Five reasons not to mutilate your hand in a ceiling fan

Mike - 25 January 2017

We’d only been in the hotel a few hours. Asia Hotel in Battambang is pretty run of the mill: $9 for a fan double en suite, with a big window and hot water. The only aspect of the room to write home about was the ceiling fan, which was made of metal, span like the blades of a helicopter, and was mounted alarmingly low in the room. I could easily touch the ceiling, and the fan was 30cm below that…

You can probably see where this is going, so I’ll cut to the chase. I went to take off my t-shirt and buried the blade of the fan a centimetre or so into my wrist.

So… here are my top five reasons why you shouldn’t hit a ceiling fan with your hand in Cambodia:

Pain

Maybe this one is obvious, but it hurts. After the fan hit me (or vice versa depending on your perspective), I dropped to the floor and applied pressure to the wound. I hadn’t seen the damage, but I could feel the blood trying to gush, and it felt like I’d mangled my whole hand.

When I went to the bathroom to wash the wound with water it became apparent how bad it was. There was a gash about 1cm deep in the side of my wrist, and I was dripping with sweat from the adrenaline and pain. Despite the depth of the cut, once elevated the bleeding quickly eased, and I could still control all my fingers, so it didn’t seem like anything important had been severed. It was throbbing like anything though, and the room looked like a crime scene.

Man vs fan

Feeling stupid

Emma says this one is ridiculous, but of the five reasons, this one might be the biggest for me. I immediately felt like a complete idiot. We knew the fan was dangerous, and a brief lapse of concentration was all it took to cause a completely avoidable accident.

Emma went to reception to ask if there was a hospital nearby and the receptionist came to our room with a first aid kit, lamenting that I was the third person to get hurt by the fan in our room. She told me she was going to put something in the wound to stop it from swelling and getting infected. Assuming it was antiseptic, I allowed her to pour some pungent brown liquid in. Aftering questioning exactly what it was, she tried to reassure me by telling me it was ‘medicine from China’. She applied the sketchiest looking bandage and told me it would be fine. We very much disagreed, but politely nodded.

After she left, I tried to wash out the brown gunk and lay on the bed with my arm in the air while Emma went out to buy medical supplies. We had some butterfly stitches with us, but needed proper antiseptic and bandages. After battling with a spectacularly uncooperative pharmacy, and eventually resorting to mime, Emma returned with a selection of bandages and ointments. She had also found a hospital a few doors down and that they spoke English. Now that the initial adrenaline had worn off, and looking at the wound again, we realised that there wasn’t really any choice. We needed to see a doctor, and attempting to patch me up on our own wouldn’t be the smartest idea. Going to a Cambodian hospital wasn’t high on my bucket list, but it looked like it was going to be required.

Cost

The hospitals we’d seen in Cambodia were by and large terrifying. We’d commented a few times that most ‘hospitals’ were just open fronted shops with people sat there rigged up to an IV on a bamboo pole. With that it mind, I got very lucky with the hospital just around the corner from where we were staying. I walked in, showed them my hand and was immediately taken to a private room. A nurse cleaned the wound and I was given a local anesthetic. I decided not to watch the rest, but Emma informs me a couple of doctors then set about me with a pair of scissors, presumably neatening up the ragged edges of the cut. Seven or eight stitches later and I was back in the waiting room. Total time since walking in the door, about fifteen minutes.

Emma was in charge of making sure everything was sterile and new needles were being used. I’m informed that everything looked good. Each time he opened a new packet, the doctor made it clear that’s what he was doing which did put my mind at rest. I know this isn’t the case everywhere in Cambodia, but we were at a much better hospital than most.

The bill came to $50, plus $15 for antibiotics and some painkillers. I would also have to return a couple of times to get the wound cleaned at $5 a pop and in ten days time the stitches will need removing. While the initial $65 bill might not sound like much, it still feels like a waste of money when we are being so careful with our daily expenditure.

Bandaged hand

Conflict

We asked Asia Hotel if we could change room. The room we were in was boiling and I was totally paranoid that one of us was going to get turned into a meat smoothie if we used the fan. The fan wasn’t positioned over the bed, which meant the only place in the room you could safely get changed would be if you stood behind the door!

We were initially told that we could change room the next day, so we put up with it for one night. The next morning we were informed that all the rooms had ceiling fans so there was no point changing rooms. Instead, we would have to pay $15 to have the air conditioning for our remaining three days. Upon pointing out that the room was incredibly dangerous she ‘generously’ offered to just charge $10 as long as we didn’t tell her boss… We refused and went to breakfast.

Chatting to a friend at the same hotel while at breakfast, we found that her room’s ceiling was over a metre taller, and she couldn’t touch the fan even if she jumped. Emma told reception “we’ve decided that we are changing room” and begrudgingly they obliged.

Nausea

The cherry on top in the whole ordeal was that I did not get on well with the antibiotics. I had been prescribed broad spectrum antibiotics by the doctor, which seems like overkill, but we decided to do as instructed. The day after I started taking them I began getting hit by sudden, random, crippling waves of nausea. This was very unpleasant, but also inconvenient. I was forced to spend most of the day in bed, abandoning Emma to explore Battambang solo.

The next day this progressed to a severely upset stomach, making the aftermath of the man-fan battle even less pleasant than the original incident. What’s more, as far as we can learn from the Internet, broad spectrum antibiotics make me much more likely to get unwell from food in the next month or so, since it kills all my gut’s ‘good bacteria’.

In conclusion

In a man vs fan situation, the fan will probably win. If you do decide to take it on, be prepared for a lot more damage than you’d expect. While I wish it hadn’t happened at all, I’m grateful it wasn’t a lot worse. I could have done serious damage to a finger and dread to think of the implications had it sliced through my wrist. Plus we were incredibly lucky having a decent hospital a few doors down. This is the second time I’ve been to hospital this trip and here’s hoping it’s the last!

Have you been to hospital in Cambodia? Let us know your experience in the comments section below.

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