Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Greg is feeling better!

Which means I can now tell the crazy stories of our medical care adventures in Lhasa without freaking anyone out. 🙂

So… the night we got back from our trek Greg got a really bad headache just on one side of his face. He was in a lot of pain and nothing seemed to help; aspirin, ibuprofen, tylenol, vicodin… (yes, we have some vicodin for just these kinds of emergencies). It didn’t make sense that it was altitude sickness, because we’d just spent 5 days at over 16,000 feet and then gone back down to 12,000. I did some internet research and determined (in my own mind at least) that he either had a sinus infection that was exacerbated by our changes in altitude, or he was having his first ever Migraine headache.

The pain got worse at around midnight, so I went to the 24 hour phone booth next door to our hotel and called our travel insurance company to find out where we could find a reliable doctor. You see, most medical facilities here are chinese/tibetan style, where a cure for a cold is a vial of snake bile or something… I’m exaggerating here, but you know what I mean. 😉

The travel insurance company had NO LISTINGS for any doctors or medical care facilities in all of Tibet. Doh. But they did tell me that to file a claim I needed to keep the receipt from wherever we ended up going! Gee thanks. My next resource was the Lonely Planet, which had 1 medical listing for Lhasa – the Military Hospital. In the morning we headed there straight-away. It was very straightforward and we were able to see someone within 15 minutes of arriving, but unfortunately no one there spoke english. I stumbled us through the exam with my mediocre mandarin. In the end we got prescriptions for 3 different medications, although I didn’t understand enough to know what the diagnosis was and what the medications were going to do to Greg, other than that they were not antibiotics. The good news though is that we don’t need to worry about filing a claim with our insurance because the exam plus all the drugs came to less than $2.50.

After getting back to our hotel, I went to the internet cafe to look up these medications we left the hospital with. Turns out they were various drugs used to treat migraines. I was happy to learn that the diagnosis at least matched one of the possibilities I had in mind. But what if Greg really had a sinus infection that needed antibiotics to get better?

Now that he knew what the drugs we got actually were, Greg felt comfortable taking them. They helped a lot with the pain although they knocked Greg into a sleepy stupor for the day.

By the evening, Greg was still feeling really bad, plus he had a slight fever, so we decided to try another method suggested by our former trekking guide Angela, who I tracked down for advice earlier in the day. We went to a pharmacy, and explained the symptoms to the pharmacist to see what medications they recommended. We were lucky in that there happened to be a chinese guy there (hooked up to an IV) who spoke pretty good english and was able to translate for us. The pharmacist, after examining Greg, decided it was a problem with Greg’s teeth that was causing his headache, and offered to hook him up to an IV to administer some drugs for the pain. After a fraction of a second consultation we agreed not to take them up on that offer…

So we were back to the migraine medications. Last night Greg continued to take them as prescribed so he could sleep and not be in intense pain. In the morning we were going to start over at another clinic in town that according to some random information I found online, might have an English speaking doctor. BUT… something happened overnight which Greg described as lots of watery fluid draining out of his nose, and this morning he has almost no pain and feels almost 100% better! This confirms my original theory that he had some kind of sinus infection or blockage that was causing intense pain because of the altitude change from our trekking camp (at 16,000 ft) back to Lhasa (12,000 ft). We’ll never know for sure, but I don’t care now that Greg is feeling better! Yay! And the Migraine meds, whether or not it was actually a migraine, got him through this last 24 hours without the intense pain.

So that is what we’ve been up to the last 48 hours! Greg will be resting and enjoying not having severe pain for the rest of the day, and if he continues to feel good, perhaps tomorrow we’ll get back to other kinds of adventures, like visiting monsteries and stuff. Double sweet.

September 5, 2007 - Posted by | China, Tibet, Travel


  1. That is crazy, but hooray for not feeling intense pain!

    Comment by Michael Courage | September 5, 2007 | Reply

  2. I’m glad Greg is all right. I was really worried as I read through, but it sure seems that he had that sinus infection you talked about. Greg, I hope you feel well very soon!

    Comment by Roxana | September 5, 2007 | Reply

  3. Glad to hear Greg is better. Ya’ll take care, Roger

    Comment by Roger and Libby | September 5, 2007 | Reply

  4. most likley sinus infection, unlikley migraine. glad it has passed.

    Comment by jill | September 6, 2007 | Reply

  5. Yes, glad this all passed! I hope you are on the road to recovery Greg!

    Comment by jolifanta | September 6, 2007 | Reply

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