Saturday, May 3, 2008

Travelling to Foreign Countries - The Plight that is 'Food Poisoning'

Well already I've broken my fundamental rule of trying to post a blog entry each day. However there is good reason for this.

As a regular business traveller to many countries (especially within Asia), I am very careful to adhere to basic hygiene and health safety / precautionary measures. As well as general care when selecting locations and food to consume, I am always careful not to accidentally consume water when showering and always continually wash my hands thoroughly with soap at every opportunity.

Although I ensure that my vaccinations are up-to-date, I've often boasted that my stomach is very robust and strong, and am never averse to trying most type of foods no matter how different or controversial from a 'western' point of view. This post is not in relation to the different sorts of food, rather the hygiene in the preparation and storage of foodstuffs.

Last week I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - specifically, I stayed in Putra Jaya and worked 15-min away in Cyber Jaya (quite a distance from the city proper). I do not wish to mention the name of the hotel in which I stayed, as the experience was quite above standard, and there is no sufficient evidence to suggest that the 'offending' food I consumed was from the hotel, although I did eat my breakfast eggs in the usual fashion - 'sunny side up' - which in hindsight after this week's experience, is something I will change in the future.

My guess is that my problems began after the food I ate at lunch on Friday. I visited an Indian restaurant (or more like a 'corner shop'), and didn't actually put much thought into the selection of food (predominately chicken) or the way it was served or prepared (both of which were very poor standard - once again in hindsight).

The weekend following (last weekend) was rather uneventful, with no adverse effects from this 'dining' experience'. This is where my plight begins - and my apologies for the graphic nature of the following...

On Monday, I suffered 'mild' diarrhoea, which graduated into a more severe form by Tuesday evening, and elevating to quite chronic by Wednesday evening, accompanied by severe stomach cramps and fever of 38.5 along with chills.

As a result of this, I spent all of my public holiday between my bed and the bathroom, thinking that I would recover from rest, lots of water and panadol to minimize the fever (the fever was completely gone by Thursday night).

Then came Friday early morning!! - if ever I thought I was sick before, never have I experienced the sort of stomach cramps as what I endured, the pain causing near-fainting attacks each time... the bathroom visits (although still frequent) could NOT relieve the cramping.

Although on many occassions I was close to an emergency visit to the hospital, I endured and undertook a seemingly endless taxi drive to my regular doctor at Ang Mo Kio (about 20 or 25 minutes from my home). Upon arrival, the doctor gave me an injection to diminish the cramping an pain - for this, I owe this doctor a very large bottle of nice wine at xmas this year... the relief was almost immediate.

After some probing, prodding and listening, the doctor advised the (obvious) connection to the intake of food in Malaysia, and said that my intestines seemed to have 'gone on strike'... he also told me that they have a saying in his profession that this sort of stomach (bowel) cramp or cholic can 'bring a grown man to tears' - with this I totally agree and understand... after many years growing up and taking part in contact sports - football, martial arts, etc - I have suffered broken bones, minor dislocations and numerous cuts that have required stitching, but never have I suffered pain to compare to what I have endured over the 48 hours of the climax of this food poisoning affliction. As mentioned, I was close to passing out from pain on Friday many times.

Anyway, after taking a combination of medications to treat stomach cramps (spasms), diarrhoea, nausea and 'good bacteria' to clean up my inetstines and bowels and get things moving again, I have finally been able to take some small amount of food today (first time since Tuesday evening), and even though the medication is causing me to sleep most of the time, by poo today was a little more solid (and actually bright fluorescent green, which was a very strange thing to witness).

Hopefully I'm on the road to recovery, and my words of advice are that anyone who travels should never take things for granted - it is common to feel 'immune' to these sort of problems, especially for frequent travellers. After years of visiting many countries, the worst I've had previously was a bout of vomiting on the flight back from Delhi, but fully recovered by the following day. Please, take it from me - do not rest on your laurels, and take care when selecting food to eat, and liquids to drink... I do not wish my recent experiences on my worst enemy!! :p

PS: A very large thankyou to Sammi for taking such excellent care of me...


Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) said...

Oh wow~ Sorry abt ur food poisoning. I can understand how awful it is coz the same damn thing happened to me before! lol almost forgot about it till I saw ur entry. But it didn't happened to me while overseas haha it happened for me right in sg in ntu. Luckily for me I had been able to relish roadside delights in Jakarta and KL without much probs hehe.

Aussie Pete said...

Hi neon tetra - thanks for your comment. Yeh, I think it's possible to suffer this fate anywhere... even one of the largest deli chains was temporary closed down here not that long ago in SG for selling offending goods - I won't mention their name lest I break some sort of libel law. But it was very strange seeing the signs of closure at their Causeway Point store - stranger still was the roaring trade and high number of customers I saw in the store the day after it reopened. :D

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) said...

ahhhhh the brave sgreans~~~ either they've been really forgiving or they must have totally missed out on that bit of news LOL