As some of you will be aware Expat Life has not been too well just of late and in a great deal of pain and discomfort – hence
the rather stuttered communications for which I apologise to all.
But I wanted to put a shout out for the above named hospital. My dear friend Dr. Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, past Thai Minister for Education 2014 – 2019 referred me to a friend of his, an orthopaedic surgeon by the name of Dr. Somchai Kuptniratsaikul. He in turn works closely with a Professor Thaveechai Techawongworachai from Chulalongkorn Hospital and they are now, as far as I am concerned, in charge of my spine. In turn they referred me to a Nephrologist and Internist Professor Prasert Thanakitcharu. All three of these fine gentlemen were very gracious and as a patient I have complete and utter faith in them.
I had never been to the BCH but had passed it several times in Silom. I went not quite knowing what to expect but I am writing to say how grateful I was to Dr. T for referring me to his friends and how pleased I am to have treated by so many nice people at the hospital.
OK it might not be so grand and the staff might not wear designer uniforms (they are nurses, doctors and healthcare staff after all, not fashion models) but I am very happy to say that from the porters that pushed me around in wheelchairs. The aforementioned doctors, the Xray staff, administrators and support staff have all been very pleasant and compassionate with me.
When you do not feel well and your resistance is low, life is pretty tough. Long term chronic pain, and I mean many years of it… I first started to have problems in my early 20s and now I am now 63. I had my first major spinal operation in the Harley Street Clinic in 1985 when I was 28 and had been married for less than a month! Great start to married bliss. Anterior and posterior spinal fusion – pretty heavy stuff. The Australian doctor was one of only two doctors in the world that came in the front to operate on the spine, as well as the back, he said if it was just the latter I would break the fusion and be back within 3 years.
I had been suffering by that time for 4/5 years with my back and would have gladly taken a sharp knife to myself if I could have reached – I really was in such a desperate state. For those that have not suffered from back pain and sciatica it’s like having a rusty nail hammered through the back of your knee… by then I had it in both legs. I could not sleep, was irritable 24/7, and was like a bear with a very sore paw (but it was in my back)! My poor new wife had to cope with me in my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario. I had no control over my behaviour – at times I was hell to live with.
When you break an arm or a leg people see it instantly and are full of concern and pity. “Oh you poor thing – how are you. How did you do it – does it hurt”.
When you have a spinal injury or problem, people can’t see anything! I am 195cms tall, weigh 110kgs and I am a giant – a freak of nature! People always say “you look well” when they meet me. I am sure that it is my sheer size and presence.
When I was a youth I remember being at nightclubs on the Isle of Wight and I was always taller than everyone else. I felt uncomfortable and wanted to be 6” smaller. I was head and shoulders bigger than all my friends, and indeed everybody else in the room! I hated it. When you are young you do not want to stand out or be different.
I distinctly remember being at the Eastcliff, a nightclub in Shanklin on SE coast of the island. We lived in Cowes in the North and it was a good hour and a half drive but this was the ‘in’ place on the island when we were in our late teens. We used to drive from Cowes – 5 of us crammed in a car, our aftershaves competing, talking excitedly, laughing and looking forward to meeting the girl of our dreams that night! We had already been to the Harbour Lights pub in Cowes and had 3/4 pints of lager each and a great deal of rapport and ribaldry and now we were off to the Eastcliff!
The Isle of Wight is an island off the South coast of the UK. Diamond in shape it is 26 miles from West to East and 14 from North to South and 66 miles around its coastline. With a population of 110,000 people and home too many, how can I say, more mature, less active, people growing up on the South coast. Being born on an island with the ‘mainland’ in sight you always think that you are missing out. That the real action happens in the big world – on the ‘mainland’. How I longed to escape the island and get to the ‘mainland’.
I did not have a happy adolescence. My Mother finally left my Father after years of disharmony taking my sister and I with her, I was 9 my sister was 16. I could not understand why I was being taken away from my Father at an age when a boy needed paternal care and control. I was a man’s boy and my Father taught me mens/boys things. I rebelled against it and I was sadly often in conflict with my Mother and my sister. It effected my schooling and I was a troubled teen.
My sister and I had both passed our 11 plus, as it was in those days, and therefore we were bussed every day to Newport, some 5 miles South inland from Cowes.
These were the days of the ‘skinheads’ – gangly youths with shaved heads, Dr. Martens boots and braces – how strange they would look in today’s world – they certainly did then! I never shaved my head, heck, I looked strange enough as it was, but I did wear a ‘Crombie’ – a smart navy blue overcoat and loafers and hung around in the town with the other disenchanted youth of the day.
There were constant fights… and being 6” taller than my age group mostly with boys 3/4 years older – I ran with them.
Now I have to explain something about being, ‘on the large side’. If you are in a crowd of young men and you come across a competing group, peer pressure often makes it kick off – all of that pent up testosterone. The snide comments and insults invariably escalate to posturing and punches being thrown and oddly enough for some reason it’s often the big bloke that gets hit first – i.e. me!
Often when it is least expected.
I was 17 years old when my Father decreed that I did not need education I needed discipline – and lots of it! I had learned to flight – as it was always a toss up between fight and flight. I was becoming a good runner. Now this gangly youth needed to learn to stand and fight.
Remember that I was the ‘schmuk’ that had passed his 11 plus, whilst all of my friends went
to the local comprehensive school in Cowes.
Silly boy here was bussed into enemy territory in Newport 5/6 miles away every day – the capital and largest town on the
Isle of Wight and where the ‘Parkhurst boys’ all went to the local comprehensive adjacent to the grammar school.
I should explain that one of the things that the Isle of Wight is most famous for is its three high security prisons – HMP Albany, HMP Parkhurst and HMP Camp Hill. They are all staffed by heavy set, fit, often ex servicemen, prison
warders. They have sons and you see where this is going don’t you – their sons are pretty sporty and tough too! So at break times, lunch and after school navigating my way across and through the joint campus became a traverse behind enemy lines. Every corridor and open space became an opportunity for the ‘Parkhurst boys’ – many of whom did have skinhead haircuts, the sons of the prison officers (i.e. big and physical and far better than me at fighting) to seize the opportunity of catching one of the Cowes boys! There were only two of us that had managed to pass the 11 plus – Leon Smith and I, and we were both gangly youths getting necessarily better at running like hell!
Frequently the sheer numbers of the assailants meant that I was caught and given a good beating! Kicking, punching, gang warfare at it’s best – for years I looked like I had been a punchbag for the bigger, older boys. Life was not good… When I was 17 my Father decided that I did not need education as much as discipline so I was sent off to the forces where my Father said that ‘it would make a man out of you’.
He could not understand why I was always covered in bruises, had a black eye, bloody nose. I was looked upon as the bad boy… always fighting – gosh I never had a chance to fight back, I was too busy trying to roll into a ball and protect my head!
The forces taught me discipline, morals, camaraderie, gave me some parameters in life. It was tough as anyone that has been in the forces will tell you. They try and break your spirit and then rebuild a better you. I loved it and I hated it. I was always in trouble, we called it ‘defaulters’, ‘junkers’ or lack of privileges.
I lost many weekends and had to sweep the parade ground of leaves – pretty tough in a blustery autumn or winters day. Or paint coal white, then paint it black again or pick up rubbish from around the sports fields and estate. But it also gave me that physicality that I craved. Team sports, assault course, judo, boxing, rugby. Living in a dormitory with several other growing men. Classroom by day with a high dose of sports, character building and discipline thrown in. I am in favour of conscription but not for just some, for all. It instils discipline and teaches much needed self-worth.
Unfortunately all of this plus the following years of active service put a strain on my spine and that’s now why at 63 I have so many spinal problems, diabetes, scar tissue and musculature problems which brings me back to BCH.