Throwing Down Pride

Sapa, May 14th 2010

This is still about my trekking tour in Sapa. It was only a 1 day tour, but I learned a lot -- and the hard way.

We were a group of 5. Besides the Australian couple, there were 2 other Denmark ladies who had just finished college and were having a vacation in Vietnam. They had already been 3 months in Vietnam and could speak a little Vietnamese already. How I envy them. 3 months in Vietnam?? Wow!!

The Australian tourist couple were also obviously older than me. And yet, they were always ahead of me. Even when we were back on smooth path but steep, I was always the last one. Since the 2 Danish had just finished college, meaning that they were still very young, I didn't count them surprising that they were ahead of me.

I also wasn't surprised at all that I had difficulty to keep balanced. However, I was really taken by surprise to find myself out of breath whereas these Australian couples, although looked tired, could keep on going... up... up... up. I used to have a strong breath. What's wrong now?

Jakarta, May 18th 2010

Back home I searched the internet. Honestly, a creepy fear entered my heart: A fear of facing a fact that I dread. I realized that I still felt that short breath problem when climbing up stairs even for only 2 floors.

Lucky I am to work in a company that covers medical expenses up to a certain limit, I went to the hospital to get a mammography test. I never tried to find out how much budget do I get for medical expenses as I seldom get ill and I never exceed the maximum budget. So I just believed that taking a mammography test won't exceed my given budget. On the other hand, it's a pity if I don't make use of the budget set aside for me. Isn't that so?

Mammography test result: Good. The laboratory assistant offered  to take a USG test also. Okay, I said. That's part of making use of my never-exceeding-medical-budget also. USG test result: The doctor said, "I don't find anything suspicious."

Next, I went to meet a General Physician. I told her about my trekking experience and of course about the Australian couple. She laughed. She told me to lie down and checked my lung with her stethoscope. And then she went to my stomach. "Does it hurt?" She asked me several times and I always answered, no. Of course it hurt a little. But, any part of the body, when being pressed must feel hurt, mustn't it? Or else, there's something wrong. Maybe it had gone numb. Don't you think so?

When I said in front of the doctor's desk, she looked at me and said, "I can be sure that there's nothing wrong with your lung." She said it with full confidence and not only once. That's good news.

"There can be 2 things that cause your short breath,:" the doctor said again. "First, it can be your stomach. Second, it can be your heart. But I think it's most likely because of your stomach."

"My stomach?" I was confused.

"Look," said the doctor. She pointed on a scheme of the inside of a human body. "This is the stomach, and this is the respiratory tract. When your stomach gets flooded by acid, the acid will go up into your respiratory tract and make you hard to breath. I think this is most likely the cause. I give you medicine to treat your stomach. Within a week, if you still feel the short breath, you can undertake a heart test."

I know that sometimes I do have stomach problems, but I didn't think I was having that problem at that time. Usually when I have a stomach acid problem, I won't even be able to stand up.

However, after taking the medication for a week, I didn't experience the short breath problem when climbing up stairs. So, my physician was perfectly right. It was my stomach acid. I tried to flashback from the day I left for Kuala Lumpur.

Hmmm, actually a day before I left, my stomach felt unpleasant after taking 2 glasses of coffee in a row. I took a pill and I felt okay. Being a mad coffee lover, I always take along coffee with me when traveling and always seek the chance to taste the local coffee shops. Making matters worse, I had lack of sleep. The night before I left I had to finish my office work until late at night. The next night I only had 2-3 hours sleep because I had to catch the morning flight to Hanoi. The next next night, I scarcely could sleep on the train due to the gamblers' noise and introduction of quarrel. I have written about that here.

Without ever having a doctor tell me, through experience I already knew that lack of sleep increases stomach acid. However, I didn't stop my coffee habit. Come on! This is Vietnam! The land of coffee!

The last major factor, I think was that rice wine I was served when I had lunch in a local's house a day before I went on the trekking tour. I was made to drink 2 slots. Actually I was "ordered" to drink more, but I stood my ground. It was not at all because I was concerned about my stomach, but I just don't like rice wine. It's, sorry to say, smelly, to me.

In conclusion, it was lack of sleep, coffee and coffee, and the rice wine that caused my short breath during the trekking in Sapa. I have proofed this true, because one and half month later I went trekking again and had no breath problem at all.

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