thailand that a couple of people could come with us if they wanted as long as I got the entire front row of 3 seats for myself to put my leg up on.

Healing from second degree burns
Shuffling around the floor gathering my things to take to Thailand

The preparation to go was slightly harder than I expected, I managed to have a shower and use my crutches a bit to get around but also had to get around on the floor a lot because my leg still hurts quite a lot when I’m standing up.  Anyway I managed to gather up clothes, toiletries etc and get them into a bag although it took close to an hour when it normally takes me 5-10 minutes to pack for Thailand since we go there pretty much every month.  We also had to change our dressings before we left.

Healing from second degree burns
Lower burn on Karen’s leg healing
Healing from second degree burns
Dre’s burn healing well & a lot smaller.

Korly, Von and Alex from the shop came up to help us carry stuff downstairs and so they took our bags down and my crutches to the bottom of the stairs.  I knew there was no way given my current ability (or should I say inability or instability!)  on the crutches that I would be able to use them to get down 4 stories of stairs.

So I began to go down the stairs on my bum with my left leg out in front, but after half of the first story I realised that the task was too big.  So I called Alex again and got him to come back and Dre and Alex both carried me down the stairs.

Healing from second degree burns
Outside!! So beautiful after 10 days inside!

When I got to the bottom I was overwhelmed with happiness to be outside in the sunshine!  It was so beautiful to be outside and I suddenly realised how much I have missed being outside.  Bounsong, the owner of the apartment we live in insisted on carrying my handbag and walked with me to the shop which was a grand total of about 50 metres that I walked outside by myself with my crutches.

Pizza oven at Forest Retreat Laos
I got to see the new eyes on the pizza oven that everyone’s been talking about all week

It was so lovely to go to the shop and all the girls were really happy to see me and Alex and Lizzie were both there too.  It was so awesome to see all of my lovely people.  I was exhausted from the trip to the shop so sat down on the couch with my leg up to eat my fruit salad.

Once I had gathered myself, everyone carried our stuff into the minivan and Dre lifted me into the van.  Yosebah, a German guy who also lives in Luang Namtha ended up coming in the minivan with us.  It was really interesting to talk to him (we don’t see him much normally because he’s an anthropologist and spends almost all of his time out in the ethnic minority villages) because he was in a much more serious motorcycle accident about a year ago in Laos where he broke is collar bone, 8 ribs, and his leg and waited 48 hours in Luang Namtha hospital before they took him in the ambulance to Chiang Rai and then eventually on to Chiang Mai for medical care.  (He ended up going home to Germany for 7 months to recover).  It was funny to spend about an hour talking to someone about the complications of going to the toilet when you are injured.  Of course his injuries were a million times worse than ours, but it still has the same theme – if you leave your house, and you only have one usable leg, using an Asian squat toilet is impossible.  He also said the medical care in Chiang Mai was even better than Chiang Rai, so if I felt I needed more than Chiang Rai could offer me then he recommended Chiang Mai as a world class excellent hospital.

Once we got to the border I walked with my crutches to our border-lunch-restaurant that we always go to everytime we go to thailand.  It’s only about 20 metres from the border so nice and close.  Every step I made I was just so happy that I had crutches and wasn’t on the dirty dusty ground of Huay Sai (the border town).

Getting down the hill to the Mekong river was a challenge.  Normally it would be a 2 minute walk or less, for me it took about 20 minutes to negotiate the hill with my crutches.

Thankfully Dre carried everything, went up the stairs to the immigration and got us both stamped out of Lao, came back down the stairs, bought the tickets for the boat and arranged for someone to carry me into the boat all before I had even made it to the bottom of the hill.

Healing from second degree exhaust burns from motorcycle
The lovely man who carried me into the boat

When I got down to the boat there was a lovely, caring man who picked me up and waded into the river with me and gently placed me in the boat.  He was so nice and insisted on coming across the river with us so that he could help me on the other side of the river.

Recovering from second degree motorcycle exhaust burns
Crossing the Mekong – the best seat in the house!

When we arrived on the Thai side, he again jumped out into the river and scooped me up, and gently put me down on the concrete and gave me my crutches.  He then held my arm and Dre held my back all the way up the hill in Thailand to get to immigration.  It took me another 20 odd minutes to get up the hill, which again normally takes about a minute or two.  Once I made it I just sat down on the steps of immigration, and the nice man talked to the immigration officer and asked him to please not make me go up the stairs to immigration and to just stamp me through.  By this point I was completely soaking wet with sweat and had huge rivers running down my face so I think the immigration officer took one look at me and said it would be fine.

We then found out that the private car we had ordered to pick us up in Chiang Khong (the Thai side of the border) and take us to Chiang Rai had been lost in translation and the car was waiting for us at Chiang Rai bus station.  Oh dear.  So Dre had to walk around talking to people and came back with the news that they only had songthaews (the big van type vehicles with 2 planks in the back – even less comfortable than the shitty local bus).

So I was sitting on the dirty ground at Thai immigration, sweating and seeing if I could mentally prepare myself for going on the bus.  I decided that I would need the whole back seat because the other seats wouldn’t be big enough to put my leg on, and that I would be able to do it if there was no other option.

Just then, a taxi from Chiang Rai rocked up and dropped off his passengers that he had just brought from Chiang Rai to the border.  Wow!  The universe is providing for me, perfectly and just as I need it to.  Dre immediately went over to talk to him and the driver was super excited that he could get a fare going back to Chiang Rai as well.  So all 3 of us were thrilled with the perfect situation.

The taxi even had soft fabric seats so was good for not sweating (many of the taxis have the plastic/vinyl seats).  I took some more nurofen and slept the whole way to Chiang Rai with my leg up across the back seat.  The driver was so nice and dropped off all of our stuff at the hotel and then drove me to the hospital.

Once I arrived at the hospital they put me straight into a wheelchair, which was so nice because I was so tired from having to walk on the crutches.  They took me straight into the emergency section, and within about 30 seconds 2 nurses came to look at Dre’s and my burns.  Dre had to lift me up onto the bed so I could lay down while they looked at my leg.

I thought the nurses weren’t very gentle and on my lower burn the nurse ripped off some of my lovely healing skin because she didn’t take the gauze off slowly and carefully.  It was only a little bit but I have had to work hard for that healing, so I really didn’t want her to ruin my good work.

The nurses cleaned the wounds and put a 1% iodine solution on them, which didn’t hurt on the top burn but hurt quite a bit on the bottom one.  It also hurt Dre’s burn a lot – even though his burn is a lot smaller now and is healing well, his is still a lot more open flesh than mine so his was still hurting a lot from the iodine quite a few hours later.

Next a doctor came to see us, said the burns were healing well and I told him the reason we came was not for the burns – we have managed them for 11 days already so we aren’t worried about them anymore – it was because I still can’t move my foot properly and can’t walk so wanted to check if we needed to be doing something to help my recovery.

He felt around inside my leg and especially around my ankle and heel and said that because I have the top burn as well as the bottom burn it has tightened my tendons a lot.  He said that even though I feel like the top one is fine and can now move my knee properly, that it joins to the tendons in my ankle and heel and so both of them together is making it very tight.  He said particularly inside my ankle is really tight.  He also said it’s good that it  doesn’t hurt when I flex my foot, it’s just that I don’t have the full range of movement so he thinks that within a couple of weeks this should be a lot better.

He gave me some muscle relaxant, which also contains paracetamol and something else which he said would not only help with the healing and the pain, but also help to get my muscles and tendons stretching again.  He also gave me another kind of pain killer.

Healing from second degree burns
Chatting with a lovely old lady iin Overbrook Hospital

While we were waiting at the pharmacy, me in my wheelchair with my leg resting up on one of my crutches, a lovely old lady came up to talk to me.  She was worried about my leg and asked me if she could help me.  I assured her I was fine and we got talking.  I couldn’t understand everything she said because my Thai isn’t that good yet, but she said she was born in Vientiane in Laos and had lived in Thailand for many years.  She is 81 years old and has 4 sons and 2 daughters.  She said she wasn’t sick, she was just waiting for one of her friends.  She wished me well and it was just so lovely that a complete stranger came up to me and had a conversation with me.  It was also cool that I could converse with her in Thai and mostly know what she was saying.

We were impressed with the service at the hospital – it  was way faster than any waiting room I’ve ever been in in hospitals in New Zealand.  The nurses saw us within about 30 seconds of arriving and then the doctor arrived a few minutes after that.  It took the pharmacy only a few more minutes to give us the prescriptions, and the entire process probably only took about half an hour.

Motorcycle exhaust burns recovery
Overbrook Hospital in Chiang Rai

Ting from the hotel came to pick us up from the hospital and I realised that I still don’t know how to do stairs on my crutches (especially here in Asia where they don’t have a standard stair height like we do in NZ/Australia/the western world) the stairs are quite high and much too high to hop up or get my crutches up so I had to go on my bum up the stairs and then Dre gave me back my crutches at the top.  At least it’s only one story high!

Both of the medicines have to be taken after food, so after dinner I took them both and within a few minutes was feeling very relaxed and happy.  We watched a nature documentary on TV and I loved it.  I’m sure part of the love was coming from the drugs, but also since we haven’t had a TV for 3 years and so never watch anything, it was cool to see some cool nature and just relax.

Healing from second degree burns
My new chill out position

Dre is exhausted from having to lift me around the place today and carry everything, he has been so worried about me all day and trying his best to make sure I can get to whereever I need to go.  I am also exhausted.  After 10 days of not leaving the house, today has been an absolutely massive day.  Time for sleep!

Click here for Day 12 – Onward and Upward!!
Click here for Day 10 – decisions to be made about going to Thailand
Click here for Day 9 – A day in the life of someone who can’t walk
Click here to read about Day 8’s ups and downs
Click here to read about Day 7 when I managed to stand for the first time
Click here to read about Day 6 where I made some progress
Click here to read about Day 5 when I had an allergic reaction to the burn cream
Click here to read about Day 4 when things started to look up
Click here to read about Day 3 which was the worst day ever
Click here to read about Day 2, when I was so drugged I had no idea what was going on
Click here to read about the day of the accident
Click here to find out who we are and where we live and why this has been a bit of a challenge living in a third world country.


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