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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My First Doctor Visit in China

So I'd had a really bad cold for a whole week. I was so tired and had massive headaches and such, but it didn't stop me from going to work.

Right.

And that's when my boyfriend decided something was very wrong, and came to get me and take me to the doctor.

Image source.

In China, when you "go to the doctor," you go to a hospital. The doctors are at the hospital. We didn't have an appointment or anything, we just showed up, pretty late in the evening. Apparently you don't have appointments in China.

So anyway. We get to the hospital and go over to the cashier window, and the receptionist gives us a little blank booklet with a bit of personal information to fill out on the cover- just simple things like name, age, gender- not actual medical information. (Later, the doctor would write things in this booklet and it would be my medical record.) We used my Chinese name and nobody ever asked for ID. Okay then. The receptionist scribbled a few things onto the page- she put down Han Chinese for my ethnicity. Given the fact that I'm pretty obviously a white person, I began to question why that form even asked for ethnicity. She probably just writes Han Chinese for everyone.

Then my boyfriend says we want an IV with cold medicine, hands over some money and gets a receipt.

(In China, they give people IV's all the time. Like, when you're sick you go get an IV. Instead of like, pills.)

And I was like, "wait wait wait, you don't know that's what I need, are we going to actually see a doctor first?" and he said yes we will.

(Keep in mind the majority of this story is actually happening in Chinese.)

So we went into a medical exam room to see a doctor. We tell him I have a cold and it's been going on for a week. He tells me my Chinese is good, hands me a thermometer and wants me to take my temperature under my armpit. Okay so I guess I gotta take my coat off. But it's cold... also why is the door to this room open? Do we not shut the door when we see a doctor in China? ... I shut the door, then take off my coat and take my temperature.

So I have a fever. Have I had a fever all week and I'm just oblivious?

I had written down, in both English and Chinese, the medications I take every day, why I take them, and the fact that I'd been taking Tylenol cold medicine while I'd been sick. And that I'm allergic to ibuprofen. And had surgery last year to remove my gall bladder. Because in America, these are things the doctor will ask. Probably multiple times. In China, not so much. My boyfriend helpfully read this paper to the doctor, who asked "did you have to wait in line?"

And I'm like "...what line?" completely baffled at the meaning of this question. Sometimes knowing the language can only take you halfway. I guessed he must be asking about waiting in line for my surgery last year, and I'm like "... no... I had an appointment...?"

At this point in my telling of the story, I could say, "And that's when I should have realized something was off." But this is China. If I stopped and questioned every completely bizarre thing that happened, well I would never get out of my house in the morning, would I? I simply filed it under "amusing things to post on facebook later" and went on with life.

So the doctor sends us to get a blood test. This means first going back to the cashier and plunking down some more money. And then the next thing I know, I'm sitting at a counter looking at a nurse with a needle and some gauze. And that's the first time I kind of freaked out. EVERYTHING IS GOING TOO FAST FOR ME! WHY IS THERE A NEEDLE? WHAT'S GOING ON???? And I frantically said some stuff to my boyfriend in Chinese, and then let the nurse take my blood. Ugh.

We had to sit in the waiting area for 15 minutes or so, then we got the results and went back to the doctor. The whole thing is kind of a blur- I don't remember if he actually examined me or just told me I have a cold and fever and sent me to get the IV.

Ah but before the IV, we need to do "the skin test," to make sure I won't be allergic to the medicine. So we go to a different room, called the "emergency injection room" (we can just walk in? we don't have to wait to be called or anything? okay) and OH DEAR GOODNESS why is there a massive needle I thought this was a skin test, and then I had to go out in the hallway and cry on a bench for a little bit, because everything is weird and there are so many needles and everything is happening too fast and I have no idea what's going on at this hospital and I'm so sick...

This is called culture shock, kids.

Okay so after I got done crying on that bench with my boyfriend, we went back in to do "the skin test" where a little bit of something is injected under the skin, and then you have to wait a bit to see if your arm falls off or whatever.

I was fine, so it was time to go back out to the cashier and hand over more money so we could get the drugs for the IV. We got a receipt and went down the hall to the pharmacy to pick them up. Got a whole bag of drugs, then went down another hallway to the room where they do the IV's.

So. This room. It has a ton of chairs with soft padded seats, and each one has a pole sticking up next to it, where you would hang the IV. Several people are sitting around, with a needle going in their hand, just waiting while their IV goes into their body. Kind of a creepy place.

Another stupid needle, then all that was left was to wait. I was hungry, so I sent my boyfriend out to find a convenience store or something. I told him I wanted orange juice and Chips Ahoy. Why did I want Chips Ahoy right at that moment, when I haven't eaten them in years? No one knows.

He didn't know what Chips Ahoy was so I had to find a picture on my phone. I'd encountered them in China before and I was pretty sure a convenience store would have them. Sure enough, he soon returned victorious with the orange juice and Chips Ahoy (趣多多 in Chinese).

So yeah. We sat there for maybe 2 hours, and then the IV was done. I would have to come back the next day for a second IV.

And there you have it- the story of my first doctor visit in China. I went home, so tired, hoping that the next day I would feel better.

The next morning, my skin turned yellow.

[to be continued...]

Not yellow like Asian people. Yellow like the Simpsons. Look up "jaundice." Image source.

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