Medevac Maddness in the Land of Smiles

Last Sunday night I sat waiting to board the plane to Surabaya. I overheard people chatting (in Indonesian) and my nervousness to board the plane and return to Indonesia subsided.

It was a few Wednesdays back, three to be exact when I was on my bike headed to school in a great mood. I rode in the mid-morning heat as the tune from Passion Pit’s, Cry like a Ghost was stuck in my head (thanks Elle for the mix!).  Right as I sang the lyrics, “Sylvia right back where you came from your a pendulum…..SYLVIA!,” I got hit by a motorbike…

Luckily it was minor. I believe my bike and helmet practically saved me from any serious damage. Other than the initial shock and some black and blue color to my right leg (starting from my right butt cheek and down to my ankle), I felt in one piece. However, an x-ray later I learned I had fractured my right ulnar or outer forearm bone. This news eventually landed me a ticket to Bangkok, Thailand as a medical evacuated volunteer, or MedEvac. I got the opportunity to be treated at one of the top hospitals in the world or “PC approved” International hospital and work with, or I guess be worked on by an orthopedic specialist.

Check list

  • Bali
  • Diarrhea/parasite sickness
  • Hit by a vehicle
  • MedEvac

Two checks within 3 days…that’s got to do something for my PC rep.

The same day as the accident, before I had any inkling that being sent to Thailand was an option, I headed into Surabaya and met with our PC doctor and an orthopedic specialist. I was given two options: 1. Right arm strapped to a splint for 4-6 months with no mild to major moments to avoid permanent damage, or 2. Get a plate inserted to help mend the fracture safe and quickly. Talk about options!  I opted for the operation and that Saturday I was booked to fly into Thailand. There were a series of coincidences that led to my quick departure but man PC was on it. Initially I felt guilty about the whole thing. I would leave my village and school with no warning and cause PC to spend all this money to help repair me all because I don’t know how to cross the street… But since I was pretty sleep deprived from being hit by a motorbike I realized that maybe it was necessary for me to take a breather from Indonesia.

It would be my first time on a plane since leaving America. My main concerns were being on time for flights and avoiding people with the bulky piece of wood strapped to my arm. I had a layover in Singapore and got access to this special assistance service where people would come from seriously out of nowhere to carry my bag and escort me to this special seated area that had free juice, water, and big comfy chairs. On the flight into Bangkok my seat was switched to my own aisle. I listened to classical music, wine was served, and there was even ice cream! I remember it more like a dream.

After landing I received a free ride to the hotel provided to new hospital patients. I rode the elevator up to my room still trying to get over this strange feeling of extreme pain and good fortune. As I walked down the hall I was stopped by a “Hey, you a Peace Corps Volunteer?”   …could this day get any better? The two ladies, Carol and Carol, were also medevacs sent to Thailand. It was the highlight of the trip to met PCVs serving in Albania, Thailand, China, Ukraine, Moldova, and Azerbaijan—which I still have a hard time pronouncing. I’d say meeting current PCVs from other serving countries were as thrilling as seeing 7-11 convenient stores on the corner of every block, which carried Reeses cups. Both of those things were the best parts of this MedEvac experience.

Over the first few days, I did the routine checks as a new patient and was scheduled for surgery for the following Tuesday—one overnight procedure. The hospital was an experience. Nice isn’t even a word that comes close to justifying it. It’s posh, serves patients from literally all over the world, and has a McDonald inside—truly my only complaint, even though I too frequented…the McFlurries were cheap.

I hope I never need another operation but I’d travel back to receive the same care from this orthopedic surgeon. They kept me longer than I and my PC staff back in Indo had anticipated, but with the reaction I had to the medication I would have been miserable back at site so quickly.

I’d say about half of the trip was nerve-racking and the other half served as a nice get away. It was hard to stay relaxed when I had no clue when I’d be returning to Indonesia. On the other hand, it felt good to disappear with no schedule. It was rainy season there, so it down poured most days and I was sick off and on from the weather change. I tried to do little complaining and just let things take its course. 2 weeks following my operation, I was out of the sling and felt confident to do a bit of exploring of ‘old Bangkok,’ where most of the history, temples, and Buddha statues sit. However, for the most part I practiced crossing streets, drank bubble tea (30 cents), and ate lots and lots of Thai and Mediterranean food (due to a large Arabic community close to where I was staying).

I will completely recover and gain full usage of my arm in 3-6 months. It’s still sore and I’m still babying it, however, I can practically do anything as long as I avoid applying weight or pressure. In two years, if I so desire I can get the plate and screws removed from my arm, a decision I won’t make now but predict that I will try to avoid any operational procedures in the future.

When I stepped off the plane that landed in Juanda, Surabaya airport and walked outside to load the bus to customs, I was greeted with the smell of Indo. The climate was also noticeably different. 3 amazing PCVs surprised me at the airport and welcome back notes filled my cubby box in the office. I was a little shady about informing people who I really care for about the incident. I apologize. It seems irrational but it took some personal time to process and the less amount of people who worried the less I worried. And now that it’s over it’s just another story!

Although I would never suggest getting hit by a motorbike, it does serve as another ridiculous take back with me tale about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I returned to school this week and the transition went smoothly. My CPs had survived without me! Of course they had, they have been doing this for years without me. Teachers and students expressed their sincere happiness and excitement for my safe return and were WOWed by the X-ray of my half-mechanical arm.

With a little more time I will return to cycling every day. For now, I’m just grateful and allowing myself to challenge the few new perspectives I’ve gained from being outside of site and away from Indo.  For some more reading continue on to Slow Down Crazy.

Photo time!

2 thoughts on “Medevac Maddness in the Land of Smiles

  1. I think I was there the nite Jay W. was awaiting your arrival back to Indonesia. I’m glad everything worked out alright and that you were able to try that Mango and Rice dish…Thai food is where it’s at!

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