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Sunday, 23 September 2012

A stay in the Hôpital Grall. Saigon, Vietnam


A stay in the Hôpital Grall. Saigon

Life went on. Then I started to feel under the weather. The doctor had given me a prescription for some booster shots. I should have had these in his surgery. I would have if my old doctor had still been alive. I did not have the same relationship with his successor. I went to a nurse in my neighbourhood. I remember seeing the rat droppings on the floor whilst I got the injection in my posterior. She wasn't using throwaway needles and it was doubtless there that I picked up the hepatitis.

I didn't realize it at the time and just took a break in Dalat. Feeling much better I returned to Saigon but soon became terribly tired again. A return to Dalat but did not feel better. I'd never had such a feeling of lethargy. If I drank a beer I got aches in my arms and legs and two minutes later it went straight to my head. My urine turned a dark brown. A visit to a doctor there. Some vague cousin of KC who was in the army medical corps. I personally didn't think Vietnamese army doctors were much better than field medics. He took one look at my eyes and said it was hepatitis. Later, lying in a bedroom resting I heard the family discussing my state of health. That got me very worried. I don't think they knew I was listening. The fate that awaited me got me so worried that I took a plane back to Saigon the next day and visited another cousin of KC. This one was a very competent doctor. He took one look at me and asked which hospital did I prefer, The Grall or St Paul. As it was my liver I preferred French doctors who were meant to be specialists in the matter. The Grall was still run by the French military at that time.

Some years before some ass of a president had kicked all the French doctors out of Vietnam, but had had no one to replace them with. That measure of medical autonomy didn't last long. The real problem was all the highly competent Vietnamese doctors living abroad who didn't want to return to South Vietnam.

Arriving at the hospital I had trouble getting admitted. It was not easy at the best of times, one needed a recommendation from an influential doctor. The problem was they said there were no single rooms and they didn't think I would like to share. I was too tired to care and finally got a double. During the month I was there I was in fact alone for three weeks.

I cannot describe though the utter feeling of relief when I lay down on the bed. Suddenly I knew I would recover. This was before the doctors started taking tests and getting really worried. But for me it was a case of no longer having to struggle to keep functioning. My family utterly loath being incapacitated by illness. It's considered slacking off. It was considered that at school and in the army also. Once however a doctor said you were officially sick your conscience was clear and you could start to treat it as a stay in a hotel with permanent room service.

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