Daily Archives: July 1, 2006

Under The Surgeon’s Knife

Nobody plans to get sick on their holidays (not if they are sane anyway). However, over the years through circumstance I have had to avail myself of medical treatment in Thailand due to Flu, fatigue and a badly gashed finger. In each instance the treatment has been quick, efficient and delivered by well-trained medical professionals matched with modern Pharmaceuticals.

Of course Thailand for years has always had a certain reputation as the place to go for inexpensive but still professional plastic surgery procedures. It is even more famous/infamous as a world leader in that wonderful euphemism – “Gender Reassignment”. Of course in the past decade, like other parts of Asia (especially India) it has become increasingly popular for foreign visitors to come specifically to have medical procedures carried out apart from “Body sculpting”. This includes hip and knee replacements right up to heart surgery.

In the main I believe this has occurred due to the cost of treatment being relatively inexpensive, but still A1 professional compared to the “through the roof” cost of medical treatment in North America, Europe and Australasia. Many Farang are now doing the Math, and have worked out that some elective procedures can be carried out in a country like Thailand safely, and after factoring in airfares and a weeks recuperation in a luxury hotel that it quite often comes in cheaper than what just the procedure itself would cost at home.

phyathai hospital reception

The decision to undertake surgery in a foreign country is never an easy one and is not helped by much of the information/disinformation available. The press I find either over hypes the positive or alternatively over emphasises the negative side of foreign medical treatment. From the positive side you see blowsy documentaries about the 5 star hotel features of many hospitals in Asia, which are quite true in many cases. From the negative side, the Tabloid press loves to trot out (For a fee of course) some poor sod whose life has been ruined by a botched operation in Asia or other foreign parts. It’s not an easy decision – the prospect of being sick and broke 5 thousand miles from home is never a happy one.

My wife Mali and I faced this decision last year. Two days before we were due to fly to Thailand, Mali suffered some internal pain and had x-rays done. The end result was that her doctor advised that in the next three months an operation would be necessary but he advised that it was safe for her to still travel to Thailand. We tossed it over and decided to have the operation done whilst we were back in the Kingdom. Our decision was helped by the prior knowledge of other family and friends who had undergone surgery successfully in private Thai hospitals.

When we arrived we picked the Phyathai2 hospital in Bangkok where Mali would have the operation. Like other private hospitals that I have visited over the years both in Bangkok and the country, I was impressed by the layout – clean, efficient and with loads of staff. Of course those prior visits had always been to out-patients – Mali in contrast was soon to engage in the ultimate trust of putting herself under the surgeon’s knife. After her initial examination she was booked in for her operation three weeks later.

after the operation

The day before the operation, Mali checked into her private room. It had all the appointments, bathroom, refrigerator and cable TV. Once again, I found the vast number of staff to be impressive. The Thai surgeon came in and introduced himself. He talked about the coming operation and his prior experience and in passing mentioned that he had just returned from a holiday in Sydney, Australia. I found it strangely reassuring that he had been to Sydney more so than his medical credentials (strange are the workings of the monkey mind). “In charge” of everything was Mali’s elder sister Dhum who elected to sleep in the room with Mali over the next three days. Her main role was to see that her baby sister was well looked after – I was relegated back to our hotel room in Siam.

family visit

The operation was successful and after a couple of days Mali checked out and we returned back to Isaan for her to relax and recuperate. After the operation, I was once again impressed by the efficiency and friendliness of all the Staff, but in the main just by their sheer numbers. Of course there was a “Thainess” about the three day stay, brought on by the pandemonium of a constant stream of family/ friends including nieces and grand-nieces constantly popping in.

Never a pleasant experience to go under the knife and not one to choose lightly in a foreign country, but in Thailand I have found it to be a viable and safe option.