Hope in the middle of Madagascar – Crohn’s Blog – Everyday Life
26th August 2015
My last blog told of my battle with Crohns for the last thirty two years and how I have managed this condition in general and while travelling the world, something I have been doing more of in recent years. I mentioned keeping my fingers firmly crossed when travelling in some of the more remote locations I have visited just in case I needed a hospital! After a successful visit to the Galapagos Islands, about as remote as you can get, earlier in the year I was feeling confident about my trip to Madagascar, a country I knew little about except for its population of lemurs.
The trip began well. I was careful about what I ate and didn’t touch the extremely chewy zebu meat, which appeared on every menu. We wound our way south on winding roads pitted with potholes through some of the most remote locations and one night staying in the most basic of accommodation without the luxury of a flushing sit down loo or running water.
Eventually we ended up in the Isalo National Park in an unexpectedly luxurious hotel built into the rock. That night I ordered tuna fish as fish is always a safe bet and I was tired of omelette. My first bite revealed that it was very tough but I swallowed a piece and then a second piece, which was also very chewy so I abandoned the rest of my meal.
At about 2am the next morning I awoke with a sense of dread. I could feel those gripping pains coming in waves, which begin slowly and develop over a few hours into a level of pain, which can only be relieved by morphine and is usually accompanied by violent sickness leading to dehydration. This was not looking good. I awoke my travelling companion and oldest friend, Sarah and told her what was happening. We knew that we were miles from a hospital in a country with very poor road links. It had taken days to get here from the capital Antananarivo, where we imagined there may be a hospital. We discussed the fact that we probably needed an aircraft but things became a bit blurred after this as the pains inevitably began to increase in intensity. Sarah went to wake the tour leader at around 5am and awoke the manager of the hotel who called a doctor. He arrived almost two hours later as he had quite a distance to travel. He was impeccably dressed in a white shirt with clean cuffs, which somehow seemed a comfort as everything in this country seemed to be covered with dirt and dust. He was carrying his doctor’s bag from which emerged a variety of things. First of all he put up a saline drip, attaching it to a coat hanger and using some plastic gloves, he tied it to the top of my bed. He plunged a needle into my hand and began to administer pain killing and anti sickness drugs. Our conversation was all in French and mine is limited to what I learned in school decades ago. This doctor returned twice more that day to check on me and give me more pain relief and anti-spasmodic drugs. His final bill totalled the equivalent of ninety euros and I would gladly have paid that more than ten times over. The tour left without us and I was left to recuperate in the hotel. The staff could not have been kinder and the manager gave me 30 per cent off the bill.
I incurred a few more expenses before I was able to re-join the trip three days later and have yet to see whether my insurance will cover this. The question which I kept asking myself, was whether this had taught me a lesson? Should I curtail my travels and restrict myself to places with more accessible medical care? The answer is probably no! The care I received in this country, which is one of the poorest in the world, exceeded my wildest dreams. I guess I was lucky to be in such a comfortable hotel and that a doctor reached me and I do acknowledge my good fortune in that respect. I feel that someone must be watching over me and I am not religious in any sense but I thank my lucky stars that this turned out so well. I just wanted to share this to give others with Crohns Disease who may be afraid to travel, some hope and encouragement that the outcome can be good. My guide and travelling companions now have a lot more knowledge about Crohns than they did before and that too can only be good!
Thanks to Jo O’Donoghue for this Crohns blog post. Jo is a private education consultant who has worked for forty years with children with special educational needs, predominantly those with challenging behaviour. She has two grown up children, two grandchildren and is a respite and emergency foster carer. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s in her twenties and tells of how Crohn’s has affected her life. She currently divides her time between work and travelling the world!
To celebrate the launch of Book forCrohns we’ve launched Blog forCrohns, featuring blogs from some of the best Crohn’s bloggers on the web as well as volunteers from the forCrohns committee. We have a variety of different topics throughout 2015 and we’d love you to contribute. Find out more here.