When You’re Slidin’ Into First: how to survive the “Bali Belly”


I’m sure some kind of mental disorder exists wherein, for the afflicted, giving a stool sample at the doctor’s office isn’t a horrifying experience. Not so for the rest of us!

Yes, this entry deals with poo, so the weak of stomach best be gone.

Okay. Well, the Toya Medical Clinic is a few doors down from the government gas station, right next to the pizza joint on Jalan Raya Pengosekan. Pat had stumbled across the doctor’s office in his delirious search for the closest Apotek (Indonesian pharmacy).

Not that Pat wears a collared shirt and slacks much these days…

For quite awhile now he’s been a victim of “Traveler’s Diarrhea” (Bali Belly, Mummy Tummy, Monezuma’s Revenge…) – a term coined to encompass foreign pathogens and unfamiliar bacteria wreaking havoc on one’s digestive system. We got a shock when we added up the weeks that had flown by. With the exception of ten days surrounding my course of ciprofloxacin that he’d taken in Laos, his guts had been raging since the Philippines. If felt like just yesterday, but the calendar claimed four months had passed! Ooops!

Paradise sometimes comes with a price… #balibelly

Like the fretting mother hen that I am, I accompanied Pat to the clinic. After nearly an hour, the doc returned from her house-call and invited us into her office. It took all of three minutes for her to order blood and stool samples and to explain the likelihood of specific bacterial problems. Then things got interesting.

The only bathroom in the place is through the waiting room and down a long corridor just to the left of the front desk. There is no staff lounge, so all the nurses, reception staff, clinic assistants, and drivers sit around with all the patients-in-waiting. On the wall a full-size poster reads, “Customer!! We Cannot tell S ccess without U!.”

The restroom contains a “western” toilet, but has the common Southeast Asian set-up of a sink-outside. Pat fretted the whole length of the hallway as all eyes from the waiting room tracked him to the bathroom door. “How is one to go into a room, accomplish the humiliating feat of pooping into cup whilst suffering the affliction of explosive and uncontrollable diarrhea, and emerge presentable to the voracious eyes of a bunch of bored strangers?”

Sometimes you just wanna…

Thankfully, risk-of-horrifying-embarassment-part-I went fairly smoothly for our hero. Next came the part where, as Pat puts it, “You have to walk in front of a bunch of strangers, who watched you go into the bathroom, carrying a cup of your poop in your hand. How do you do that with any dignity?” To make matters more hilarious, the nurse who was to receive the poo was waiting for Pat at the front desk. He came down the hall at lumbering-giant-top-speed, beelining it for the sacred private cave of the doc’s office. As he flew past the front desk, shouts of protest followed him the length of the waiting room making exactly the scene he had hoped to avoid. Mortified, he tucked himself into a spot slightly recessed from view and handed over his specimen. The nurse took it, turned on her heel, paraded it right past all the onlookers, and plopped it straight onto the reception desk!

With his face glowing red, we settled the bill and slipped out the front door to await the results. Poor Pat! ♣

Update: the test results didn’t confirm the doc’s suspicions, but the meds she prescribed seemed to have worked for our hero. Kind of. He’s afflicted with fewer digestive mysteries these days, which is still a few more than he’d like.

Photo credit links: man clutching stomach (now a 404), head in sand.



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