On stage 24, after riding about 2 weeks with a bad cough – due to an allergic lung infection from the polluted air – my body switched off all circuits at the lunch spot of today’s ride. It was a combination of not having slept for over a week because of all night coughing, cramps and fever but also the result of probably food poisoning at the last rest day, as several other riders develop diarrhea, too. Only 20 m before I reached the lunch spot I had to pull right into the forest to throw up the first time. I eventually made it to the catering tent and dropped everything not able to do anything else, but hand wash. I only wanted to rest. I couldn’t eat and directly laid down in the shade, with stomach cramps and nausea. Time went by and not positive to a change to my condition. I had to vomit again. After 2 hours without improvement there was only one decision: go on the van and straight to hospital. It was an awfully long drive to Banjar. 2.15h for just about 50 km. Cycling definitely the primary choice and more enjoyable, even if brutal, than riding the same tracks in a car! I arrived at the hotel just to throw up again in the lobby. Without shower I was brought to the local hospital, with an English speaking doctor, just around the corner. However to be in a non-western hospital is quite an experience. A first time for me. The seem to have their own line and time scale they follow. We wanted lung x-ray, temperature, saliva sample taken. They took blood, EKG and left me in an A/C room, shivering. I finally got into a warmer section, where the local patients where being treated, too, but left alone again. When I had to throw up again I waved a visitor for attention to notify the staff to get a bag. I was still shivering and it took a while and TdA staff support to get a blanket to cover me. I finally got IV (an intravenous drip feed) and some immediate medication. That was at about 6pm. Cristiano and team were working hard to make them understand what we want them to do or find alternatives to this hospital. Now they said they were waiting for a specialist, who is supposed to come at about 7pm. Everyone knows what that would mean, it could be 8, 9, or never … So we managed to get a VIP room for me to stay over night, as this might take longer – which turned out to be true.
9pm the ‘specialist’ doctor arrived. He was nice, spoke English and did some examinations, listen to lung, etc. but couldn’t find anything wrong. He was waiting for a technician to come and operate the X-ray machine. Finally I was rolled to the x-ray room in a wheel chair. 1st trial was no good, 2nd shot taken. Back to my VIP room.
10pm specialist came back with the photo. Nothing conspicuous, could be TB! And he left. No medication, no antibiotics, no precaution for the staff. Nothing changed. What??!!
11pm I was woken up again. They do not trust their x-ray system. They want to bring me to another hospital in town with the better equipment. So I was shuttled in an Ambulance with flashing lights thru town, me sitting next to the driver, whom I had to politely ask to stop smoking! The drive was just about 5 mins – why didn’t they tell Cristiano that there is another hospital around the corner when he asked? I guess they just needed they money from me. 2 more X-Ray shots and I was carried back to the first hospital. This time the driver knew he mustn’t smoke with a patient in the car.
12am finally in bed again. The IV and drugs made it a good night, just some bathroom interrupts once in a while, which is not a pleasure in such environments and under my health condition. This was VIP treatment, I wonder how standard must look like! I managed it through the night. Although it was said that it is 24h surveillance and I used the bell 3 times, because my infusion was not working correctly, nobody showed up. I walked to the nurse room, but it was deserted. So I gave up and opted for more sleep.
5:15am my usual tour get ready wakeup call and I prepared myself to leave this hospital soon.
6am the nurse came to change IV and take temperature.
7am TdA called they want to shuttle me to Yogyakarta for better treatment. Car is arranged. Several other riders with health issues are joining the trip ahead to the next rest place site, which would give me 5 days of rehabilitation. Now I needed to get the paperwork from the hospital. However, the only thing they had prepared was the bill, to pay in cash. No diagnosis, no doctor’s statement! So I first settled for the bill. The ATM at the hospital did only accept local cards, thus we asked the cashier for the next bank – he did not exactly know but meant in town, so I had to send Danu (one of our drivers) back to hotel to get my bag, with my money. While he was gone I recognized, that next to the hospital cashier box a branch of the bank had an office. Why didn’t he tell us? Unfortunately they also weren’t able to change $US or withdraw from my credit card. So we needed my bag and finally settled for the bill. Now I wanted the hospital reports.
8am I got some medication from the hospital pharmacy, waiting for the reports. Unfortunately no doctor is in the house. Maybe in the afternoon. Specialist is sick! We couldn’t wait! So we asked to get a nurse report. Now I have a report in Bahasa Indonesia, which I can’t decipher. I know from a fellow rider, who had a fall earlier on this trip and was brought to hospital. He had a bruised arm and rips, but the insurance report read fracture. What will mine read?? Nevertheless we were finally out-a-here, hoping for a better situation in Yogya. The pity is I had to leave my nice nurse team behind.
8:30am We left with a rented minibus to Yogya, a 250 km trip, which took us almost 9 hours to get there. The main roads are horrible. I totally understand why we are taking all this alternate routes in the mountains and on bad and hilly roads (much worse than the main road). I didn’t want to ride all day on these busy, polluted main roads, even with the benefit of all day cycling on a plain.
5pm Arrived in Yogya in the best place you can imagine. A Green Garden Hotel with waterfalls and pools, fish ponds and spacy rooms. You cannot imagine such a setup inside a grey, dusty and dirty, busy neighborhood. Again, well selected Cristiano and Henry! Maybe we should define a Trans-Oceania-Helicopter-Rest-Day-Tour with just the selection of the top Hotels and fly from one place to the other
5:45pm finally after 36 hours in my dirty, sweaty and stinky cycling clothes I hopped into a hot tub and treated my beaten body with a long relaxing bath before I went to bed at 7pm.
The following morning I had a doctor visit me in the hotel. He was from SOS Global International, sounded very competent. Checked me again. Looked at the X-Ray and immediately detected an inflamed part of the lung as part of the allergic reaction of the polluted air and the harsh environment were are exposed every day. I started to take my antibiotics and medication to fight the cause of the diarrhea. He wants me to flush everything out of my body. If situation does not improve, he wants to see me in 3 days again.
Today is ups and downs. Still coughing, stomach cramps and waves of fever. Slight improvement, staying close to a bathroom. Got some sleep during the day. Had some lunch. Drink lots of water. Enjoying a bit of luxury in the hotel gardens before the hotel is flooded by the rest of the troop riding in tomorrow afternoon.
All the best to my fellow riders, still struggling through the tough days and Thanks to Chelsea, Cristiano and Andreas for taking good care of me during my ‘downtime’. You already have a busy day and lots of clients to look after. I hoped to get through it without such an interrupt and causing extra work and worries.