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Day 135 – Brown Eye -> Pink Eye (A Special Episode of CSI: Medical)

July 16, 2010

Dateline: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam – Friday, July 16, 2010

I’ve discovered many things on this trip including the fragmentation of Chinese culture, the fluidity of race, and why Americans dismiss the world’s game.

This trip has also reinforced certain notions including the one that your health is the most important thing in the world. Forget your job. Forget your lofty ideas of what it means to live a purposeful life. Forget your mother, your father, your wife. Forget your kids, even. If you don’t have your health you will struggle to see beyond your own feverish nose. The world will collapse into your barf bucket. Anyone who tells you otherwise has never really been sick.

Now, it’s not like I haven’t been ill before. It’s just that being sick on the road throws everything into stark relief. When you’re traveling, you’re supposed to be having fun. You’ve chosen to explore the world. This is supposed to a happy occasion. Every experience, even a boring bus rides or a shitty hotel, is an opportunity to see something different and new. With the right mindset, anything can be exciting.

Against this backdrop, it’s surprising how quickly a little bug can throw your mind into a dark, dark place. I was sick in Phnom Penh and in Sapa. In each case, I found myself hating life, longing for something familiar, and (horror of horrors) feeling sorry for myself and fleetingly wishing I could just go home. This despite the fact that, in the moment, I knew I was being totally irrational. I realized that I loved traveling. I knew the illness was temporary. I recognized that I’d laugh about it all later. I knew that in no time I’d be healthy and once again be thrilled to be on the road.

Didn’t matter. In each case, my ailing body hijacked my brain and made me rue all things travel. It’s fascinating to think about. Seems I’m more fragile and have less control of my thoughts than I’d hope. It appears I’m human.

All of that ran through my head tonight as I rolled around in bed wondering what the hell was in my eye. Just hours earlier, after spending the day writing in cafes around town, I’d torn the contact out of my left eye because it wouldn’t stop itching. On the walk back to the hotel it only got worse. By the time I was in my room, my eye was leaking like the White House press office. I could barely keep it open.

When it was shut, it felt like something was crawling around the surface of my eyeball. I was disturbed. I resorted to self-diagnosis using my camera’s macro lens as a virtual mirror. (I’ll spare you those pictures.) I lay there wondering if the last thing my left eye would see was itself, enlarged on my netbook screen. See the self-pity?

In the end, I called my brother. With his and the Internet’s help we determined that I probably had pink eye. Conjunctivitis. An infection, viral or bacterial.

Learning that I wasn’t going to go blind was a relief. It also led us to discuss possible causes of pink eye. The list included (without limitation):

· Touching a poorly washed towel then touching your eye.

· Falling asleep face down on a dirty pillow.

· Allowing an infected person to sneeze into your eye.

· Eating your own feces.

· Pressing your face against another man’s bunghole.

In the end we determined that only some of the list applied to me. We also concluded that I must be a filthy person.

After much debate, I decided that I couldn’t just let this thing be. Even though I’d probably get over the infection on my own, I had to see a doctor. The doc might not be able to do anything for me, but at least she’d tell me if my diagnosis was correct. If nothing else, I didn’t want to have a disease when I tried to board my flight to Bangkok. Not being permitted to fly because you look like Sloth would be a silly reason to be trapped in Saigon.

Consider this a preview of tomorrow, where I will experience the joys and perils of the Vietnamese medical system. Till then.

GALLERY: Nothing. All today’s pictures are too hideous to look at.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Fran permalink
    July 21, 2010 8:58 pm

    Coco has some eye drops from when she had pink eye. You want me to mail it to you?

  2. July 21, 2010 10:02 pm

    Pharmacies in developing countries will sell you pretty much anything you need – all you have to do is ask.

    Someone reading your blog knows exactly what to get for pink-eye, and once they tell you what you need, you can bop down to the nearest drugstore and pick it up. No need to submit yourself to the joys of socialist medicine!

  3. tutz permalink
    July 22, 2010 12:16 am

    The remedy for this ailment is simple all you need are coriander (cilantro or dhania) leaves and clean water. Take sufficient water so that you can wash each eye at least 10 times in one go. Crush enough coriander leaves in this water to give the water a nice light green color. It’s easier to first crush the leaves in a small cup of water and then mix this with more water. Strain this mixture to get clear light green colored water. Use this water to wash your eyes. Do this as many times as you can in a day, with minimum 1 hour break in the middle of two consecutive cycles, till you are cured. Note that each cycle consists of washing each eye at least 10 times.

    Hope this remedy works for you as it has worked for me for many years now.

    That is, if you still have time to look for coriander leaves. =D

    Other remedy I know is breast milk. 2 drops a day.

    • July 22, 2010 2:55 am

      Both of these are mildly terrifying solutions. As I said to Earl, things are fine now. The communists saved me. 🙂

  4. sally permalink
    July 22, 2010 12:07 pm

    Out of the 5 possible causes you listed, which do you think I see most often? Clue — that same one usually brings a reply of “Really? I can give myself pink eye from doing THAT?! I never knew that!”

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