Lori Black Smith in Mandalay


Last week in this column, I was able to restart our communication with Lori Black Smith, a 2003 Marysville High School graduate. She has traveled all over the world and we followed her adventures for several years. Now she is teaching first grade in an international school in Mandalay, Myanmar. She is married to Matt Smith from South Carolina, who also teaches there. They have a baby daughter, Eileen.
Lori said it was somewhat traumatic to find out she was pregnant in this foreign country, so far from home. It was not something they planned, but were excited, except for the marginal medical care available in Myanmar. Fortunately they can get to Thailand easily and that’s where they decided to have prenatal care and their baby. Here’s what Lori had to say about that:
“We generally go to Thailand for all of our medical needs. We have to leave Myanmar every 70 days for visa runs because we are only allowed to stay in the country for 70 days at a time. It has worked out perfectly for all of the vaccinations. A new hospital just opened here (Myanmar), so there’s hope for better medical care, but I think for most things, we’ll continue going to Bangkok. A round trip flight is $75, a nice hotel is $20, and a doctor visit with all vaccinations is less than $50. We also have insurance that covers 100 percent of our medical costs.”
“Matt and I decided to do all of the pre-natal appointments in Bangkok because of its close proximity and good reputation. People travel from around the world to go there. I went to a hospital called Bumrungrad for my annual checkups or anything that was a real issue. The hospital is gorgeous. Orchids are dripping from the walls, fountains are in the lobby and translators are waiting at the doors for every language you could imagine.”
“When you schedule your appointment, they do their best to match you with a doctor who speaks your language. All of my doctors have been native English speakers and educated at some of the best universities in the world. My doctor went to the University of London in England and Mahidol University (it’s like the Harvard of Thailand).”
“On Feb. 3, 2017, an old friend who used to work with Matt and me in Myanmar met up with us in Bangkok. We hadn’t seen her in years and spent hours catching up. Before we knew it, it was 1 a.m. I went into labor around 6 a.m. Ugh. I spent the day timing the minutes between each contraction.”
“Around 5 p.m. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Contractions were just a few minutes apart. We were just a few blocks away from the hospital, but I was in no condition to walk just a few blocks. We panicked and tried to get a taxi, but Bangkok traffic is like New York City on a bad day. A few drivers outside of the hotel decided that a tuk tuk was the quickest way to get there. A tuk tuk is like a motorcycle truck that is known for weaving in and out of Bangkok traffic, getting you from point A to point B in as little time as possible.”
“We hopped in with my hospital bag and down the street we went. We passed a few “ladies of the night” who propositioned my husband from the opposite side of the street, but apologized profusely when they saw me holding my husband through my contractions.”
“The driver yelled at everyone in the streets. I can only imagine it was something like, “pregnant lady, out of the way!” We made it to the hospital entrance. No tuk tuks were allowed and it was one way. Again, some yelling while driving got us right down the street and up the emergency entrance ramp. We bid farewell to our tuk tuk friend!”
“I was determined to have a natural birth. They took me to my room and checked all of my vital signs. My doctor showed up around 9 p.m. to see how I was doing. He told me he would be sleeping in the room next to me until I needed him. At 11 p.m. I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I asked for the epidural and got some sleep before we met Eileen Claire Smith at 5:16 a.m. The hospital, the doctors and the nurses were all amazing. Even the hospital food was great. For three days and two nights in the hospital, with an epidural, the cost was 4,000 U.S. dollars. This included all of the well baby checkups and mom checkups. Insurance paid for everything.
“Now we have a nanny Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and every other Saturday. We usually only keep her until we get home from school around 4 or 5 p.m. She’s the former nanny of the school accountant and was highly recommended.”
“She’s wonderful with Eileen. She does not speak English, though, which can make for some pretty fun sign language. Important stuff we have translated by one of our co-workers. One of the best parts of living at the school and having a nanny is that we get to come home to see Eileen for any of our breaks during the day.”
You can see Lori’s world is so different from ours – more from her in coming weeks.
(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)

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