asian hospitals

Undergoing Home Surgery in my Vietnam Apt

namchickenIn Saigon, Vietnam, my roommate Sweet Chucky B is disinfecting a small razorblade. It will be inserted into my leg really soon. “I’ve done this before dude, I made it halfway thru Med school,” he says reassuringly. My foot hangs over the bathroom sink as he numbs the buldge in my leg with ice. I have some weird cyst in my leg, and we’ve spent the last 2 hours on Youtube studying how to cut it out.

Sweet Chucky B is a tall gangly white man from Iowa, and we are best pals/roommates in Saigon, Vietnam (circa 2012-2013). Chucky B walks the line of sanity, speaking his highly-intricate inner monologues out loud. The man is a human genius. He once went an entire year without masturbating just to say he did. I’ve also seen him stop 6 lanes of traffic in the middle of Saigon to fist-fight a crew of angry Vietnamese men who cut him off in traffic. The city’s intensity could drive Buddha to the brink.

Losing your mind is inevitable in Vietnam. No one speaks English, everything smells like fish sauce, and you are 9,000 miles from any fraction of normalcy. It is as close to living on Mars as we get. At this point, Chucky B had been in Nam four (4) years, so he was long overdue to go postal. “I hate Gary Glitter. What an ass hole. So glad my friend called the cops on that guy and got him kicked out of Vietnam. F*** that guy forever,” said Chucky B.

I trust Sweet Chucky B, always have. As his cheap razorblade dives into my leg, I should have more doubts than I do. Trying not to look, I observe a small Vietnamese lady machete the head off a fish out the bathroom window. As the blade wiggles around in my leg I hear, “sorry man, the cyst is too big, we gotta go to the hospital”. shit

We get on the motorbike, trailing behind a family of four on a $100 motor scooter thru the steaming streets of Saigon. The Vietnamese motorist is carrying two chickens and not even hanging onto his bike. Thousands of motor scooters battle for inches of space. I remembered what my friend Jackie once said, “It’s way too easy to kill yourself in this country.”

“When Nirvana broke up and Dave Grohl started the Foo Fighters, I was like ‘Jesus, what a pussy…about your leg dude, you’re gonna be fine’”, rages Chucky B as I wallow on the back of his motorbike. We walk into the “hospital”. Hundreds of frowning Vietnamese people wait in a cue. Chucky B hands the clerk 100,000 Vietnam Dong ($5) and he lets us skip the line. We are ushered to a back room and instructed to wait. My leg is pretty bloody. A man in a white t-shirt and blue jeans emerges.

sweetchuckyb“Hello, I doctor”, says a small Thai man. Finally I’m scared. This guy is barely dressed to drink Miller Genuine Draft at a White Sox game, much less perform surgery. No gown, no gloves, no uniform. I lay on a wood desk wrapped in plastic wrap. Sweet Chucky B provides commentary as the Doctor removes the cyst from my leg. “Okay B-rett, he’s cutting out some stuff, it’s pretty much all liquid….almost done…He’s awesome at stitching. There’s slime everywhere. This is sweet.” I get bandaged up and the nurse hands me an invoice for five dollars. Chucky B informs me that I could probably afford 1,000 colonoscopies in Vietnam. I have a new leg.

Check out more crusty adventures with Sweet Chucky B at: