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Published: July 27th 2009
(Day 480 on the road)
This trip of mine is all about new experiences. And spending nine days in a hospital in Borneo was certainly a new experience.
The doctors are not quite what happened to me, but I somehow sustained an injury to my inner ear, causing me to loose my balance (temporary hopefully) and 30%!o(MISSING)f hearing on my right ear (permanent unfortunately). It could have been due to the pressure changes during diving or a viral infection in the ear.
In any case, from one moment to the next I felt dizzy and sick, just before boarding a flight from Sipadan back to Kota Kinabalu. During the short flight my condition deteriorated fast, and I threw up an uncountable number of times. By the end of the flight, I could not walk anymore on own and had to be taken into the terminal building in a wheelchair (that was definitely a first for me in my life). In the airport, I was soon surrounded by three scared-looking and completely masked and gloved health officials, who tested me for symptoms of swine flu (negative, at least). It was all a terribly scary experience. I soon found out that
especially any movement of my head made me sick - later I would literally get out of bed to walk to the toilet, and by the time I reached there I was so sick I had to throw up. Not a very nice experience at all!
After an initial examination by a general practitioner (GP) I was admitted into the Sabah Medical Centre in Kota Kinabalu, a private, modern hospital. I was tremendously lucky to have Karen travelling with me, who took care of - well - pretty much everything - hospital admission, paperwork, insurance, cancelling our next flights etc. I am not sure what I would have done without her, as I was pretty much unable to do anything myself. Karen stayed for another few days, but there wasn't anything she could do to speed up my recovery, and after it was clear that I would not be able to continue my travels anytime soon she left for the Philippines and later Taiwan. How I wish I could have gone with her, the trip we had planned together months in advance...but it was not to be.
In the hospital, I was universally known as "Mr. Ben", to
nurses, caretakers and doctors alike. I am sure they all knew that Ben was my first name, but that didn't stop them from calling me Mr. Ben. I tried to correct them at first (to no avail), and after a while I could not be bothered anymore.
The days in the hospital were insanely boring. Apart from two daily sessions of physiotherapy to teach my body how to function without my right ear balancing organ working, I was laying in bed all day, watching Malaysian TV or reading my book. For nine days in a row.
When I was finally discharged from the hospital, the doctor presented me with a three week no-flying limit to ensure a full recovery of the small hole in my ear, essentially preventing me from leaving Borneo. It turned out however that I could not have gone anywhere anyway, as I was so shaky on my feet. Even as I write these lines, four weeks after the incident, my balance is far from back to normal. Especially in low light I am (still) very unstable, as my body is relying heavily on sight for my balance until my ear-balancing is working again. This
might take up to three months, great. Oh, and if you are really interested in my illness, it is called Perilymph Fistula
So the next three weeks I stayed in Kota Kinabalu. The first two weeks I spent mostly in my hostel (with my little laptop and free Internet, my saviours), as I was unable to walk much. Later I took a three-day trip to Kinabalu Park as a first test of travelling again. It didn't go too well, with me falling down on the public bus, much to the amusement of the whole bus, but not so funny for me or the poor woman onto whose lap I fell. But it wasn't too bad either and all in all better than expected, and being out and about felt great after the involuntary rest of the last three weeks.
After that short excursion I was pondering long and hard what to do - slowly continuing my trip or going home to Germany until complete recovery. In the end, after weighing all the options, I decided to slowly keep going to see how I get on. If it turns out that I am not fit to keep on travelling, I will go home. But for now I have decided to hit the road again (after a mere four-week delay) and will head to Jakarta to meet back up with my friend Endah there. After that I am planning to meet up with my mum in Taiwan, who is joining me on my travels for a couple of weeks. That should be interesting, my dear mother!
Next stop: Jakarta (Java, Indonesia).
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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