[Updated: 28 July 2018]
On 23 May 2017, Steven Howard, Founder and
Editor of ASIATravelTips.com / TravelNewsAsia.com, tripped on
some abandoned barbed wire, camouflaged on the forest floor by
rotting tree leaves and other plant waste, and fell, starting a series of
events which have changed his life forever.
Breaking his fall was a branch
from a felled bamboo tree (pictured) which, while not sharp, entered his
right eye and caused a lot of very serious damage, ultimately
leading to his eye being removed on 7 June 2017.
He was first rushed to the hospital at Kaset Wisai in
Thailand's Roi-Et Province
and after a few quick tests to see if his right eye was responsive
to light (it wasn't) they immediately sent him by ambulance to the
much larger and better equipped Roi-Et Hospital, 60 kms away, for
tests and evaluation.
The first surgery, which involved cleaning dirt from
around the eye and
doing stitches in three places on the upper and lower eyelids, was
done on 24 May 2017.
Up until Tuesday, 30 May 2017, (some 7 days
after being admitted) the doctor had not been able to see inside
the eye to assess the damage. This was for two reasons. One - there
was too much blood in the eye, and two - the upper
eyelid was proving very reluctant and difficult to move.
This eventually had to be done manually and on
Tuesday (30/5) the upper eyelid was pushed up to allow the
doctor in charge to at least have a brief glance at the eye.
This procedure was repeated with a Consultant Doctor in the
evening of the same day, using a Spectro-something or other, to have a closer
According to the
doctors, the results from these two tests was that Steven had
cornea abrasion - which is something similar to a skin abrasion
and actually repairs itself overtime though this can be speeded up
through some eye drops.
potentially serious however, was the blood and the numerous blood clots in
the eye. The blood was at both the front of the eye in the lens,
and the "back is full of it" said one of the doctors. To clean the blood so that the doctors could see the eye
properly required an operation called an Anterior Chamber
The Doctor at Roi-Et Hospital, in consultation
with other experts, decided that she did not have the experience to do such an
operation, especially as she was concerned about what
complications may arise once they could more clearly see the
damage done. Because of this, Steven had to change hospitals and
had to decide between the numerous hospitals in Bangkok or another
hospital in Isaan, such as Khon Kaen.
He left Roi-Et Hospital on 1 June and travelled
by taxi directly to Srinagarind Hospital - Faculty of Medicine in
Khon Kaen, some 2-3 hours away.
Khon Kaen University is extremely well respected
throughout the region and widely regarded by many as one of the
very best in Thailand. Not only that, but it is also home to one of
Thailand's very best eye doctors and surgeons which made it an
excellent choice after Roi-Et. It is also much more
reasonably priced than most, if not all, the hospitals in Bangkok
and Steven has some old friends in Khon Kaen too.
Travelling from Roi-Et Hospital to the one in
Khon Kaen on Thursday, 1 June was a very
painful experience for Steven as not only did the car journey
cause him a severe headache, but the doctors at the hospital
wanted to conduct their own tests on the eye before they admitted
Those tests involved giving
blood, urine and stool samples, having x-rays taken and even a
cardiovascular exam, all in addition to many more tests on his
eye. It was not a pleasant day.
After the first day, the doctors decided
that he had an Optical Nerve Injury. This was
investigated on Friday, 2 June with a CT scan and he was
put on a 3-day course of very strong steroids in very high doses. The
steroids were so strong patients have to sign a
separate disclaimer saying that they understand the many, many
possible side effects, one of which is death!
The results from the CT scan came back on
Saturday morning and show much more damage than the doctors had originally realised. There are numerous fractures all around the eye,
including the Superior Orbital Wall and the Inferior Orbital Wall.
The Inferior Orbital Wall has been fractured by more than 50%, and
the Orbital Globe has been crushed and ruptured. The only small
good news in all that is that the fractures in the Superior Orbital
Wall (next to the brain) have not passed through the Dura (the
brain's final layer of protection) and no air, blood or spinal
fluid has leaked
onto the brain.
Steven went for the Anterior Chamber Washout
operation on Monday. He was under full general anesthetic and
the procedure went as well as can expected. Unfortunately his Doctor, who
throughout this entire ordeal, discovered that massive
damage has also been done to the back of the eye. He tried to repair some of it, but
he said that it was impossible to fully repair and as such posed a
risk to Steven's brain and also his good eye.
For that reason, it was decided on Tuesday
June 207) that Steven's damaged right eye would be removed on Wednesday and
replaced by a ball.
since midnight the evening before, not drinking or eating
anything, Steven's operation could not be done on the Wednesday and was
instead done on Thursday afternoon instead. It was a much longer
process than had initially been expected lasting around 2-3 hours and
Steven describes the pain level on returning to the ward as "extreme
to say the least". Steven was then put on another course of strong
Steven was discharged from the hospital in Khon Kaen
on 11 June 2017 and arrived back in England on 13 June 2017 with
the travel news
resuming on 1 July.
Steven has since had further surgery and the
ball that was first inserted into the eye cavity was changed for a
larger one. A prosthetic eye has also been made, although Steven
tends not to wear it very much as his eyelid still does not work.
Whether the eyelid damage is at the nerve or muscle level nobody
seems to know and it is not known whether the eyelid will ever
Losing one eye has not dampened Steven's
enthusiasm and positive outlook on life. He is still a
professional photographer and videographer and continues to run
TravelNewsAsia.com with the same passion as the day he founded the
company. As his cameras, the Canon 1DX Mark I and Mark II, have
large bodies, he is thankfully still able to look through the
viewfinder using his remaining left eye with sufficient space
remaining to operate the
controls on the back and front of the camera with his right hand.
Pictures from this ordeal will
eventually be uploaded, as well as some articles about what it is
like to live in two different government hospitals in Isaan,
Thailand for about 21 days. It gives a real understanding of
what medical tourism means, what people need to be aware of and
how they should prepare for such a situation.
BIO - Steven Howard, Editor / Founder
Our editor (and founder), Steven Howard, worked for two of the
largest banks in the world before entering the travel industry in
Asia over 20 years ago.
Steven has been Publisher of ASIA Travel
Trade magazine - the oldest travel trade magazine in Asia, and
Frequent Traveller magazine - the leading corporate consumer travel
magazine in Asia.
He has also worked as Group
Publisher of Panacea Publishing Asia, managing well known regional
such as Mix! - Asia's Creative Meetings Magazine, Business Traveller China and Business Traveller Asia
Steven is also a professional photographer and videographer.
Not only has he conducted well over over five hundred (500) exclusive video interviews
with Ministers of Tourism from different countries, CEOs, MDs and
other leading figures from within the travel and aviation
industries, but has had his photography published in magazines
around the world, and even a movie!
He has a passion for travel, cycling, sports
in general, as well as the immense benefits that sport tourism can
bring to a destination, both in the short and long term.
Being a firm believer that 5-star
does not always mean best, he loves to discover new places,
hotels, ideas and concepts, and to share those finds with readers.
Never one to shy away from getting his hands dirty, he is as
happy sat in the cold rain taking pictures of an event, as he is
sipping the finest wines, whiskies and Champagnes in the executive
floor of a true 5-star hotel.
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