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Gilles at the hospital in Leh, Ladakh

Gilles at the hospital in Leh, Ladakh

Vietnam… Cuba… Cambodia… China… Uganda… And now Ladakh! On our third day Gilles had difficulties breathing and a splitting headache. Luckily we were in Leh, the capital.

At Leh hospital, the large crowd in front of the registration office was disheartening. We would never get admitted was our first thought. The taxi driver who took us to the hospital judged the situation within seconds. He dove into the mass and returned with a piece of paper: Our registration, but in HIS name, as we found out later. Of course this friendly chap did not know our names and was only trying his best…

He then led us to a very small door that was besieged by a crowd of sick people all shouting, coughing and shoving. Reaching above the heads of other people, our hero managed to pass the paper to a nurse that every now and then opened the tiny door. But only a tiny bit, either to call in the next patient or to take in the registration papers that desperate people shoved into her face. The taxi driver murmured something like “being” and rushed off.

After an hour Gilles name had not come up. It was mad being trapped in this swaying crowd of sick Ladakhi. By then Heidi was so distressed that she grabbed the nurse when she reappeared at the door. Holding on to her hand that held a crumpled pile of paper, Heidi flipped through the stack. There was no Gilles Barbier, but when she spotted the name “Bee Hing”, the penny dropped. That was us!

Now at least we knew we existed in their system. Once inside, the doctor checked Gilles’ blood pressure, pulse and oxygen level. His verdict came fast. Gilles needed to stay in the hospital until evening. His oxygen level was way too low. Off to the tourist ward he was taken. This privileged environment is best described as an empty room with three beds, the windows were carelessly painted over and a large clock was leaning in one of them. There were two other tourists and they all got the same treatment – oxygen and an infusion to prevent dehydration.

Heidi had to run to the pharmacy to buy the syringes and medication that was then applied by nurses who spoke ten words of English. But we were so thankful to get help and eventually being able to continue our trip.

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