Sunday, 1 March 2009

Part 3 of the Medivac - The Palace

After a couple of months of being back in Australia and working in our embattled public health system, I have plenty to complain about. My experience as a patient in that system, however, was one we are eternally grateful for, and every aspect of care I received was exceptional.

We arrived in the emergency department and were greeted by my panicked parents, who flew up the same evening on hearing of my plight. The wait in the ED was not long, but still uncomfortable thanks to my distended tummy and painful sacrum (traumatised by its sudden and abrupt meeting with the bathroom tiles when I passed out in the shower two and a half days prior). I was considerably relieved to be wheeled into a cubicle and then seen quite promptly by one of the doctors for another recount of the history, plus an explanation that no, I was not contagious! My poor parents and Steve sat out a couple of hours in the waiting room before being brought in to see me, now newly punctured and hydrated with another IV and bag of fluids. At some time after 1am, however, it was not a long visit, although we were all pleased that I would be admitted overnight, and that they could check in to their respective hotels to sleep.

It was a long five hours on my little trolley, punctuated by several trips to the toilet (the fluids were getting in fine now, but clearly they had to get out, too) and a few outbursts from aggravated psychiatric patients. Early that morning, though, there was a bed for me on a ward, all pillowy soft, well-blanketed and with the crispest, almost glowing white sheets I had seen in.....I don't know how long.

I stayed in the hospital for five days, over which time I was looked after by the head of the infectious diseases department (the kind and the wonderful Prof Patterson) and his juniors, wonderful nurses - everyone from the clinical staff to the cleaners and tea ladies were just delightful. And the food was excellent! Steve could probably tell you more about it than me, though, as he cleaned up most of my meals due to my very poor appetite.

Interestingly, the malaria parasites they found in my blood in Brisbane were different to the strain I had been disagnosed with in Solomons. The debate then arose about whether I had both, or whether the initial diagnosis was wrong. I guess we will never know. Either way, I was sick enough that the prof recommended I stay in Australia, and not return to Solomon Islands. By the end of my stay, only my spleen was still enlarged, and so I was a good guinea pig for the registrar to teach a few medical students about examination. They did quite well with some feedback, and were a little excited to palpate a big spleen for the first time. With a few not-so-subtle dropped hints, they deduced that I had malaria.

At the end of the week, I was discharged, having lost my tropical tan, and looking rather scrawny in my now very loose clothing. I stayed with Steve in his hotel, but a couple of days later, we had to part ways: him back to Malaita, and me to Melbourne with Mum. I managed to walk the whole way through the airports, which was the furthest I had moved on foot in about two weeks!

It was another two months before I actually felt healthy again, as the fatigue and malaise persisted for all that time. I caught a couple of gastro bugs while I recovered too, which was pretty demoralising. At last, at last, I feel good, but still just thinking about Solomon Island food is enough to turn my stomach, as I felt so terrible when I left. Yeeeuch.


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