Sunday started out well. Cool outdoors, quiet and peaceful. As I was washing some strawberries I heard teachers talking outside so went out to join the group. They were on the first floor and I got their attention, intending to toss them strawberries. It took me a moment to realize this was no idle conversation.
Mark O had been riding his motorbike to the grocery store when he was hit by a truck. In shock, he just asked them to bring him back to school. The people who hit him, loaded him into their truck. By the time I got there, he'd been taken out of the truck and was sitting on a (broken) plastic chair, holding a bag of ice on what was an obviously broken ankle. He also complained of broken ribs. Mark may not be a doctor but he had correctly diagnosed himself.
Aung Ko Latt, the school director, quickly arrived and we helped Mark into the back seat. I hopped in the front and we headed to the largest government hospital in Mandalay. We arrived about noon. Between then and about 5:00 p.m., while Aung Ko Latt took care of the bureaucracy of police and hospital officials, Mark and I had an adventure.
It started as he was wheeled down a hallway which clearly hadn't seen the business end of a mop in a very long time. It didn't help that there was a dog wandering along the corridor. We reached the Radiology Department which was no less clean but didn't have dogs. The equipment looked antiquated but worked. I was allowed to stay in the room to keep Mark company. I'm concerned that now I'll never be able to have children after the radiation exposure.
After X-rays we went off to get an ultrasound. That involved a trip outside, past more dogs. We'd learned in the ER that people didn't seem to mind brushing up against Mark's broken ankle so I was his "foot guard". I'm sure some thought it was some kind of kinky American ritual that when a man has a broken foot a woman is required to stand with it between her legs. It was even more amusing for me to take that position when Mark was being moved.
After the ultrasound on the ribs, the tech handed me a clump of toilet tissue. I looked at him with a "Huh?" expression and he nodded at Mark's gelled and naked belly. Ah, you assume I'm the wife or girl friend. I looked at Mark, he shrugged and I started mopping up the mess. Mark talks a lot about collegiality but I really never thought it would come to this.
After more waiting and foot guarding, more AIS staff arrived. We looked like a big Asian/Caucasian family with at least 10 of us now huddled around our fallen comrade.
Next on the agenda was a CAT scan. I wondered if this was where they swung a cat over Mark by the tale, given the state of the rest of the place but we were led to a room and waiting until a large sliding door opened to a clean, chilled room. In the center of the room was the latest model technology has invented. It was a brand spanking new open scanner. It was somewhat ironic that while we waited outside the room, a rat scurried down the hall.
After that test, we finally headed back to the five bed ward to get Mark settled. AIS staff had brought bedding, bottled water and mosquito netting. We'd seen several doctors and the last came in to confirm. 1 broken rib, some fluid in or around the lung and a broken ankle that needed surgery. All agreed that the ankle would be stabilized so that Mark could have the surgery in Bangkok.
During all of this schlepping, we'd been carrying the backpack and extra items that a couple of teachers had thrown together. It's fun (in retrospect and if you're not involved) to see how people think in an emergency.
How many pairs of shoes does a man with a broken ankle need? And really, why had I been carrying around half a box of crackers and a bag of pistachio nuts all afternoon?
Mark spent the night in the hospital in Mandalay. Two AIS staffers stayed with him and although Mark protested that he was fine alone, he said afterward that he couldn't have done it without two locals who spoke the language and were there for him.
Monday morning, people were scrambling to make arrangements to get Mark to Bangkok. The plan was to send him alone, on a commercial flight. I was concerned. Even though the airline promised to take charge of things, sometimes things fall through the cracks. And with Mark in a wheelchair he really was pretty helpless. A decision was made to send me along. A Myanmar staff member couldn't get a visa that fast, so I had to leave my assistant teachers in charge.
I packed in 15 minutes, assuming I'd just be gone overnight. Remembered at the last minute I needed photos and documents from the school to get my visa when I return to Mandalay and the principal pulled those together. The driver and I headed to the hospital where Mark was being checked out. The parents of the man who'd hit him were there to show respect and apology for the problem. The driver had been held in jail overnight but since Mark didn't want to press charges, he was released.
We had to stop at the police station, though, to make that happen. Mark and I stayed in the car while the Myanmar staff took care of things. Then, on to the airport. We arrived about an hour before the flight. I didn't have a ticket and the school had been told they couldn't sell me one at the counter. Not sure what happened but a wonderful Air Asia manager took my passport, other staff wheeled Mark and we had a stress-free passage through immigration and security. I quickly had my passport back along with a boarding pass.
But now the challenge. Mandalay has but doesn't use jetways. We went down an elevator and then walked/rolled across the tarmac to the plane. We waited in the shade of the wing while other passengers boarded. Mark and I kept waiting for some kind of equipment that could lift him up to the door of the plane. Nope, there were four luggage handlers who were going to carry him up, wheelchair and all.
We were both leary but there wasn't a choice. Luckily, he made it up without incident and after much pain and twisting about, was able to get in his seat.
The flight was fine and we were relieved as the plane pulled up to a jetway in BKK. And then stopped a few feet away from it. Yes, steps again. We were told to stay put and we'd be the last off. Fine. Right up until they said there was no wheelchair and he'd have to hop down the stairs. With a broken ankle (not yet in a cast) and broken ribs.
I refused and the two of us just sat and said "Get a wheel chair." And they did. The world tiniest wheelchair which would have been adequate for getting a small person down the aisle of the plane but there was no way Mark would be able to lower himself into it, be carried down and then get back up out of it. Not having the use of the right leg and the left arm make maneuvering tricky.
We ended up waiting an hour for a regular wheel chair. Most of that time the flight attendants just glowered at us from the back of the plane. It was the worst example of customer service and empathy I have ever seen on an airline. While we were waiting, we tried to make light of the situation. Mark came up with a new slogan for Air Asia. Building on their current tag line of "Now everyone can fly." Mark altered it "Now everyone can fly. Some just can't get off."
Now that we had the wheelchair, the problem was who would carry it down. Finally, they lassoed four luggage handlers. Because they were inexperienced and it was a much less than ideal situation, Mark was in excruciating pain by the time we got down. Where they then asked him to stand up and hop up on the bus. He was lifted in and off we went to the terminal. Me, Mark, the wheelchair jockey and a group of pissed off flight attendants.
At the terminal, again we had the issue of the step. The flight attendants told the porter to shove him off. After all, he had gravity on his side. However, the jarring landing would cause not only pain but could cause the broken ribs to do further internal damage. Mark stood up, swiveled and then just fell back into the wheelchair on the ground.
Immigration and luggage collection were easy since everyone else was long gone. No one was waiting to transport us to the hospital as planned, so we just grabbed a taxi. Less than 30 minutes later we pulled up to Bumrungrad Hospital in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok.
To be continued...