The bus ride to Laos was an interesting journey. We were set to leave at 5pm and a Vietnamese man came and grabbed me, Harriet, Pride and Rainbow from in front of the hostel and took us to the street where we had to wait for another hour for a van to pick us up to take us all around the city in one big circle to pick up 2 guys down the street from where we were picked up. During this time it began pouring down rain out of the clear skies. So the van driver dropped us with our luggage off in the middle of nowhere pouring rain underneath a cement structure with electrical wires shooting off sparks about 15 feet away.
It was popped and making so much noise I thought for sure something was going to explode. It was so strange and there were about 15 of us all wondering when our bus was going to finally appear. After about an hour the sleeper bus shows up and we all run over and it is half filed with Vietnamese people and the remaining seats are for us. After some crazy shuffling around we all got a bed. They were double stacked and 3 across with some people in the middle. One of the craziest buses I have ever seen. We were really packed in there tight. I had a Vietnamese woman sleeping right next to me for at least half of the 20-hour ride to Vientiane.
There was a man behind me who snored like he was choking to death every 30 seconds. It was frightening to listen to and I had to take a video because it is truly unexplainable. I pretty much slept the entire time minus about 3 hours because my body really needed the rest after spending so much time with Kirsty.
After arriving to Vientiane, there were enough of us heading to Vang Vieng that we hired private buses to shuttle us up right away. We were looking for a specific hostel called Spicy Laos to meet up with the rest of the people we knew who were heading for tubing. The driver couldnt find it but when we stopped to ask, these 2 drunk guys came barreling out through the bushes soaking wet in the dark with their tubes asking where they were. Apparently, they hadnt gotten in the river before in got dark so they didnt know where to get out. They had no idea what town they were in and were barefoot walking through bushes after finally being able to get out of the river. We had no idea what we were up against with the tubing but these guys gave us an idea. It was around 8pm ish when we found a room with a cool bar restaurant across the street with free wi-fi and a huge movie selection in case you wanted to chill and watch movies all day. We ate there with the rest of the folks from our group and then moved over to the QBar down the street where they show video from the tubin earlier that day and everyone dropping off the swings over the river.
On the walk there we passed 2 restaurants that play Family Guy 24/7. All day everyday with no commercials all in English. I was very much looking forward to enjoying some Family Guy on my downtime in Vang Vieng. While out that night I ran into the same group of guys from my cliff jumping boat day in Koh Phi Phi a month earlier. I love how you just keep seeing the same folks everywhere you go in SE Asia because everyone is heading to the same places and on the same track. We also ran back into the same drunken guys we met when we first pulled into town and they were looking much better and cleaned up.
The next day we were up for some tubing but needed to get some nutrients first so Harriet and I hit up the Family Guy place because it’s a great way to start your day! We relaxed, ate and laughed watching Family Guy for about an hour then were ready to get the tubin underway. We went back and gathered Pride and Rainbow and the rest of the crew and were on our way renting tubes and heading to the river crammed in the back of the tuk-tuk. The water was brown and I knew it was dirty because I had heard all the horror stories of the pink eye that had been running rampant in the area for a while. Off we went and stopped off at the first bar where you drop your tube and everybody hangs out and drinks and goes off the swing to drop into the river. I went out by myself on the swing first and it was realllly fun. You can swing back and forth a few times and then drop from about 10-15 meters into the river. My buddy Rory and I went doubles and it was fun but I nearly landed on top of him as I let go a few seconds after him. We moved down to the next bar where they had more rope wings, zipline and beer pong. After a while there we went to the next bar called Bar III, which would end up being my last stop of the day.
I went off the swing doubles with Shannon and after us, Pride and Rainbow went off doubles and we were all swimming towards the side to get back out but I was furthest out because I was trying to fix my bikini top. While Pride was talking to me, 2 guys had swung out on the swing and dropped right on top of my head. From what I have been told, since all this is a complete blank, is that it looked like the guy’s knee made contact with my skull from about 10-15 meters drop into the water and knocked me out. I came floating up face down in the water and everybody was screaming to get me because I looked like I was dead. Thankfully, Pride was near and saw me and pulled me out of the water with some help from other people.
My head was split open and I was bleeding all over but I woke up. I didn’t want anyone to help me and was pushing everyone away but for some reason I trusted Pride and let him and Harriet help me to get me to the hospital. The hospital there is small and doesn’t have much equipment nor is it anywhere close to the USA standards of hospitals we are so lucky to have. They refused to stitch me up until they got payment and Pride was screaming at them but I was holding onto him so he couldn’t get up or else he said he would have strangled them for letting me bleed all over while they demanded payments. Harriet signed that we would get payment and they began to stitch me up. Carla in our group is a nurse from Canada so she helped by watching everything they were doing and ensuring sterilization. Apparently it hurt pretty bad because I was screaming and biting Pride’s shoulder so hard he had bruises and marks from me. The pain medication they had in Lao wasn’t strong so I could feel them stitching every stitch. I can only be grateful I don’t remember any of this part. After they put in the stitches, they stitched gauze on top of the stitches, which was a first time sight for everyone.
The first thing I remember is being back in my room at the hostel with Pride, Rainbow, Harriet and Shannon all standing around me with concerned expressions on their faces. I felt like an absolute wreck and couldn’t remember a thing except about 15 minutes before the accident. I felt my head and realized it was very swollen and sore and I had some crazy bandages. As they all retold me the events of the day, it felt like they were talking about some horrific accident that happened to someone else. I couldn’t believe this had all happened to me and all i had was a total blank where there should have been a memory. When they finished I had them help me to the mirror and saw what resembled me but a hideous and swollen version. There was a shaved strip of my head from forehead straight back and in its place was some iodine and blood soaked gauze bandage stitched to my head.
Even though I couldn’t remember a thing and saw the damage, I didn’t realize quite how scary the situation actually was. I was more upset that they had to shave my head and that I had a concussion and couldn’t really stand. I was so dizzy every time I sat up or stood up. I was emotional and scared about what had happened to me and so grateful that Pride had been there to pull me out of the water. He stayed with me until I fell asleep and Harriet woke me up later when she got back to the room.
The next morning I woke up super early dying of thirst but unable to get out of bed because I was so dizzy. I would just sit up a bit and the entire room would begin to swirl. Harriet woke up a bit later and got me some water and chatted with me a bit about the night before and how frightening it really was for everyone, including me although I couldn’t remember. But she also said I was pretty good about the entire thing and never really broke down and lost it even though I was scared. We slept a little longer and I laid there dreading what came next. I knew I had to go tell my mom. I was terrified to tell her because I thought she would think it was my fault because most of the time I get hurt it was my fault. This one was just a wrong place wrong time type of accident, which I also have some past experience with. I mean, why me? Bad luck in this aspect of my life I suppose.
Of course when I got mom and Chrissy on skype they were both extremely worried coming from medical background and having seen the worst case scenario and having that person being their daughter. Mom wanted me to come home asap but of course that wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t understand the seriousness of the injury I received to my head and the dangers of not getting a CT-scan or an x-ray at least. The hospital I was at had neither of that equipment available so I didn’t even think about it. My new friend Carla, the nurse talked to mom and Chrissy and was able to relieve their worries slightly by confirming I was showing no signs of anything more serious, but they were still pretty adamant about me getting the CT-scan.
I made some calls to my insurance to find the closest CT-scan which was in Vientiane. I decided I would take a bus there in the morning to relive my mothers and my own concerns about the extent of the damage to my head. I spent the rest of the day in Vang Vieng watching movies or Family Guy, using free wifi. The Irish gals from the Halong Bay tour showed up that afternoon and were shocked to hear my story but it was good to see them again if only briefly. I watched part of the World Cup finals since I was with the Holland boys and apparently 90% of Vang Vieng was decked out in orange to support Holland. The least I could do was support their country since Pride had saved my life. I only made it half the game being pretty exhausted and what seemed to be the only sober person in the bar or town.
The next morning I bussed it alone 4 hours down to Vientiane and got dropped off a few blocks from the hospital. Some super cool other passengers helped direct me to the hospital after I told them the story and I was on my way into a very difficult situation. The first hospital I walked into looked more like a warehouse than a hospital that I was used to seeing. I found some nurses who I explained my head injury to and asked for a CT-scan and was greeted with blank stares.
One woman understood a bit and pointed to a different desk I needed to go to. There a nurse, who spoke a bit of English, told me it was expensive and I didn’t need it if I wasn’t vomiting.
I told her I didn’t care the price and after much back and forth between her and everyone else in Laos which is extremely confusing for me to not know what they are saying about me, I was walked a block over to the international clinic where I went through the same scenario. By this time I was crying because nobody understood me. I sat there crying and watching stray cats run through the waiting room of the emergency room. When I started crying they found someone who spoke some English to help me out and long story short, I insisted I would get the CT-scan and would pay cash upfront and she went and made things happen and an hour later I was getting the scan. I was initially going to have to wait a few days for the doctor to read the scans but I insisted that I needed to know today and she made it happen because within 15 minutes I was with the doctor who also spoke a bit of English as he looked over my CT-scan.
All was clear, no hemorrhages or cracks in my skull but I still cried because it had been such a stressful couple of hours and I hated doing it alone but I managed to do it. He gave me MORE antibiotics and sent me on my way with a reminder to return to get the stitches out. Unfortunately, I need a bunch of documentation for insurance claims and of course nobody had any idea what I was asking for. Everything is written in Laos and there are no computer records. I don’t even think he did a medical report on me. It’s insanely frustrating to have no way of communicating your needs. I just walked out the front door passing goats in the front yard and sat on the curb and cried for a bit. I hadn’t really freaked out too much since it happened and I just felt so heavy with concern and stress and frustration. Then I got up and went to find a hostel for the night and bumped back into the people from the van and they helped me carry my bags and took me to the same hostel they were at.
Really nice good people that helped me out when I had just about had it…THANK YOU! I checked in and took a nice solid nap and woke up feeling much better. It had been a rough couple of days but the good news was I am going to be fine within a couple weeks and it could have been much worse. I knew I just needed to lay low and get my head back on straight. I decided to stay one night in Vientiene and then head back to Vang Vieng where the Holland boys were still at because at least I would be with people who knew me instead of on my own.