The Misadventures of a Business Traveler

I’m sure many of us working people travel for business, be it in your own country or internationally. Work travel is usually more stressful than not. There are deadlines to meet, objectives to be fulfilled and when you get back home, there is no rest; reports and expense claims need to be submitted.

With all these pressures, it pays to be healthy during your business travel and not fall sick. Getting sick in a foreign country can be really inconvenient as medical conditions may not be up to par with what you are used to, and costs can be expensive if you don’t have medical insurance. One of the worst things that can happen to a business traveler is to get food poisoning, which is easy to happen especially if you ate spoiled food or couldn’t resist that exotic Asian meal. I had my own share of such experiences but the most exciting case happened to one of my principals from Hong Kong.

Back in 2008 I was visiting Thailand together with one of our principals to familiarize them with the country’s market conditions. After all the meetings had concluded, we had dinner at a small Italian restaurant about 30km north of Bangkok. Let’s call the protagonist of this blog post ‘Mr Lee’ (names have been changed to protect the innocent… Haha!).

So we were all having a nice dinner when suddenly Mr Lee just keeled over and fainted at the dinner table. We all shocked, the restaurant owner even more so as he thought it was due to his food. So we let Mr Lee lie down on the sofa and tried to ask him what was wrong. Through his moaning we more or less guessed that he was suffering from intense stomach cramps. It was already late at night (10pm-ish) and we were out in some small town. To rush to the main hospital in Bangkok would take another 1 hr or so and we didn’t know if Mr Lee’s condition will worsen.

Well, Lady Luck was smiling on us, or rather on Mr Lee, because just next to the restaurant around 300m away was a small hospital which serves the many small towns and villages in the area. Someone went to inform the hospital that we needed medical attention, the ambulance came speeding through the 300m distance, and brought Mr Lee to the A&E. I think this was the fastest evacuation they have ever done. From accident site to hospital took about a minute.

So Mr Lee was transferred to the A&E ward and the doctor examined him. The diagnosis was severe food poisoning. But he didn’t have diarrhea or vomiting , instead he just had severe stomach cramps. Being a small hospital they didn’t have a stomach pump so the doctor asked that Mr Lee rest and let the cramps subside while they gave him medication to lessen the pain.

Our Mr Lee in the A&E. He was delirious and kept moaning in Cantonese that he was going to die.
Mr Lee in the A&E. He was delirious and kept moaning in Cantonese that he was going to die.

The doctor gave him an injection of antibiotics and asked him to rest while they observed him for any worsening symptoms. I had a little time to look around the A&E. It was a small hospital and the facilities were very basic. Adequate for the villages but not able to deal with complex medical procedures or emergencies.

While waiting for Mr Lee to get better, on the side of the A&E a motorbike accident victim was brought in. He had fallen off his bike and was suffering from numerous cuts and lacerations. His biggest injury was a large gash on the side of his head. The doctor was called upon to attend to this more serious case.

That's my Thai Sales Manager then. He's not covering his because I took the photo but he's slapping his forehead as in "I can't believe this is happening". The motorbike accident victim is lying on the bed at the end of the ward.
That’s my Thai Sales Manager then. He’s not covering his face because I took the photo, but he’s face palming as in “I can’t believe this is happening”. The motorbike accident victim is lying on the bed at the end of the ward surrounded by his friends.

After about a 2 hr wait, Mr Lee felt better and the doctor discharged him. Meanwhile, the guy from the motorbike accident, had his head stitched by the doctor. They were all speaking in Thai but I guess that the guy’s friends didn’t want to pay extra for anesthetic to treat the guy (I wonder how come they are still his friends). It was surreal, the doctor stitched his head without anesthetic, and he just sat there dazed without making a sound. After the doctor had finished cleaning up and bandaging his wounds, he was also discharged.

Epilogue

After all the excitement, I found myself back in my hotel room in Bangkok, and it was 1am by then. Mr Lee recovered enough by the next morning to continue the trip. His colleague that came with him wasn’t too pleased and said “Last night I kept asking you what was wrong. You kept saying ‘I’m going to die’. I really wanted to slap you and let you die!”. But all’s well that ends well.

So what kind of misadventures have you encountered whilst on business travel?

 

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