Wound Dressing, Harm Reduction and Spectators on a Street


Last night I had stopped for a drink and smoke. Sat on the dirty steps of a 7-11, watching the world go by, almost engrossed with my thoughts of life. A much-needed break, one that is hard to come by. The weather was cooling, much to my delight, I remember relishing the rare moment with a smile - to no one in particular, just one of those odd moments of solitude.

A drug-user, who I have met a couple of times in the past, had recognized me. He approached me, swaying to the motions, clearly he was high. He squatted in from of me, placed his palms together in front of his face, with a slight bow of his head, in the ritual Thai greeting which I always found to be humbling. 

He showed me his wounds on his right leg, a nasty infection from the injections. It has been a common problem for injecting heroin users, many times after injecting, little care is given. After a while infection sets in, and festers due to the lack of basic hygiene or repeated injections to the same area. Anyway his wounds were bleeding with faint traces of dried blood around the leg and shorts. I told him to sit by the side of the road, pointed at a spot. I went to the 7-11, purchased a first-aid kit and cleaned his wounds. 

Thais and foreigners, passed by or observed, many were curious, others frowned at the sight of the drug-user. No one offered to help. I didn't mind it, I don't expect assistance from people with no experience in harm reduction. Nevertheless I used the opportunity to explain, in English, speaking slowly so that (hopefully) the Thais would understand, what I was doing. An odd situation for the spectators, but something I felt was necessary to sensitize them with some awareness. Call it a 101 Wound Dressing for Dummies; anyhow I managed to suppress my smile as some young women started to take photos using their smart-phones. 

The wound was easy to dress. I have done this before, many times, with injecting users and during my past expeditions as a relief worker. Disposable plastic gloves, gauze, water, antiseptic, which is readily available in many sundry shops in Bangkok. After it was completed, I gave some tips on first aid and basic hygiene and told him to take better care of himself. 

As he stood up, several Thais clapped their hands, to my amusement, though I accepted what I could in this almost-thankless work. The foreigners merely grunted or shook their heads and left, perhaps eager to head to Soi Cowboy (a watering hole frequented by male tourists). 

I watched him disappear into the night, limping. 



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