Some of you may know that I’ve just recently returned from a business trip in Australia and if you’ve been following that story on my instagram or facebook page, you’ll know that my colleague who’s traveling with me fell seriously ill and she needed to do an emergency appendectomy while there. Now while it’s a very common situation to be in having read so many of these kinds of stories all over the internet, I never thought that I’ll be directly involved in one.
It’s something I wouldn’t wish to happen to my worst enemy to be completely honest, it’s extremely stressful to be sick in a foreign country but it’s also particularly stressful to be an instant caretaker of someone in a place where you don’t know anyone. “Do you like your colleague? Are you friends with her?” are the two questions people always ask me whenever they find out what happened and thankfully, the answer to both questions is yes. Imagine if you had to take care of someone you barely know or like. That would’ve been hell.
So what exactly happened? It all started during our last night in Uluru. My colleague who we will call KK in this blog post woke me up in the middle of the night squirming in pain. She said her stomach’s in pain and wouldn’t go away. I of course started diagnosing her using webMD but I’ve realized that it wasn’t the best practice that moment. I always end up diagnosing myself with cancer whenever I do it so I thought maybe we should seek an expert’s opinion this time around.
The problem was, there’s no hospital in Uluru and in really serious cases – the patient needs to be flown by a helicopter to Alice Springs which will cost AUD10,000. Since we don’t have AUD10,000 lying around in our room at that time, we contacted the Medical Centre and we were advised that if KK wants to be seen at that crazy o’clock in the evening – then it’ll cost us around AUD600. KK decided that she’ll endure the pain through the night to save us the AUD600. I then slept like a baby while she barely slept because of the pain. I was still dealing with a jetlag is my excuse.
The next day, we went to the Medical Centre which was a mere 2-min ride away from our hotel (why were they going to charge us AUD600 for that 2-min ride?). There was no doctor around only a nurse and he advised us that he can’t really do anything for her except give her a stronger pain medication so we can fly into Cairns where a hospital is available. We were bound to go to Cairns after Uluru anyway so it’s still a part of the plan but something tells me that something’s bound to happen in Cairns. When the pain didn’t go away overnight, I knew that we’ll be spending a few days in the hospital and that all our travel plans will be immediately put into a halt. I wasn’t wrong because as soon as we went to Cairns Hospital, our ordeal started. She was admitted right away and then two days later, she had her appendix surgically removed.
How did I know that we’ll be spending our days in the hospital? Because I’m an expert and it’s part of my guide on
HOW NOT TO LOSE YOUR SH*T WHEN YOUR TRAVEL COMPANION FALLS SICK
1. Be a hospital pro.
I was so sickly as a child up until I was around 26 years old that I think I spent half of my life in hospitals. In fact, when my Aunt saw our family doctor just a few years ago – the doctor asked if I’m still always sick. When I moved to Dubai, I was so used to bringing myself to the hospital on my own. I’d walk into the emergency room and spend the night there by myself. I know how it feels when a cold is just a cold or if it’s something more serious that only a doctor can cure.
Having said that, emergency rooms, doctors and nurses don’t scare me unlike KK whose first experience of being in a hospital was in Cairns. She was terrified when she was asked to lie down on one of the beds in the ER and much more so when she was transferred to a ward. I do know for sure that although she was in pain and in the hospital, she didn’t realize how serious her condition was. She was still worried on how we’re going to Port Douglas that night after our “visit” to the hospital because we missed our transfer. In her mind, she was still to go on a snorkeling trip in the Great Barrier Reef the next day while I was already mentally planning on where I’d stay for the night while she’s in the hospital. Yeah, KK’s a bit of a silly person I know.
2. Be empathetic.
Being in a hospital sucks but being in a hospital in a foreign land where you’re away from your family and friends sucks even more. But being in a hospital in a foreign land when you’re supposed to be traveling around with all your expenses paid sucks the hardest. That was the case for us as it was a business trip and we’ve been looking forward to it for as long as I can remember.
The whole time we were in the hospital, I reassured KK that I won’t leave her on her own even if it was tempting at times. Lol. I literally never left her side except for when I need to buy food and when visiting hours is over. I’ve been to the hospital on my own many times and I know how it feels like to be alone in there. Self-pity is an inevitable feeling and will drive you crazy. I didn’t want her to feel that way so I made sure that she’ll see me specially before and after her operation as those are the most crucial times for anyone as you’ll be in your most vulnerable state then.
3. But don’t be too sympathetic.
I let her cry at times but I didn’t let her cry ALL the time. I think being the stronger person between the two of us made her feel like I am in control and that I can actually take care of her. It was a good way to reassure her that she’s in good hands, that she don’t have to worry too much and that we’re in this together. I actually didn’t realize how important it was for her until she mentioned it, all along I thought I was just being a b*tch. Lol.
She wouldn’t stop crying after the operation, I asked her why was she crying and she said because the wounds hurt. In my most as-a-matter-of-fact tone, I told her “well stop f*cking crying then because the more you cry, the more you move your stomach and the more it will hurt!”. She did stop crying after that, surprisingly. Looking back at it now, it’s actually quite funny how tough I was on her at times but that toughness actually helped her.
4. Be in touch with their family.
I was in constant communication with KK’s family the whole time to update them of what’s going on. I can only imagine how worried her whole family might’ve been knowing that KK is alone with someone who they don’t know in a foreign country. I made sure that they know that 1. I’m not crazy; 2. I won’t leave KK’s side and 3. I know what I’m doing. Who would’ve thought that being sickly as a kid is a life experience that will make you so useful in the future?
5. Have an army of people supporting you to get through this ordeal.
I was extremely lucky to have the full support of all our managers that time. They made sure that not only KK is doing well but also myself. At first, I found it odd when they were asking how I am doing when KK is the one on the hospital bed but looking back at it now, I needed it more than I thought I did.
Sub-consciously, it made me feel better to know that someone, somewhere is also concerned of what I’m going through which actually wasn’t easy at all. I was all by myself during those times having to deal with so many things all at once. They gave me full control of the situation and respected my decision on how to tackle the rest of our business trip based on what’s happening.
After KK’s operation, I woke up in the middle of the night crying – I think I had a bit of meltdown at that time. I was tired, stressed and I was also going through the worst period pain ever the entire time. Add to it the fact that it’s so humid in Cairns and I had to go around all by myself with my suitcases in tow in the middle of the mid-day heat and humidity. Thinking back, it did make such a huge difference knowing that I’m also being looked after even from far away.
6. Be patient.
My patience was tested so much during that time, I was thankful that I didn’t become a nurse because I don’t think I can handle dealing with demanding patients for a living. Yes KK was demanding and a bit rude, I had to stop myself from strangling her many times. Lol.
But putting myself in her situation, I remembered the many times I was sick – I was cranky, demanding and also rude to people around me. Sometimes you just can’t help it because you’re feeling poorly and while it may not be reasonable for someone who’s not sick, you just want things to be done for you all the time no matter what it is. You don’t mean to be rude, it’s just how you come across mainly because of the situation you’re in. So yeah, don’t take it personally and just think of the times when you’re sick yourself.
7. Get out of the hospital as soon as you can.
After the operation, KK wanted to stay in the hospital for 24 hours more which is what’s advisable but not absolutely necessary since appendectomy is a very normal procedure and it’s very rare that complications will arise afterwards. I wanted her to get out of the hospital right away as I know that being there messes you up psychologically. Feeling sorry for yourself is bound to happen when you’re in a hospital which is why I want her to be out of there as soon as possible. We were staying in a hotel just beside the hospital anyway so if anything happens, I can easily bring her back.
It was a good decision because on the same day that we got out, I saw some improvements on her right away. Yes, she’s still in pain and still moves slowly but her voice changed back to normal and she looked way better than when she was in the hospital. It’s easier to get better when you’re not surrounded by sick people.
8. Try to get back to a normal routine right away.
After her operation, I stayed with her for one whole day just to make sure that she can be left by herself. Afterwards, I did what we’re supposed to do during our business trip while she stayed in the hotel. Being on your own will make you push yourself to make yourself feel better right away since nobody’s around to do things for you anymore and that’s exactly what happened. On the third day of being out of the hospital, she was able to bring herself to a clinic to change her wound’s dressing by herself. I also let her prepare all the documents that she might need to travel back to London, doing something worthwhile will make her busy and will take her mind off being sick and as a result, it will make her feel better sooner than later.
After the operation, I made sure that she knows that I’m not going to do anything for her anymore so she kinda have to push herself to be able to do things on her own, to some extent. Of course I still had to help her with some things that she can’t physically do yet like carrying her stupidly heavy and huge luggage but she had to do the rest by herself. It worked because I can see that she’s moving faster than before and her voice changed back to her normal chirpy self. Lol.
When she was finally able to travel, we flew to Sydney and I forced her to have dinner with me in Sydney Harbour even if she was still struggling to walk. I knew that the walk, the dinner and the Sydney icons will make her feel normal again and she’ll be forced to smile for the camera. To some extent, I do believe that how you feel is influenced by how you look. Since KK needed to look presentable to the world, I knew that going out would be good for her as it’ll force her to look better than she feels.
We traveled back to London last 11th of December, a date which will forever be etched in my memory as the day that it was all finally over. Lol. Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoyed our trip to Australia despite it all – I just think we were both stressed out of what happened that we can’t wait to be back to our normal habitats. Lol.
After this trip, I think KK and I have formed a special and weird bond. Well, she kinda have to have one with me now because I’ve already seen her naked. :p