Medical Horror Thailand: How a simple 20-minute outpatient procedure caused pain and suffering through the incompetence of an untrained surgical team.
My visit to the surgical area of Camillian Hospital was scheduled to take place at 4pm onwards on the evening of Sunday 21st of September, 2014. I was deemed to have required a colonoscopy following some longstanding stomach issues, and this was the next logical stage of testing. At 10:30am that day, I was collected from my room on the fifth floor of Camillian Hospital and told to report to surgery some five-and-a-half hours before the schedule – this was pleasing in some respects, but it would have been nice to have known in advance, to mentally prepare for the ordeal and also to visit the bathroom before the procedure. I was then wheeled down to Level 2 Operating Theatre.
On arrival, I was presented with a Patient Questionnaire by a nervous looking young male surgical assistant. The first question on the page asked for my date of birth, but the assistant could not read English and so instead offered a guess as to what the question on the sheet might be: “This one ask, you have allergy?” No, I replied, “It’s asking for my date of birth.” The next question was regarding existing medical conditions, but instead I was asked about medication. I became increasingly angry as the clueless nurse had been tasked with this incredibly important job of gathering patient medical information but could not even read the hospital’s own surgical admission form. The hospital is exposing patients to potentially deadly combinations of ‘drug administration versus drug allergy’ and other possible life-threatening situations by not using competent surgery support staff. And this is just on first admission, before any of the more difficult surgical processes happen. I was very stone-faced about this issue; but the young surgical team members found it extremely funny that none of them could understand the admission process, and also that I was becoming distressed – not the sort of reassurance I was expecting before entering theatre.
The surgical assistant then asked me if I had undergone a colonoscopy before, to which I replied, “Yes, in 2007.” The assistant paused to work out how many years ago that was … 2014 minus 2007 … “Wait, that’s … ?” Being defeated by the mathematical complexity of 14 less 7, he then proceeded to enlist the help of a friend to work out the equation. Surely surgical staff have at least some sort of qualification in basic maths? Under the section on pre-existing medical conditions, I told them to note I had Ulcerative Colitis; the assistant clearly had never heard of the condition before – which is quite scary when one is going in for gastrointestinal examination.
I was becoming increasingly concerned that I had not been administered a sedative, and had asked several times for one. In the UK when I had a colonoscopy previously, I received the shot in my arm at least half an hour before the procedure. Here, nothing was given despite several requests.
I told the team I wanted to go to the toilet before the operation. The nurse took me to the bathroom and carried my IV, before placing it on a hook in the bathroom. I used the toilet quickly as I was aware the surgical team were waiting for me to return (and complaining about it, in Thai). When I came out, the nurse had gone; so I carried my own IV back to theatre, on the way finding the young (girl) nurse chatting to a friend; she laughed, somewhat shyly when noticing me carrying my own dextrose pouch, and apologised.
The six or seven nurses I met in the operating theatre were all very young, completely inexperienced, incompetent, immature, incapable of speaking English and completely unaware as to the procedure they were about to take part in. Still at this point I had received no briefing on what was going to happen.
A young ladyboy proceeded to spray some sort of metal apparatus into my mouth; I stopped them and asked what he/she was doing, and they replied, “Anaesthetic.” I replied, “I’m having a colonoscopy! Why do I need this?” The assistant smiled in embarrassment and said, “I don’t know …”
As far as I knew, I had consented to a colonoscopy, and had been given no indication that I would A) receive an endoscopy also, and B) be placed under a general anaesthetic (to which I had not consented; this was not necessary in the UK as surgical teams are capable and experienced).
I asked again about the sedative, now in a state of distress. The surgical staff looked at each other, shrugging shoulders, smiling shyly, and again I was met with indifference and confusion. At this point, I knew something was seriously wrong with the operating procedures, and thought seriously about walking out of the theatre. I ordered all of the team to stop what they were doing and to find the surgeon; I demanded to speak to him before any of the clueless nurses gave me a shot of the wrong medication or put me to sleep against my will.
No-one in the surgical team seemed to understand their duties. They busied around each other in an uncoordinated fashion, fussing and chatting like ladyboys in the cosmetics department of Robinsons. No-one spoke to me. When I asked questions, they looked at each other and laughed at the pervading utter confusion which was palpable in the theatre. It would have been darkly comic, had I not been the one to undergo it.
The surgical Doctor arrived to address my concerns. Dr. Ponthip said it was normal to do both endoscopy and colonoscopy at the same time, to fully examine the entire length of the colon including the small intestine, and that I would be asleep. At last some answers, I thought, and agreed to proceed, but made sure he noted my concern that the medical team did not seem to know what they are doing.
I was told I would receive a painkiller and sedative through my IV. This seemed acceptable to me, and so I lay down ready to begin whatever was about to happen.
I became concerned at this point that the guy handling the IV/sedation seemed vastly inexperienced and unsure of his own capability. The last thing I remember was thinking, “This homosexual must be an intern …”
Things then become hazy.
I seem to recall the procedure beginning, and the colonoscope being inserted into my lower colon. I remember it being painful but tried to relax and forget about the pain. At this point, I feel like I lost consciousness.
The next thing I knew, I woke up in the most excruciating pain imaginable; I guess this was ten minutes or so into the procedure. The colonoscope was in the upper left area of my intestine (from my perspective), and it felt like a chainsaw was cutting through the entire middle of me. I remember holding on to the end of the bed and one of the nurses either holding me down or repositioning me, and the pain overcoming me as I screamed out loud.
Then I passed out.
I woke up later – I do not know how long had elapsed.
The room was empty, quiet, apart from one nurse sitting motionless at the end of the room.
I asked her if we were finished, and calmly she said yes. I asked her what happened, and she said that they could not complete the procedure. The surgical doctor and all of the other staff had gone. There was no debriefing, nothing to tell me what was going to happen next, no-one to take any responsibility.
I then half-remember being wheeled back to my room, with a feeling of disappointment that the procedure had failed and also that I knew in advance that the procedure would fail due to the general incompetence of the surgical team prior to the colonoscopy.
Some time passed, and when I finally got a chance to discuss the surgery report with my own doctor on the ward, he sighed with disgust when he saw that the surgeon’s two-word surgical summary on the case file, which said simply, “Difficult Sedation.”
I’ve had a colonoscopy before. It is a simple procedure conducted on an out-patient basis; at Camillian, it was a painful, stressful and inhumane three-day ordeal (one further day on the ward was required to recover from the intestinal damage caused by the failed procedure).
I do not believe the sedative was administered correctly. I do not believe any of the surgical staff other than the surgeon himself knew what operation they were going to perform that day. I do not believe ANY of the young surgical team were qualified in any way, experienced at all, or capable enough to be able to work in a surgical operating theatre at any level.
The poor standard of professionalism and terrible patient care needs to be reported and addressed, as I believe Camillian Hospital will continue to conduct potentially fatal operational mistakes whilst they administer surgical procedures using staff that should not and cannot perform operations competently.
UPDATE: (on check-out) I would like to have published the medical report file on-line, but the hospital prevented me from seeing or copying my medical record. The investigation has been referred to the hospital’s case handler, who as of now has not replied or reported any findings.
UPDATE: I’ve still not heard anything at all from Camillian Hospital as of 1st of October – ten days after the failed operation. The case handler, an aggressive middle-aged woman named “Thippoka Kanouan” will not return my calls, emails or SMS messages. This probably tells you everything you need to know about this hospital.
NOTE – experiences detailed above are based on my personal subjective views, and may or may not accurately represent exact sequence of events due to being administered with sedative medication.
Case Study – “The Cook”
Imagine you have been working as a chef in a small Italian restaurant in your home city for seven years. You wake up one day and decide you need a change of pace and a risky new approach to grabbing life by the balls and making something of yourself; you can’t make pollo carbonara forever.
So you move from Europe to a modern Asian city and decide that you want to put your cooking skills to good use making money by offering a 5-star catering-at-home service. There is a strong appetite (pun intended) for fine Italian cuisine and foreign chefs of distinction in your new city, but so far nobody knows who you are.
If you had money to burn, this is where your PR partner would step in and launch you. However, since we’re new in town and fairly broke, we’re going to “guerrilla” it.
In putting together some sort of PR plan to help us, we need to develop at least a little situational awareness about the market we are operating in – not just for companies, but for would-be celebrities too. Our chef example here is a great case study, as he is both a business and a would-be celebrity.
One approach would be to have a nice photo portfolio made, to write your own one-page biography and short story and start sending it to magazines (a press release).
This will fail for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you are not known to your market, so you have little media magnetism or star power; secondly, you are not known to the media, and so you do not have the personal relationship necessary to even call on a favour.
Now imagine that instead of sending your bio and photos to magazines and newspapers, you send them to some mid-range hotels which you notice are advertising heavily in the very magazines you would love to be featured in.
You offer to provide a free one-hour cooking demonstration in the hotel’s restaurant as part of one of their weekly Sunday brunch offerings; a display in which you will unveil specially crafted rustic dishes in honour of your late grandmother, who created gastronomic treats from locally sourced Mediterranean ingredients, and now you will introduce this incredibly authentic Italian cooking style to your new city.
The hotel loves this because you’re working for free; they will assume you’re famous in Europe because they don’t want to offend you by asking, and they love it also because they now have something to feature in their next (usually boring) Sunday Buffet press release. The magazines are interested in running it because the hotel buys advertising every month and this will keep them from going elsewhere.
And you’re happy, because after sending a couple for emails and spending an hour cooking your favourite dishes in front of a small audience, you’ve walked out of the hotel with everyone taking your picture and uploading the images to Facebook – not to mention your free editorial in a luxury lifestyle magazine next month. You will probably be asked for business cards too, at which point you can introduce your 5-star home dining concept, so you’re pretty much up and running.
Total cost? Zero.
© 2014 D. Swinfen/Phetpraguy Publishing
Zen of PR Thai language pocketbook is available throughout Thailand from B2S and Se-Ed book stores.
I met Stephen Henry Fuller (or Steve Fuller, aka ZodiacWarrior) early 2012 in Bangkok. He was a pudgy, amiable chap who liked a laugh and had not a care in the world. We became close for our love of the motor car, swapping automotive stories over good times and icy beers. I learned over the following weeks that he was a car importer, breaking vehicles in the UK to get around tough Thai import laws.
Some weeks later, he called to say his partner was refusing to deal with him on account of some money owed, and this meant he was unable to pay his rent. He explained he was renting a cheap bedsit and if he could get some money to tide him over for a week, it would get him through, as he had some sort of BMW on the next boat coming over. A little perplexed why a man importing a sixty thousand pound car would be living in a 100-quid hovel, I nevertheless agree to help him out.
Months passed, and messages promising payment dates went by, but I did not mind; I was happy to help my friend. It was after one year that Stephen Henry Fuller had seemingly vanished, lost to a sea of missed calls, changed phone numbers, deleted emails and a blocked facebook. I finally caught up with Fuller in January 2013 after receiving an oddly worded email from him, who now is in hiding from the “Bangkok mafia” after ripping them off on one-too-many car deals.
The message told me that I had been too aggressive in chasing him, and that I was to never contact him again. I took this to mean, “Screw you. I’m stealing your money and I feel no shame.”
That was the last I heard of Stephen Henry Fuller, freelance car importer, tax dodger, work permit-bereft and professional con artist.
On the day he collected 20,000 Baht from me, not 15 minutes had passed between my agreeing to lend to him and him running to meet me at the local mall to collect the money. Yet in a year, he had not found 15 minutes to repay it. I understand that in financial difficulty it can be hard to meet obligations; I do not accept that in one year it is impossible for a human being with a sense of self-worth and decency to not to repay a single cent – but Steve Fuller has neither self-worth of decency. His family would be so proud.
This is a man who gladly steals from his friends to continue to be able to sit at home drinking thirty-baht tins of high alcohol Chang in bed, in preference to getting up and working. We’ve all been down on our luck from time to time, but here is a man who has adopted the concept as a lifestyle choice. This is a man who has openly used the good grace of a kind other to set up further money deals to steal from more people. Given the desperate nature of the last email received, there are dozens of people in Bangkok from whom this man has brazenly stolen from.
A strong believer in Karma, I feel that no further interaction or comment is required on my part. What tends to happen to people like this is that their mark on the world passes as brief fissures of interest in the grand scale of our society; small columns in newspaper articles, with titles such as “Western man dies of unknown causes in sex district.” Life tends to sort itself out and sacrifice those who it deems unnecessary to its advancement.
Still, I’ve embarked on an effort in 2013 to be positive and continue to see good in all people and in all situations. I may have lost four hundred pounds, equal to the cost of a rare flight home to see my family, but I have received two things in return. One is that learning the value of another human being is priceless, and that a man who values his own reputation at less than the price of a Kohler toilet is not to be afforded further thought. The other, paradoxically, is that even a thieving dog needs to be handed slivers of fat if it is to survive and go on picking fleas from its ear. I am sure Stephen Fuller will go on to achieve great things, even if right now he is confined to hiding in a stinking Ratchada bedsit.
The final point, and positive note upon which to close, is that in telling this story there is a chance that others who know Steve Fuller will not fall into the same trap. This creates reassuring sustainability, because if Steven Fuller is no longer able to steal from his friendship group, we are empowering his own personal growth and enabling to pick himself out of the gutter.
I welcome emails from anyone else who has tried to help this unscrupulous bastard and has had no joy in getting their gesture repaid: firstname.lastname@example.org
25th August, 2014: UPDATE: “Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to this post. I have received at least five responses, so if you’ve incurred a personal loss in trying to help this pathological scumbag, you are definitely not alone. Thanks all. DS”
Who it’s for
Entrepreneurs, models, MCs, TV presenters, musicians, singers, small business owners, sportspersons, philanthropists, fashion designers, photographers, social media users, DJs, sole traders, artists, chefs, interior designers, politicians, counsellors, club chairpersons, media, PRs, writers, editors, consultants, salespersons, marketers, directors, club members … everyone.
What you’ll learn
Zen of PR brings raw knowledge for anyone looking to grow their public profile or their business. Zen provides top level public relations counselling, explained in beautifully simple language that’s accessible to anyone.
This book contains essential PR skills which enable YOU to get into your first-choice university, get the right job, grow your modelling career, get your art exhibited at the right gallery, encourage newspapers to come to your shop launch, support your committee application or generate a buzz about your invention or new product. It provides ways to save a fortune on advertising and marketing mistakes, and will contribute to making your business or personal journey a successful one.
About the Author
David Swinfen is a public relations editor, magazine contributor and journalist. His writing has been featured on the covers of magazines globally, with over 200 published articles and countless successfully concluded media communication projects.
His work in public relations over the last half a decade has seen him consult with some of the world’s most loved brands, his writing coursing through the PR campaigns of Jaguar Land Rover, TNT Express, Dell, Ford Motor Company, Fujitsu, Remy Cointreau, Reader’s Digest, Accor Hotels, Sheraton, Glenfiddich, Regent Hotels and Guinot Skincare.
Swinfen’s articles have featured on the covers of some of Asia’s finest magazines, such as Prestige, Glamor, Thailand Tatler, Tropical Living, In Residence, Global Coffee Review and Robb Report.
He is dedicated to offering his experience on public relations in a brutally honest, charming, edgy and fun way, for the enjoyment of people not just in business but from all walks of life.
Website (currently under development): www.zen-of-pr.com
“I saw this poem in a dream last night, and present it here unedited, as closely as possible. I found it haunting and yet at the same time it had quite a tranquil nonchalance about it. I look forward to working on one of several interpretations of it.” – D. Swinfen
Cursed good fortune cast to winds entice
Only to bear poison and misgive what taste
Shall it be recompense for its own un’othed deed,
Black as then is now and thrice removed?
What more-say sorry all with hope and promise
Echoing to the sound of its own truculence
Those for whom light countenance dependant for such joy
And trails shall ne’er grace the bright shadows
And polar waypoints until tomorrow be met
Lost to one’s own accursed hand
Waiting in the itchy black outlanding
For all, and to be woken further
Hello, good fortune, waken
And be adieu
©2014 D.Swinfen, via Catalina Publishing. All rights reserved.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,700 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.