For about six years before his surgery at Bumrungrad, Bruce had suffered with the pain of spinal stenosis. He searched for treatment options in Florida as well as in the other destinations within the United States, but the more he searched, the more concerns arose. His fears were not about the spinal surgery itself or about the professional capabilities of the doctors in the US. He was more concerned about rates of staph infection, which he had read were high in some US hospitals.
Bruce was no stranger to receiving medical care abroad. He had taken several eco-tour trips in Thailand and, on one of them, had suffered back pain severe enough to send him to a doctor. “Reluctantly, I went to a hospital and, to my surprise, received the best care possible,” says Bruce. Back home in Florida, Bruce did more research on hospitals in Thailand, and Bumrungrad continually caught his attention. Dr. Oliver Jones, Bruce’s local orthopedic specialist and a close friend, was shocked at first when Bruce mentioned the possibility of spinal surgery in Thailand, but Jones changed his mind after doing some research of his own. “Bumrungrad is one of the finest hospitals in the world,” Jones said. “Go for it.”
Bruce took that advice and emailed Bumrungrad. The staff of Bumrungrad’s International Medical Coordination Office suggested that Bruce contact Dr. Nanthadej Hiranyasthiti, an orthopedist. Bruce checked credentials and scheduled an appointment. “Dr. Nanthadej and I hit it off almost immediately,” Bruce says. Although the specialist had read Bruce’s MRI from the US, he wanted to examine his patient personally before deciding on treatment. His examination confirmed the need for immediate surgery.
Bruce explains what happened next: “By that afternoon I was all through pre-op and was scheduled for surgery two days later. I learned that this speed is fairly normal at Bumrungrad Hospital, not the weeks or months required here in the US.” As for the rate of staph infection, Bruce was reassured. Bumrungrad boasts a rate less than 0.4 percent for all forms of hospital-acquired infection, significantly lower than in the States. Bruce learned that rates of post-surgical mortality and unscheduled readmission are low at Bumrungrad, too.
Almost immediately after coming out of the surgery, Bruce was virtually pain-free. “I felt as though I could lift small buildings with a single hand!” Bruce says. Bruce left Bangkok 18 days later feeling healthy and well. His wallet felt healthy, too. His bill for his surgery—including all surgeons’ and doctors’ fees, hospital care, drugs, therapy, and incidentals—totaled a little over US$4,700.
Unfortunately, in 2009, Bruce took a hard fall after stumbling over one of his eight Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs (“That’s another story,” Bruce says), and his back pain returned, but to a lesser degree than he had previously experienced. He didn’t hesitate to make another appointment with Dr. Nanthadej. “After the warmest of greetings and a big hug—very unusual by Thai standards, but he did train nine years in Chicago—we sat down to business,” Bruce recalls.
Dr. Nanthadej ordered an MRI and started Bruce on some pain medication. He also sent Bruce to Dr. Chomchai, a pain management specialist, for a second opinion. Fully expecting more surgery, Bruce was elated to hear he didn’t need it. Within a week he was completely pain-free with a single prescription medication.
Bruce is extremely positive about both of his experiences at Bumrungrad. “I would not hesitate to have the most serious of surgeries performed there,” he says. “I am impressed with the quality, efficiency, cleanliness, ethics, technology, friendliness, and professionalism of the entire organization.”
Last updated on 30 December 2015
Before Leaving the Hospital: Get All the Paperwork
Impatient to be gone, and often suffering the woozy side effects of surgery and post-operative pharmaceuticals, patients too often find themselves back at home later, missing important documents that could have more easily been obtained on site. So before you hightail it out of your hospital or clinic, be sure that you have all of your important documents.
Generally, larger hospitals provide complete medical documentation as part of the standard exit procedure. However, some smaller clinics may rely more on verbal instructions, and they are less likely to build and maintain a dossier on your case.