Four more injections, four more hospitals

I got bitten by a dog while exploring Savannakhet in Laos. I went to the hospital there straight away for the rabies shot. Unfortunately a series of 5 shots is necessary. So my hospital adventures continued…

I’m in Pakse, just south of Savannakhet when it’s time for my second rabies shot. I wasn’t too excited about another hospital visit, but this just had to be done. I walked through the entrance, but there was no reception. After wandering all over the hospital, I asked someone, showing my vaccination card, and they sent me to the ER. The doctors were all just sitting around. There were obviously no emergencies at this time in the morning. The  hospital seemed quiet in general. Most of the doors were open en the scarcely furnished rooms had no patients.



Another suspiciously quiet hospital.


One doctor wrote me a prescription and I had to go pick it up at the window at the entrance. On one side I first got a note that I had to bring across to the other side. There, I paid and then went back to the first window to pick up the medicine. Although this process seems somewhat elaborate, I had my box within a couple of minutes. Back in the ER a nurse gave me the injection, signed my paper, and I was good to go. This time I had side effects though. I don’t know if it was just me being nervous or the actual vaccine, but my whole chest and arms got hot and bright red, as if I was sunburned. I still decided to take a bus to Tad Lo that day and luckily the rednesss was gone by the time I arrived.

After visits to Tad Lo and Champasak, it was time for my third and final shot. I was so happy when I could go to the same Pakse hospital and follow the same routine. Again, there was hardly anybody there and everything went so quick. The injection was done and I pick up my vaccination card with another signature from the doctor. But hold on… what was this? She’d written down two more dates on the card. I had to get another shot in a week and another one exactly four weeks after the bite. I was so over this. I would be in Cambodia and who knows how the system works there. At this point I just wanted to go home.

And the adventure continues in Cambodia.

I thought I had planned everything right. I had shortened my time on the 4000 islands in Laos, because I wouldn’t be able to get the shot there. So I made sure I took a bus to Kratie one day before I needed to go to the hospital. I had even made sure there was a hospital in this provincial town. So before I do anything, I bike to the hospital to get it all over with. I also though I could always still rush to Phnom Penh if something would go wrong.

I didn’t rush to Phnom Penh, but at the hospital they send me away. What? The receptionists spoke excellent English and explained to me that there was a clinic in town I could visit. I hopped back on my bike and found the street. It was close to the market and in a street with some guesthouses. In fact, the doctor’s office also had a guesthouse on top. Probably owned by the ‘doctor’ too. According to the opening times it has just closed for their morning break, but a lady comes outside and invites me in. She seemed to have an ok level of English and I show her my card and explain what I need. I clearly tell her that I can go somewhere else if she doesn’t have the right medicine. I even had a box of my last medicine to show her.

Then the doctor disappears behind a curtain and comes back with a filled syringe.

I looked around the doctor’s office. There are five dogs walking around. A little boy holds a puppy and repeatedly pushes it into my face. This is far from a sterile environment. Or am I at the vet? The woman walked over to a glass cabinet and took out a syringe. It seemed to be the only syringe. She shows me the volume and points to my card to indicate it is the same. Ok. Then she disappears behind a curtain and comes back with a filled syringe. This is where I freak out a little. She puts the thing in my arm and I ask where the box is. I want to see whatever it is she injected me with. But there was no box. This stuff probably came from a big jar that has been sitting behind the curtain for years. Perhaps it is not even a vaccine for rabies.

A bit defeated I ask her for the bill. “How much is it?” She points to my card. “I know the volume of the syringe, but I mean how much does it cost? How much is it in dollars?” Again, she points. I keep repeating my question until she points and says “How much there?” Was she really asking me how much I had paid in Laos? Did this vaccine not even have a price? I gave her some money and asked for a receipt. I didn’t get one. At least she signed my vaccination card. And this was the start of my trip in Cambodia. It made me nervous. I hated this country. I wanted to leave. I knew I would need one more doctor’s visit. I stayed anyway, but it wasn’t until I got to Kampot that I started enjoying this country.

Time for the final shot. Last best right?

In Siem Reap I had my last hospital visit. Finally! I found an international hospital and decided to take a tuktuk out there. A man was receiving me at the door and the three women at the front desk greeted me with smiles, folding their hands at their chest and bowing. I have to register as a patient and then see a nurse first. Then I see a doctor and explain my story. He approves and signs the papers so I can get my last injection. The nurse returns and finishes the process. He wears gloves and even has a plaster to put on my arm afterwards. Then he takes me to the desk where you pay. This was just like in a Western hospital. Everything took a lot longer and the bill was a lot higher. They do give me a specification of the costs. This is one bill my insurance will definitely accept.

In the different hospitals I got very different treatment. I paid between 10 and 75USD, so that is the difference. In Siem Reap they used a vaccine from the UK, whereas the other just had the Asian, cheaper version. Or they take it from a big jar… In Laos it was scary, but I feel confident about the doctor’s skills. I saw the box of the medicine. I know it is alright, even if the process was different from what I am used to. That fourth shot though, it still worries me. Not knowing what happened behind that curtain still freaks me out. Essentially I don’t know if that fourth shot had the right medicine in it. If it didn’t, all five might have been useless. I’m sure I don’t have rabies, but I sure hope I don’t get bitten again anytime soon. I would probably just go through the whole process again, to be sure…


7 thoughts on “Four more injections, four more hospitals

  1. But, now you have a story for life! I had surgeries in three foreign countries: Australia, Indonesia and Ethiopia. The Australian was not such a unique experience, but in Bali and Addis Ababa, I just crossed my fingers and hoped.

  2. Are you sure that the one you went to in Cambodia is a certified clinic? It seems too scary and suspicious. Lol.

    Anyway, it is fascinating to know that the hospitals in Laos is quiet. If you come to a government hospital in Malaysia, it is always full with people because the medical fees is subsidised by the government, so it is cheaper than in private hospitals.

    Nevertheless, for foreigners, the charge is different. More expensive than locals, but definitely cheaper than the private hospitals.

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