This is page 7 of the story, “Living in Thailand” – the first page is HERE.
Motorbike Accident in Ubon Ratchathani, a Co-worker – Hospital ICU
I see me when I look at you. When I see your broken teeth and a deeply cut lip, your mangled chin… your shaved head with an exposed brain just beneath the thin white gauze and tape… I see me. I see me when I look at your body covered in hair… typical hairy farang like me. Your wild looks when you wake up from your twenty-second naps. It looks to me as if it’s myself there in the hospital bed.
I was with you at the bars… I left when you did, though only seconds later. We were going home the same way, you live only blocks from my house and yet I didn’t wait… didn’t even think you were drunk considering you drink more often than me, and I felt fine. And who is to say if it would have mattered if you were plastered blind… from the stories I heard from those at the scene the driver of the other motorsai was at fault. I sincerely doubt anyone could have avoided it.
Today as I went to get my laundry so I have clothes to wear to work tomorrow I saw the spot in the street where you flew into the three Thai teens on a motorbike with no lights on at two a.m. in the morning. The white paint outline of where your motorsai lay… and the outline of the other motorsai. I thought the paint was an outline of your body, but the girl told me it was to show the motorsai position. I saw me in the street there, bleeding and unconscious… I remembered it as if I was you… because it was me too.
The laundry girl said she heard the sound of you all crashing that night. She came outside like everyone else and she thought it was me she said… and I was thinking the same thing. Your one-eighth inch thin plastic red helmet with no face-guard was lying over there (thirty feet from the crash). “A farang’s head hit the curb there! A girl sat there with a huge laceration to her head and cried that she didn’t want to go to the hospital! She later went and got 20 stitches in her head.”
Two Thai men tried to lift you into the pickup truck and almost dropped you because you were so heavy. You were unconscious. Your Thai made helmet wasn’t enough to keep your brain from serious injury.
In the hospital ICU, the first image I had of you was with your swollen, black like a tire, right eyelid, cut lip and chin, broken teeth, bruised body… My girlfriend said later she thought it was me at first look. I know she must have because it WAS me. I was there with you.
No difference that I didn’t have the accident. The accident happened inside me too. I’ve never experienced any trauma like this with a friend. I was the last to see the Scott that everyone knew. I fear that you won’t be the same one as time unfolds. A blood clot. Brain surgery to remove pieces of bone in your brain. Moderate brain swelling. Brain tissue removed in the area of communication… Dirty ICU rooms with mosquitoes, blood-stained concrete floors. Someone’s pet dog in the open room connecting to the ICU.
Four died that night during the fourteen hours I was there in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). The first one to die was a child – perhaps eleven years old. A boy. His legs and arms were suntanned dark and didn’t even have a blemish from my view… and yet he had a neck brace on to keep him still… I never did see him move at all. After he had been there for a couple of hours the heart rate monitor went “0”… the nurse checked.
They started CPR in earnest – using heart compressions to keep his heart pumping the oxygen-rich blood to the brain and body. I watched as a male nurse or doctor started the CPR and the numbers leaped up to 120 beats per minute as he worked steadily and tirelessly. He stopped after five minutes to check if the boy’s heart would beat on its own. It didn’t. Another round, this time moving on top of the bed, kneeling by the boy’s shoulders. five minutes on – 120 beats per minute. Check – 0 beats per minute. Again.
By this time the boy’s mother was there and crying as she watched them try in vain to keep her boy alive. The nurses must have tried five or six 5-minute sessions and still the heart rate monitor went to “0” as soon as their efforts ceased. They then tried electroshock with the chest zappers. Again, no pulse. And there were four nurses over the boy, giving their all – and nothing. The mom, perhaps forty-five years old in her high fashion short white t-shirt, tight white pants and a lot of gold on her neck, fingers, ears. She wept hard and yet she didn’t wail.
The only wail I heard that night was from a boy of about sixteen that needed to peak under the green sheet at the person already dead. When he did, he burst into tears and crying and an older boy, his brother maybe, put him in a one-arm headlock and they walked away with the boy wailing out a couple of times. It was an older man, the one under the sheet – I’m guessing it was the boy’s father.
So the nurses had gone through their procedure and the young boy’s heart was not responding. They injected things into him – hoping it would start the heart – and it did not. They pumped more – and always the same zero on the screen. There was a doctor there now and the doctor took the pulse, listened in the stethoscope… and looked at the monitors and pronounced the boy dead… there was one thing though – the child was STILL BREATHING on his own!
The boy went on breathing for over a half-hour WITHOUT any kind of support system. I was really clueless that this could happen – but there it was… he was breathing not four meters from me – clearly visible from the rhythmic rise and fall of the sheet that covered his chest – and the monitor which read about fifteen breaths per minute.
The boy’s sister and farang husband came in and looked and cried and held the boy’s arm and all cried together. Very surreal considering the boy was still breathing.
The family left and they removed the boy after an hour. They washed up the bed, changed linens. The body guys came and took the boy onto their cart.
The next one to fill that slot – I’ll call slot number two – was a guy that had either just been shot, knifed, or had an accident. But the only thing I could see was just profuse amounts of blood coming from his mouth, and head. He was hooked up to a bag of blood but it was a small bag. When I went in the lunchroom I was only one and a half meters away from him and I could see the fresh blood streaming down his neck. There was a large spot on the sheets under his head and getting bigger every minute.
The guy made no move and when the monitor went “0” nobody knew. The monitor either didn’t give the beep – or, they didn’t have him hooked up to it. There was one there beside him, but an older model that didn’t have large enough numbers for me to read from four meters away and so I never knew if it was even on.
A nurse walked by, put her hand on the guy’s leg for a few seconds and said, oh – die. She made a joke to the other nurses and they laughed – presumably because the guy was cold and he must have died a little while ago but nobody noticed. The doctor came by and said, “die”. There was no family there or effort to give him CPR – the doctor just came over and said – die. They wrote down the time and did some paperwork.
And Scott you were awake in spurts all night. You never slept more than a few seconds or minutes at a time. When you woke up you would grab your head, open your eyes wide, look confused and twist in the bed… twisting apart the catheter tubes, ripping out the Intravenous lines, and pulling off the heart rate monitors.
Sometimes you were hot and sometimes cold. The nurses decided to give you the cold air conditioner and wrap you in blankets. My girlfriend and I asked them to lower your bed to 180 degrees so you could sleep better – your head had raised higher than legs for eleven hours or so before that. They changed it and you slept for not seconds but minutes.
When we asked you questions you’d respond yeah, yeah. Always yeah. Never no. Until about 3 a.m. on the fifth of February, you said – no.
You grew more frustrated at not understanding what was going on during the night. But finally you snored a few times and I thought- good for you.
It was seven a.m. before we left you. Mickey was right behind us. My girlfriend and I went home to sleep and the night replayed in my mind a few times before I was able to sleep.
And today. It’s a new day. And new problems for you. Mickey told me that you had to have surgery to have a shunt put in your head to relieve some of the pressure. Apparently, your brain was swelling. Not good. I arrived this evening and found out they did actual SURGERY on your brain – removing pieces of bone and even a part of your brain – in the lobe dealing with communication. I’m fighting for you Scott. For your family. Your friends. Your girlfriends. But what am I fighting with? Just hoping really that you’re on the other side of the curve now – and it will be good progress from here.
I think the risk of infection is high now. Your brain is actually without part of the skull if I understood Mickey correctly. There was a flap that was removed and is being kept alive somewhere frozen in anti-biotic solution to be re-attached later. Your brain is essentially just beneath the white gauze pad and see-through tape. Is that good practice?
I wish you were back in the USA for this… at least in Bangkok. Even my Thai teacher friend Sai decided to go to BKK for her brain surgery to remove a large, non-cancerous tumor. Not like you had the time to choose though.
And I’m waiting for my turn now. I think it’s my turn. I’ve escaped SO MUCH. I’ve always been the lucky one. I’ve had the most fun of anyone I know. I’ve done some crazy things and maybe now it’s my time… that’s what I mean, I am there with you Scott… I’m right in that same spot… and it’s just a matter of time. It’s a matter of things catching up… statistics… the numbers – it won’t be long now…
And yet, there was an accident inside me too and I will be more cautious about many things. That too is what I mean, it’s like it was me that had the accident but my accident is all mental… but traumatic too…
The feeling today is deep – there has been a change in the way “I” am… what I believe… what I do… what I see as important… what is not…
Your parents and sister will get here tomorrow night. All of us from school will continue to visit the hospital when not in class.
Hold on Scott, and come back stronger than before. I think you can get through this…Just keep hanging in there brother…
“Scott” (not his real name), became mostly better except for a lame foot that refused to work or get any better and also some brain damage that made him not quite the same as we all remembered him.
He was pretty paranoid about learning to ride the motorbike in Thailand – as most people are. My fellow teachers and I talked him into it after a couple of months and he seemed to be enjoying it, though always cautious.
Motorbikes here are more like fast mopeds. They can go much faster than a moped in the USA where they are limited to 50cc engines. Here they are typically 100-125cc.
Recently Thailand began selling some Yamaha motorbikes (Mio) that are automatic. They are faster, smoother, and don’t require shifting at all. The result has been – I believe – that people go faster and are less cautious about driving than they were when they were shifting gears. Not sure, just a hunch. Suzuki, Honda and some others have come out with the automatic motorbikes now so we’ll see how it goes in the future as their bikes get faster and faster.
Oh, I almost forgot – there was a recent trip to the hospital for an overnight stay… you can read about that at my blog if you like. I ate a large scorpion for a video I was doing on “Gross Grub” in Thailand and I didn’t realize I had an allergy to some of the scorpion venom… or, that some of the venom was still active even after the beast was fried! Vern overnights at hospital after Scorpion snack >
A Day in the Life (while I was teaching M-F)
What is Thailand like to live here? Very hard to answer as everyone’s life that moves here must be different. My life changes every time I move to a different area of the country or I do something different with my working life. Currently, I’m just blogging and writing. I’m sort of a social recluse in that I don’t go to bars or need to be around other foreigners here. I’m happy hanging out with Thai people.
Here is a typical day for me:
6:10 a.m. – wake up to alarm on cell phone. Hit snooze.
6:20 – wake up again to the cell phone. Sometimes I climb out of bed. 50% of the time I sleep another ten minutes. When I get up I turn on the hot water maker for instant coffee that I have daily. Nobody really has real coffee here, I’m not sure why…
6:40 – I’m usually showered by now. Even if showering consists only of sticking my head under the shower because the water is often cold in the morning. I hate cold water. I don’t have an electric water heater like most of the farangs insist on having. Though I had one in Isaan at the house I stayed in and at times I miss it.
7:00 – My girlfriend has made “Gwit Diao” – a noodle soup with pork broth, pak boong, koon chai, garlic and pickled radish pieces. I eat it like it is from heaven. She can cook everything perfectly. I’m so happy to have her cook every day now that she lives with me!
7:20 – I’ve finished and brushed my teeth and out the door wearing navy blue polyester dress pants, black leather dress shoes, long-sleeved shirt and tie. I jump on my old motorsai – eleven years old, and with a roar, I’m riding to school which is about four-hundred meters away through heavy traffic. There are many schools where I teach and so traffic is NUTS in the morning.
7:25-7:30 – I’m signing the attendance sheet at school and then sitting at my desk cruising the internet via wireless LAN router and chatting with co-workers a little.
7:45 – All us teachers need to go outside and stand for “flag ceremony” which happens daily. We stand for the anthem, as they sing a prayer, and as they play another song and then sit and meditate for a few minutes. We leave earlier than the rest of the Thai teachers and kids because for some reason we’re excused. Probably because we don’t understand any of what will be said from then on.
8:05 – We’re back in the office getting ready for class or relaxing more if we don’t have to teach the first period.
8:20 – The kids return from flag ceremony and go to their rooms – we can usually hear them, as they’re in the same building as us.
8:25 – I’m usually teaching math to fifteen-year-olds. Fun stuff – polynomial factoring, basic probability, area of three-dimensional figures. Some kids pick it up quickly, and others are failing miserably. Nobody REALLY fails though – all kids get the minimum 50% required grade to go on to next grade – regardless of what grades they deserve.
11:20 – Each class is an hour and I have four classes to teach every day. At this time there is lunch for kids and staff alike. I usually just eat some dragonfruit for lunch, but there are times I’ll go to a restaurant like the other guys and girls and eat some fried rice with pork and vegetables or som tam or something else.
12:20 p.m. – Lunch over. Sometimes teaching – sometimes not. If not teaching I am usually building web sites, writing, checking on statistics for my sites… etc. Occasionally I plug the headphones into my cell phone and listen to some MP3’s.
16:20 (4:30) School is done. One could leave early if so inclined and no classes to go to – but usually, I stay until this time. The Thai teachers all must stay. Farangs get a good deal at this school.
16:25 – I ride the motorbike four-hundred meters back to my small (one-room) apartment on the third-floor walkup. I enter, and my girlfriend greets me at the door with a kiss and we hug and ask how each others’ day went. Invariably she is already preparing dinner – she cleans and cuts the vegetables with precision – like a doctor.
16:30 – Lately I’ve been sick – some kind of flu symptoms and so I sleep for an hour and when I wake up we eat dinner. Dinner is ALWAYS delicious and always VERY healthy. We eat NO fat other than a little bit of oil she insists on using sometimes for cooking the pork or chicken. Usually no fat at all. Every single thing she has ever made for me – hundreds of things – have been PERFECT to eat! I have never once not eaten anything because it wasn’t delicious!
18:00 – We eat and then go to exercise to a huge sports park. We walk a bit and then I start running – she goes to do an aerobic dance with the girls there. It is hot and yet not bad because usually there’s a breeze since it’s raining a lot daily. There are clouds moving in or out almost all the time.
19:30 – We stop by the newspaper store and get a “Nation” and she gets a Thai paper. She reads both. I read just the English Nation. We read about the political catastrophe that the Thaksin premier has become. We read about violence in the Muslim filled south of Thailand where extremists are killing Thai schoolteachers, Monks, and anyone else to gain some attention in the headlines. They hope to turn the south into a part of Malaysia.
20:30 – I usually am back on the computer again – checking stats, emails, updating web pages or writing something I want to get up online. Sometimes we watch a DVD or VCD movie on the computer that we got at Tsutaya video rental store.
21:30-23:00 We are in bed sleeping peacefully without a care in the world.
That’s really about it. On the weekends we usually take a motorbike trip somewhere – sometimes up to 170 kilometers away. We’ve seen many waterfalls here, hot springs, beaches, islands… The natural beauty here rivals that of the Hawaiian Islands. Koh Samui and Krabi are really incredibly beautiful spots that if you get a chance, you shouldn’t pass up. Phuket too – away from Patong beach, is quite a nice destination.
Most of the co-workers at school take buses somewhere every weekend. It seems that we’re all traveling to different places on a three-day weekend and even during two-day weekends we’re close enough to go to any of six great places.
For a home-base, Surat is pretty perfect. For long weekends – of which we have MANY, we can go to any of three islands near Koh Samui. We can go to Nakhon Si Thammarat (coastal city). We can visit Krabi and Railay beach (the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen).
We can go to any of the twenty waterfalls. We can go to Phuket, Patong and all the places close with a four-hour van ride. We could take a night train to Bangkok, sleeping in a bed and wake up in the morning on Saturday and spend three-days there before taking a night train back down to Surat. Buses go everywhere too but the buses are not the safest way to travel.
What Does the Future Hold?
Not sure at all. I’d like to start some sort of business here and yet I have no money to start one. I have started an aggressive savings plan here but something always comes up to dwindle the account. I am starting another savings attempt as this month’s check comes.
I’m selling stock photos of Thailand online. There is one decent agency I’ve found – Dreamstime that markets photos and then gives me a portion of whatever sells. The images go DIRT cheap though – but that’s the state of the stock industry – the bottom has fallen out! Photo rights used to routinely sell for hundreds of dollars. Not any more. There are millions of photos online at these agencies and they’re selling for less than five dollars for reproductive rights to them.
I’ve sold some through this site, but I’ve made enough to pay the rent for two months, that’s all. I’m thinking it will take a year of submitting my best photos to be able to make a few thousand dollars from it, and then it’s just not worth the effort. There is a huge effort to get one photo accepted at these online agencies. I submitted around 1,500 photos and have had only four-hundred accepted. That is quite a failure rate considering technically all my submissions were perfect. It’s just what they decide to accept or not – it’s subjective and pretty frustrating for the photographers!
I’m constantly building web pages and filling them with information about Thailand. I recently started a blogging network to help good writers that know nothing about blogging and optimizing their blog for search engines. The network is called, Thailand Travel Blog Network.
I’ve thought about moving to Bangkok to start working there for some rather serious money – but that’d be too much like America. I really enjoy the peace of mind I have here in the outskirts of Thailand. There is so little stress. Every day is enjoyable in more than one way. I have fun teaching – at my job! I never thought that possible before coming to Thailand.
I make less than the USA welfare rate per year and yet I’m very happy and have everything I need. I have a cell phone that has everything. I have a laptop computer with wireless internet that works at school. I can turn my cell phone into a blue tooth provider of internet and link it to my laptop while at home. Speeds are slow but it gets the job done when I need it.
I think overall that stock photography is a waste of time. It appears that the travel photos I shoot are not that in demand. Time to find another hobby that makes money!
We have been considering moving into a storefront type place and holding English classes for small kids after school for an hour each day. We’ll probably do that to increase income and save a little more each month. A car here would be useful for long trips and for the rainy season.
Motorbikes in the rain are pretty dangerous as you can imagine. We’d spend six-thousand baht on a store with an upstairs and downstairs per month. We’d make about ten-thousand baht per month extra from kids enrolled. We are paying three-thousand five-hundred baht per month for this one-room studio. So, we’d come out nearly eight thousand baht better off per month. That’s just about the extra amount we’d need to enable us to save twenty-thousand baht per month comfortably until next March. Would be nice to have a couple hundred thousand baht next March.
I also think about the house. I’d love to build my own house. A simple house, concrete floor and walls on the bottom story and maybe wooden walls on the second story. Maybe a large porch area that catches the wind where we could eat dinner every day. I’m forty years old now and still in decent enough shape that I could put together most of a house. I get the urge to do it a couple times per month lately.
We’d have to decide on a location where we’d live for the next ten years or forever though. A place where we’d maybe raise a family. Isaan comes to mind first and yet I’m not sure I could be that far away from things to do – things to see – such as the ocean and mountains, waterfalls… Isaan isn’t close to much. That’s the one problem. And that’s the magic of the whole area too.
Ubon Ratchathani is where we met and we have some great memories there… a nice quiet place to live and with all the major shopping places we could need. There is some business taking place there – and quite a few people – 100,000? 200k? Not sure and the census is never any help. Many avoid the census and many have moved since it was done. There’s been a huge migration towards the big cities over the years.
Mukdahan or Mahasarakam might be nice… a little more out of the way. Mukdahan borders the Mekong River and Laos across the river. Beer Laos would be quite close when I got the urge.
Mostly I think the key is just to find a school I enjoy working at and stay there for many years. I think finding one without other farangs – or at least without many, is key. I am looking for the Thai experience right now. Maybe that will change in the future. In Ubon, it was mostly the Thai experience that made me fall in love with the place. There were things to get over- negatives, but they were dealt with.
I need to find a place similar to Ubon – the people, the food, the fairly big city and yet closer to the beaches and mountains and fun places to go. I’d say it was Surat if it weren’t for the people. The people aren’t bad really, but there is a marked difference between Thais of Isaan and those I’ve met here. In Isaan, the farang is seen as a lucky charm. I can’t tell you how many old Thai men and women I’ve had to grab my hand just to touch me… some say for good luck… but I think that it’s also so they re-live a little bit what it was like 40 years ago when there were Americans all over Thailand on R&R from the Vietnam war.
Many Thais had good experiences with Americans and they remember fondly. Many Americans too apparently because I’ve met many that have told me they were in the Vietnam war and came back to live because they remembered how great the people of Thailand were.
I think I will get married to my girlfriend. She will lose face with her family and her family will lose face because she isn’t married to me and yet we’re living together. I really do want to make her the happiest girl that I possibly can. I’ve screwed up many relationships in my past life… and this girl is so sweet, so innocent that I can do nothing else but give her 200% of my effort to making her life better. I find there is no desire to find another girl, a different girl, or even look at other girls anymore. She is everything I need.
How could I ever find someone else like this?
So, at least I’m doing this right… finally, I’ve found the love of my life… the sweetest petite girl from Isaan that I’m so glad to have met.
You might meet somebody sweet and innocent also if you come to Thailand… or you might find a bar girl that becomes the love of your life for only a short time…
Much better for you to go to Isaan and find a nice girl and treat her right!
Enjoy your stay in Thailand!
I just went back to update and edit this book that I haven’t looked at in about seven years. I didn’t know whether to update the entire book and bring it up to date, or leave it stand. I left it as it was pretty much.
I found it really interesting to read again. I’d only been in the country for a couple of years when I wrote this. Now it has been ten years.
Strange to see that I didn’t know what to do – I thought I was going to teach some more.
What I did was quit teaching and started about fifty blogs on mostly Thailand topics. Thai food, Muay Thai, Travel, Thailand Snakes, Running, SEO, ThaiPulse.com, and so many others. I also began writing what became thirty-eight ebooks – most about some topic of Thailand. Some of them, I’ll release here free after selling them on Amazon for a half-dozen years.
Today I’m a bit disillusioned with Thailand. We have a daughter and she is just starting school. All the inadequacies of the school system I see quite clearly and from a different viewpoint. I am not sure whether it is better to return to the states for her education and life or to remain in Thailand.
It will be fun in ten years to look back at this ebook again and see what I was thinking today and what I ended up doing.
If you come to Thailand, best of luck to you. I think everyone’s experience is different, but hopefully, you got something good out of this book.