Frank's Excellent Adventure travel blog

Bumrungrad International

Surgery - Spinal Epidural


Buddy come quick with the iodine

Catch a few winks, baby, under the bed

Then you head back to Tennessee Jed….

Alright so I didn’t actually drop four flights, what I did was try to lift a set of twin scuba tanks (of course totally doing it the wrong way), and I pulled my lower back out again. This happened a few months ago when I was in Indonesia on Gili Trawangan, helping my friend Will accomplish his World Record. Being me (stubborn) and the fact that we were a week away from the big dive, I mostly ignored the pain and grit my teeth and toughed my way through.

I tried my best at controlling the pain and healing my back - I rested, used the Back Whisperer, did my stretching and strengthening exercise’s, ate a ton of Ibuprofen, I even went as far as seeing a Tibetan Doctor and agreeing to ingest his prescribed Tibetan Medicine (which really looked like Yak poo pellets and kinda tasted like it too!). Sure things got a little better, but not good enough. Living in constant pain is no way to travel.

So I decided I need some professional medical care. Fortunately for me I was still in Asia and one of the best International Hospitals - Bumrungrad - is located in Bangkok, Thailand. I did some research found the Doctor I was looking for and booked an appointment.

Then I booked a flight. I flew in from Paro, Bhutan to Bangkok, specifically to visit the Spine Institute of Bumrungrad International. I also made sure to book into a very comfortable Hotel to do my convalescing in.


My first appointment was a “Consultation” and after reviewing my case and doing a physical exam I was shuffled off to get some new x-rays and an MRI.

(Day 2)

Found me returning to the Spine Institute and reviewing the findings with my Orthopedic Surgeon. Basically I have a herniated disk at L5-S1, which is the cause of all my discomfort, and a bunch of deteriorating disks at L2-L3-L4-L5 - which gives me cause to worry about future discomfort. Yea! So after going over my treatment options it was agreed that I would have minor surgery and have a spinal epidural injection. The rest of the day was spent getting blood tests done, going over my admission requirements for the next morning, discussing the “costs”, and something they call “Bleeding”, where they stick you with a sharp instrument and time how long it takes for you to stop bleeding. Imagine having that job? The dude who poked me and hung around with the stopwatch in hand was some drone looking Lurch type Thai kid with a thousand mile stare. Creepy.

(Day 3)

No food or drink after midnight. At 8 AM I was at the Day Care Operations Registration. First thing they do is take my money, I mean take a deposit in full for the days projected expenses. Then it is off to put on one of those wonderful gowns where too much of you shows through too many gaps. After the wardrobe change I was escorted into the pre-op and told the Doctor was stuck in a traffic jam so I should lie down and relax. Hmmm. Hope he doesn’t suffer from road rage.

Finally the Surgeon shows up and has me roll over and he takes out a Sharpie and marks my back where it hurts. He say not to worry, he has it all under control and off he went. Before I know it I am whisked off to the Operating Room. Now is when it always hits me - what the f**k am I doing? I am putting my life in the hands of a complete stranger and he is going to stick a long needle full of steroids and drugs into my spine!

About 17 months ago, in Mexico, I had a similar experience, except in Mexico, it was wham bam thank you man. It all happened in about the span of 2 hours, the journey to the doctor’s office, the appointment with a Neuro-Surgeon, the trip to the hospital, and the epidural being administered by an Anesthesiologist in a Hospital Emergency Room, with people screaming, blood splatters on the curtains and it was roll over and in goes the needle and in 10 minutes or so it was all done. That was Mexico. And because it was my experience I was thinking Thailand would be the same.

Yeah, so 3 days into it and I am there in the freezing cold Operating Room, face down, bent in half, with my bare ass and back exposed to the world.(Well alright maybe not the whole world and maybe only half of my ass, but still, it feels that way). Actually what I felt at that moment was total vulnerability. And hey, there are no atheists in a fox hole right? so I began to pray. Well actually meditate and chant. All that Buddha shit came right to the forefront and I was all “Om mani padme hum, Om mani padme hum, Om mani padme hum,…) and for the next 15 minutes or so the Doc poked and prodded me until he found the exact spot (and yes, out comes the Sharpie again and I guess “X” marks the spot) then “this will hurt a little” and Yikes! In goes the needle and I can feel it hitting the spot because my entire left butt cheek and my entire left leg jump and scream with pain, he has definitely found the nerve! “Om mani padme hum, Om mani padme hum…”

Before I could puke (because that is exactly what I fought off for the whole needle part of the procedure) it ended. I was wheeled to the post -op and after having some equipment hooked up to me to monitor my vital signs, they brought me cup of hot black tea - how civilized. As I sat and sipped my cup of tea the old Arab dude next to me, recovering in his own bed from who knows what operation but high as kite form whatever anesthesia they had given him, decides I am now his good friend. Hahaha… Life is an endless source of entertainment. He kept yelling “Hey, my good friend” in horribly broken english and then ranting away in arabic to me. It was a skit right out of SNL. Fortunately for me I only had about a 1/2 hour in the recovery room before I was allowed to be discharged.

So, dressed, armed with a fistful of prescription meds, and a little lighter in the wallet, off they wheeled me in the mandatory wheelchair (which I really don’t understand, because the hospital corridors are relatively safe. and the wheelchairs crowd the elevators and they just wind up depositing you on the sidewalk anyway, which if you’ve ever been to Bangkok is a heck of a lot more dangerous then the halls of a hospital?) down to the curb were I caught a taxi back to my hotel.

A few days rest and I should be right as rain.



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