My left hand

My field study of Southeast Asian medical care continues. There was that tiny falang clinic in Saigon, whose proceeds sponsored the heart hospital next door. There was the Phnom Penh hospital run by a stretched, dedicated staff, where they hesitated on Christmas Day before unwrapping an expensive 3M cast for me, after the previous one disintegrated in days. I liked the 3M cast very much, though it was clearly the wrong shape. It glowed in the dark, and I lay in bed pretending it was a Light Saber.

And then there’s Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, which boasts a King’s Award for Export for pioneering ‘medical tourism’. On New Year’s Eve the lobby was full of prosperous looking Arabs, who no longer wish to go to the US for treatment. Within minutes of arriving—dodging limos in the car park—I had a laminated, barcoded identity card and a chic escort to the orthopedics wing. I had no appointment, and they were busy, so the nurse on duty offered me a complimentary voucher for the inhouse Starbucks or Au Bon Pain. Or perhaps I’d like to schedule a massage or a facial? Some Botox?

My broken hand hurt and I vaguely hoped I’d need an operation, since it was the only way I could afford such a plush hotel. Instead, the doctor clicked his tongue at my latest cast and told me it had been set wrongly again. He’d put another cast on—my fourth!—and said in four weeks we’d see about an operation to undo my well-meaning Cambodian care.
   ‘Next time come to Bangkok first.’

So, no diving, no massage course, no yoga, no cooking class. (I realize this may not seem like hardship to you, but you probably have a paycheck to console you.) Four more sweaty weeks of one-handed typing and dictation bribes. Still, at least I got a coffee out of it this time.

Almost as soon as I left the hospital, I tipped a bowl of som tum salad into my new cast. Some of the key ingredients of som tum—which is delicious—include fish sauce, fermented crabs and chilis. It’s been ripening unpleasantly since. Combined with the fact that this new cast doesn’t glow in the dark to my satisfaction, I may yet be forced to chew my arm off at the elbow, coyote-style.

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