I awoke last night to the sound of a small child breathing heavily and whimpering.
“M, are you awake?” the voice asked, barely audibly.
My mind immediately reverted to Mai-Mai, my favorite little girl at the orphanage.
“Mai-Mai?” I asked in the dark, “You speak English?”
Then I realized it was Chloe. Poor, little Chloe, suffering from severe chest pains after a bout of 72-hour food poisoning.
She could barely breathe, let alone speak. I turned on the light and saw her curled up on her bed, her legs covered in a red rash.
“We’re going to the hospital,” I said, excited at the chance to venture out into the 4 am life of Phnom Penh–somber, silent, solitary, and scary. Chloe refused, claiming it would be better to wait until morning. But I slapped her across the face, splashed some water on her head, and knocked some sense into that girl.
After calling the a 24-hour hospital, “the best clinic in town,” according to our Cambodia information sheet, we gathered our belongings and stepped out into the humid Cambodian air.
Not a car in sight, not a street light on. In the distance, I saw a single tuk-tuk, and a man asleep inside of it. Chloe stood on the sidewalk as I approached the slumbering man. “Tuk-tuk?” I whispered, and received no response. “Tuk-Tuk!” I shouted, and shook the moto with my foot. The man awoke in a hurry, and we explained where we needed to go. He nodded, but we could tell he had no idea. They never really do.
After half an hour, we arrived at International SOS. “WAIT HERE!” I barked at the tuk-tuk driver, and escorted Chloe inside. She filled out her paperwork and then met with the doctor, a small, sleepy, Cambodian man with more broken English than Mai-Mai herself.
The following events took place:
Dr: Your name is Ch…Ch…
Dr: What problem here?
Chloe: I have severe pain in my chest. Right here.
Dr: You have pain. In chest. Proceeds to write down “pain in chest” in beautiful, elaborate cursive. For about ten minutes.
Dr: You have pain in chest. He repeats, and stares at Chloe, who nods exasperatedly.
Dr: So. Pain. in the chest.
This conversation goes on for about twenty minutes, with the doctor not saying any more, but continually filling out his notebook in exquisite penmanship.
MJ: Tell him about your rash.
Now this, ladies and gentlemen, was the best part of the night. I only wish I could have taken a picture.
Chloe turns around, pulls down her pants, and bends forward slightly. The doctor takes out a small flashlight and squats behind Chloe, closely examining the back of her thighs. Time stood still for a few minutes, with neither the doctor nor Chloe moving or uttering a word. The doctor squinting, Chloe looking like a sick puppy.
It was the best thing I have ever seen.
We left the clinic knowing what we already knew: Chloe has heartburn. And very attractive thighs.
Note to Chloe’s fans and family: she is recovering well. No need to worry until further notice.