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Friday, February 19, 2010

A pretty fair trade: Abdominal surgery in Bangkok

From James Cameron Mielke's Christmas letter:
While packing for my summer visit to the USA, I noticed a slight bulge in my abdominal incision, and headed instead to Bangkok for surgery - it all seemed like such a breeze compared to the nightmare I endured three years before when admitted in emergency and life-threatening condition – this time was so much easier just to check in as scheduled. With practiced precision, the nurse located one of my elusive veins to start the IV, the anesthesiologist wished me a pleasant snooze, and after 90 minutes on the table my surgeon had successfully inserted a large mesh across my entire abdomen – like getting a new set of surgically implanted "six-pack" abs!

Man, what a deal! Emerging from the unexpected surgery and almost relieved to have to cancel my USA trip – I was dreading the long journey anyway, and with all the economic stress and other difficulties there…and I was able to recover my frequent flier miles as well! Interestingly, I had been feeling strangely resistant to the whole thing - as if some underlying intuitive awareness was trying to alert me to this potentially disastrous trip. Apparently, I was literally coming apart at the seams - the longitudinal incision that runs from stem to sternum was ripping apart and the muscles were separating, which meant that I was a walking time bomb. It would not have been at all pleasant if my guts had decided to spill out while on the plane or somewhere away from home. And of course, I would have taken a huge financial hit if I had needed emergency surgery while in the USA. Thank goodness I live in Thailand where my highly specialized state-of-the-art surgery, anesthesiology, and three days of in-patient hospital care came to just $2,000, which is about what my USA holiday would have cost - a pretty fair trade considering I can now look forward to an even better quality of life for years to come! Many of the competent and eager nurses remembered me from before, and my cost-conscious surgeon even gave me the remaining portion of high-tech mesh that another patient had purchased but didn't use. My sister Jean also enjoyed high quality, efficient and affordable health care during her visit to Phuket during Christmas week.

So, once again, I cannot believe my good fortune, not only to have avoided another possible disaster, but also to be given what now seems like a gift – such a wonderful gift of enhanced quality of health and blessed freedom to continue enjoying my life! I can only feel the deepest gratitude for it all – and am humbled once again by the amazing blessings that keep coming my way. As the risk for infection decreased with each day of healing, and with deep, slow-dissolving sutures like a set of guitar strings holding me together, I set off for my annual four months of work. This year I joined a team of consultants to design a five-year $60 million regional communicable diseases control project in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam.

Read a story about another American's health crisis far away from the U.S.

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