Well it had to happen, the luck had to run out sometime.
In the middle of a stock photo shoot on Weds evening I just didnt feel well at all. Suddenly started getting twinges in my lower back. Now Ive had them before but the thoughts of getting sick in another foreign country really didnt appeal. A quick trip to the loo and it confirmed that another bout of kidney stones was on its way rapidly.
When I was a kid I remember my dad being plagued by them so it was likely Id get them at some point. Although looking back you just dont realise the pain people are in until you feel it for yourself.
Those of you that know me will also know Ive been taking painkillers almost constantly for 11 years now due to an old recurring injury. All that extra calcium probably doesnt help. I have refrained from blogging and facebooking about being painkiller/tablet free due to the heat and humidity for 12 days (until the antihistamine mosquito bites incidents last week) because I knew it would set me up for a fall.
Now those of you who have had kidney stones know that they can just pass with minor irritation and there are times when it feels like you are trying to piss a concrete block. This was the latter. Within half an hour I was sitting on the floor in a pool of sweat trying to knock the co-codamol into me as quickly as I could manage. After taking the recommended dosage for 8 hours in 15 mins it had eased somewhat enough for me to try getting into the shower. How I thought this would help I didnt know but I certainly wasnt going to get any wetter than I was.
By this time my flatmates had noticed my absence and packed up the gear as Id just left the camera on the ground and disappeared.
I asked them to get me to a doctor.
After 2 hours (well it was probably more like 2 mins) I noticed them in discussion to which the outburst was ‘what part of get me to a doctor, do you not understand?’ or words to that effect, there might have been slight swearing involved. Well a lot of swearing, infact every 2nd word was f…
Now Im not one for panicking, I rarely panic and usually in the worst situations can still think logically. The issue my friends had was that they didnt know a doctor, theyd never had call to call one. Not like my poor dad who often commented that a holiday in our house always ended up with one or more of us visiting the local accident and emergency. In fact by the time of any incident my dad could tell you which doctors was open, which hospital was on A+E intake and which local chemist was open on the rota.
So, again, interspersed with swearwords I requested my friends to find the nearest flat with old people or with kids as they invariably would know where the nearest doctor was. I also said that the building porter will know. They said he wouldnt and I slightly forcefully told them to at least walk out of the room and pretend they were doing as I asked. Poor guys didnt know what to do, Not even watching rapper videos on MTV had prepared them for the sheer volume of swearing an irishman in excruciating pain can muster.
We briefly discussed them looking up my travel insurance company on the web and ringing them for advice. I finally just produced every bit of cash I owned, my credit cards, passport and doubled over in the hall informed them that I was leaving for the nearest hospital and to summon a taxi.
At a party earlier in the trip someone here asked me what the people in the rest of the world were like, were they helpful and friendly. I said that no matter where I went people in the main seem always willing to help a stranger. I gave the example in a recent trip to Northern Nicosia I had got lost on the backstreets and my leg pain had increased. I sat down and took a tablet and drank the last of my water with it. Three late teenage or early twenties guys came up to me and I thought ‘oh shit here we go’. They didnt say anything just smiled and handed me a fruit sweet and walked off. There is nothing like the kindness of strangers, particularly alone far from home.
With all the wars and fighting and reasons given for people to kill each other, when you get down to individuals requiring help or just a smile then in most places people will offer it. I suffered horrific injuries in Kenya 11 years ago, injuries that would have left someone local to die but everyone I met was supportive, it wasnt until I reached London that people didnt care. A lesson there perhaps.
In what seemed like an eternity a taxi arrived and I was whisked at the speed of light as only taxi drivers know how to do to the local hospital. I was given a number and told to take a seat which was easier said than done. From home experience I expected to wait about an hour to be seen and be doubled up all that time.
I was seen in less than 10 mins, explained the situation and about 10 mins later had the much needed painkilling injection. 10 mins after that I was sort of back to normal with only the now translucent skin colour that comes with severe pain showing any problem at all. If you havent encountered this phenomenon, lucky you, I dont know the technical reasons but all blood and colour leaves the skin, probably the defense mechanism taking blood away from non-important areas. The only spots of colour I had were now the remaining multiple mosquito bites.
Another difference from home was that the doctor sent me for tests to make sure I didnt have an infection and that was all done in an hour and I was sent home with the all clear but told to drink as much water as I could get down me over the next few days and at least whilst I was still in the country.
So back in the apartment things started to return to normal. Pain was subsiding and colour was starting to return. I drank about 2 litres of water in the next hour which the guys had prepared for me and tried to get some sleep.
By now it was 3am and if things hadve been normal Id have been getting up at 6am to set off on my pre booked day trip to Colonia Del Sacremento, Uruguay.
Being the idiot I am and having been through this experience a couple of times before at home I thought, ah sure I’ll get up at 6am anyway and see how I feel….
I cant finish this posting without giving my thanks to my flatmates Gaspar, Juan and Luis whose role in all the above is portrayed humourously but who showed that despite language differences, despite cultural differences that there is kindness in strangers the world over. I appreciate everything you did for me lads, muchas gracias amigos.
Also thanks to the hospital staff at the hospital whose name I still dont know, who like hospital staff everywhere are overwork and under appreciated by the people who have never been unfortunate enough to have required their services.