My 1st day in Biratnagar started by having breakfast with my host organization leader (host) I was working with and a local businessman at his beautiful home. We enjoyed toast, melon, and fried rice. Before departing his home I helped him with some tech stuff on his iPad (something I am used to doing for my parents) and we took pictures together.
The rest of the day I spent in the hotel writing blogs, editing videos and making a work plan for my fellowship. The language barrier between my host and I was not an issue at this point.
For dinner, I had garlic fried chicken and rice from room service. A choice I would later regret that night as I threw up every bit of it. An expected milestone on my 1st trip to South East Asia. I was warned that I may have stomach problems from the food before my trip to Nepal. So I took some medicine that I brought with me and went to sleep. But every time I woke up throughout the night I would run to the bathroom to throw up. In the morning after trying Pepto Bismol again I found blood in my throw up. Something in my gut told me to monitor for blood. RED FLAG! I immediately contacted my host to take me to the hospital.
While waiting to be picked up I called my fellowship leaders and family. Just for safe measures. I ensured my family and friends that it was just gastritis and not a big deal to keep them calm. After waiting for an hour for my host to get me her driver picked me up. I assumed the driver would take me straight to the hospital. Nope, we stopped somewhere and my host came out to ask me again what was wrong and shared that she would be ready in 5 minutes. 15 minutes later my host got in a car in front of me and I was taken to the “best” hospital in the region with a caravan of men (I don’t know who they were or why they were with us). Upon arrival at the hospital, I was feeling burning in my stomach but could still function. We all entered an office along with the caravan of men. I later found out that the office I started in belonged to the hospital administrator. My host shared what was wrong with me in Nepali but only shared that blood was in my throw up since that's all she knew. The administrator shared that he believed it might be my lungs adjusting to the area. I highly doubted this was the issue seeing that I was not coughing at all and my stomach was hurting but he sent me to the pulmonologist anyway.
That’s when things went south. While waiting to see the doctor in the pulmonologist office with everyone staring at me (no surprise) I started feeling overheated and dizzy. I tried calling my fellowship leader in the US to update them but all my minutes were gone on my local phone. Separated from my host I got up to tell the nurse to take me to the restroom. At that point even speaking became difficult. The closer we got to the restroom the harder it got to walk and talk. Once in the restroom, I started sweating profusely. This is when diarrhea entered the picture. The restroom was latrine style with no toilet paper and no soap to wash your hands. On our way back to the pulmonologist office I had to take breaks every few steps.
Once back in the pulmonologist office the nurse sat me at his desk. There were two other patients on each side of me and a room full of patients lined the wall. I put my head down on the doctor ’s desk while I waited for him to finish with the other patients sitting next to me. When it was my turn the most I could do is whisper my answers to; Why are you here? When did this start? Where are you from? etc.
The doctor then advised that I get on the examining table. As I groaned in pain while trying to lay down. The crowd of patients watching grew in the doctor’s office. The Doctor examined me, poking my stomach everywhere. Then another doctor came asked the same questions and poked the same spots. And again another doctor. At one point I thought we were leaving the office but another doctor came and needed me back on the table. The more I groaned in pain trying to get up from the wheelchair then lay down on the table again the bigger the crowd of spectators grew. Trembling on the examining table from pain the doctor put pressure on my stomach again.
Not knowing the language and my host nowhere to be found I got bits and pieces of what the doctors and nurses were planning to do. Next, I was wheeled to the emergency room and put on a metal stretcher. While I was wheeled from the pulmonologist office to the emergency room everyone we passed stared. I anticipated this reaction when coming to Nepal but forgot how exhausting it can be when you are sick! With no translator around in the emergency room, I would insistently ask: What is this needle for? Why do people keep pocking/ putting pressure on my stomach? Another needle? What is this for? etc. The doctors spoke English but most of the nurses did not.
Finally, in the ultrasound room, the tech said she believed I had gastritis but she wasn’t sure (Finally a possible diagnosis I agreed with). To confirm this possible diagnosis a few more tests needed to be completed. Still, no host insight people started questioning if I came alone. I tried explaining several times that someone was with me and that I could not call because my phone was out of minutes. I even tried to use my US phone but I had no service. A nurse tried calling my host, no answer. We then called her son who was 12 hours away in the capital Kathmandu. He also did not answer. At this point, I started feeling abandoned. I had no clue where my belongings were, and no one there to translate for me or have my back. There was no privacy and I got exhausted from trying to figure out what was going on. People were not only staring they were also taking pictures of me. I was too exhausted to say anything. I was experiencing culture shock to the max!
To make matters worse a careless nurse took over transporting me to and from testing rooms. Almost snatching the IV out of my hand while taking me to the x-ray room and mocking me with one of her friends when the tests came back normal I started to get mad. She conveniently did not speak English but I made sure to give her a mean look anytime she did something unprofessional. Finally, my host appeared after 5 hours of me being alone. Also right on time my official diagnosis; appendicitis! The surgeon tells me that they must operate in a few hours. I responded, "Appendicitis? An hour ago my tests were normal! How is this possible?"