Monday, January 26, 2015

Malicious, Malevolent Mangoes

26 January

Richard and I always joke that when he keeps talking in English to people who know very little English, all they hear is "blah blah blah" - similar to what we hear when we are spoken to in whatever language that we don't understand.  So when we saw Café Blah Blah, we knew it was the spot for us.

They aren't the café with the sneaky mangoes.  They had them front and center on the shrine.  Obviously, their ancestors weren't allergic to mango.

So Café Blah Blah was delightful, and we enjoyed our Sunday brunch there.  And the city around us, the entire country, is preparing for Tet, the big festival for the Lunar New Year.  The new year will be the Year of the Goat.  (As long as it isn't the Year of the Rat, I'm okay with it.)

I'm an adventurous eater, willing to try new foods if they sound interesting and don't contain a long list of foods I don't like.  We found a spot where they make banh xeo, a rice pancake with vegs and your choice of meat.  You take half the pancake, wrap it in a fresh spring roll wrapper, add vegs from a plate of salad type stuff, roll it all together tightly, and eat it dipping into a bowl of stinky but tasty fish sauce doused with chili sauce.  Delicious!

So we're happily enjoying our yummy new supper.  I'm adding vegs, lots of carrot and cucumber and greens and what I thought were bean sprouts.  Ate that up.  Started another wrap.  Realized the bean sprouts weren't really bean sprouts, so asked our waiter what it was.  "Green mango, madam," he answered happily.  UH OH, we thought unhappily.

We explained to our waiter that I am very allergic to mango.  Richard ran back to our hotel for the Epipens.  The waiter asked around and came back with the names and addresses of nearby hospitals.  Richard came back and I stabbed myself with the Epi (ouch!).  We paid our bill and ran out to a taxi.

By now I was coughing coughing coughing, so we explained to the driver, "Go fast, emergency, very sick, fast fast fast."  He got us there quickly, we asked the concierge at the front for directions, and somehow ended up at the eye hospital.  The lady kept asking if we had an eye emergency, we kept saying it was an allergic emergency, and she finally sent us to the emergency section.  We found it, found a doctor, I explained and showed the Epipen, he said they know nothing about this, and sent us to the Hanoi French Hospital.

So another taxi, a longer ride, and I go rushing in.  There's a group of young tourists who are checking in, I'm still coughing up a storm, and start explaining to the other attendant at the counter about the mango allergy.  The other attendant hands over forms along with a face mask.  I tell him it's an ALLERGY and no one will catch it.  He tells me I'm coughing, please wear the mask.  I tell him I CAN'T BREATHE and I push the mask away.  

Finally get the stupid form done to their satisfaction.  Nurse takes me into a room, I explain once again.  Took forever for the doctor to come in, since he was dealing with a baby emergency - but I was hooked up to equipment so if I stopped breathing altogether I'm presuming an alarm would go off.  (Not sure about that one.)

Nice older French doctor, understood the situation, I told him what ERs have done in the past when I've accidentally eaten mango, he explained they have the medications in slightly different forms, and we started the process.  A shot of epinephrine (or adrenaline) in the stomach (OUCH!).  The nebulizer (forced air machine with meds that open the bronchial tubes).  A different form of adrenaline in a vein, shot in slowly since I have teeny veins (OW! but better than the stomach).

And then we wait.  And we wait.  The doctor is concerned because my blood pressure is high.  I told him, "you give me three different forms of adrenaline and you wonder why my blood pressure is high?"  (He didn't laugh.)  Plus the dr wants to ensure I don't have another reaction.

We ended up chatting with the young woman who is in the room with us, separated by only a curtain which we opened.  She and her sister and a few friends were over on one of the islands, and she and the young man had a motorscooter accident.  They were seen over there, on the island, but the hospital really wasn't adequate for their needs.  She wasn't injured too badly, just bruises and a possible fracture or dislocated clavicle (ouch!) - but the young man was quite badly injured, although mobile.  With a leg brace, lacerations, burns, and probable facial or head injuries.  Fortunately the older sister is in nursing school, and insisted on certain care and getting everyone back to Hanoi.  They were in the process of getting this young woman x-rayed and getting the young man taken care of, but there's the usual hassle of medical insurance away from home, young people without credit cards, the hospital wanting money up front, all of those problems that you just don't need when dealing with an emergency of any kind.

So we tried to cheer her up, she agreed it was crazy I had to fill in a 4 page form when I obviously was having trouble breathing, we talked about how they could resolve their situation.  And just general chat, as tourists and travellers do when they end up sharing an ER room.

FINALLY she was cleared to go.  And FINALLY the doctor was okay with my still-elevated blood pressure.  

I have five days of steroids, five days of some meds to help protect my stomach from the steroids, and I'm resting up today.  Despite all the adrenaline, I always end up exhausted after these episodes.  So today is an easy day, with reading and computering and a little walking.  Banh mi takeaway lunch, afternoon tea.  You know, the kinds of things you'd do at home if you needed a recuperation day.

That's about it.  I'm grateful that our emergency is something we've dealt with before, so we knew what needed to be done.  We had the Epis close by (even if not in my tiny purse).  We knew what we needed the ER to do, and they were able to substitute the meds for what I was used to.  (And I remembered the French version of Albuterol - they use Ventolin instead.  Just in case anyone reading this is ever in a similar situation.)

And I'm fine.  A little wheezy, but fine.

Just one of those on-the-road adventures.  One I could do without, but always interesting to see the inside of hospitals in other countries.

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