Foreign Hospitals

(Originally posted in Tickets To: 2014)

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Sometimes, when we move to a new country, we have to get a medical check. Hopefully it’s before. But typically your employer wants to know from a doctor who is native to their country.

So far, I have come to realize. You don’t go to the doctor. You go the hospital. Always the hospital. This makes it sound a lot worse than it is.

In Thailand, we had to go and get some blood work done to make sure we didn’t have some kind of ridiculous disease that I think they made up. I’m that person that passes out from a shot. I need to lay down when getting blood drawn or else the unfortunate person taking my blood (or giving the shot) will have to deal with my unconscious body falling face first onto the floor. So, I’m in a Thai hospital. After filling out paperwork incorrectly twice and waiting for about 30 minutes next to all the people hacking up a lung, I was called back. I explained that I faint. They smiled, nodded and told me to take a seat. I hesitated and had to mime to them that I pass out. They spoke in Thai and laughed at me, but eventually escorted me to a room shared by a guy who had broken limbs. You know that nervous feeling that you may throw up? It’s similar to the feeling of seeing someone with broken limbs and wanting to throw up. They saw my green face and closed the curtain and lay me down. The English speaking doctor (where was she this whole time?!) explained they needed at least two vials of blood. So naturally I covered my eyes and tried not to panic. They did what they had to do, I cried and got dizzy. I sat up and laid back down before almost falling off the gurney. So I stared at the wall while regaining my dignity. And there it was. Blood. On the wall. Blood on the wall. Let me make myself clear: THERE WAS FREAKIN’ BLOOD ON THE WALL. After a few months, I got over it. Because I needed to go to the hospital to get some stuff checked out. And it wasn’t as bad because it didn’t require blood. And interestingly enough, my doctor was my private tutoring student. That was awkward.

Flash forward to August 2013: Korea. The first week here, I needed to get a medical check. When I asked what it consisted of, the manager said ‘Oh normal things.’ So, I went and had my teeth looked at. Even though I had just eaten and hadn’t brushed my teeth, they said I have great teeth. Then I had my hearing tested (3 high pitched notes), an eye test (look at numbers after having a thing pressed against your eye and making vision blurry), a height/weight check (not your business), a urine test (haha! I passed that one!), and the blood test. SCREEECH. What? A blood test. Please stick out your arm. Um.. no I can’t do that. Yes, you have to, Teacher. You didn’t tell me about this! Oh sorry. You will be fine! I pass out. What? I faint. What? I need to lie down. Oh Teacher don’t be silly. No seriously, I need to lie down. Okay. (Insert crying and dizziness). Now please bare your chest so we can awkwardly test your heart beat. Now go upstairs for chest x-ray. Wait patiently while the nurses are distracted by their KakaoStories on their phones. Cough to get their attention. Then straight up say “Hey” and then put your chest against the x-ray machine. Relax. Now push so your shoulders are against the flat board even though you have huge knockers and can’t really be flat against anything. Okay thank you Teacher. You can get dressed now.

Well at least it was over and done with, right? Nope. My manager failed to pick up the documents by the deadline and guess who got to do it ALL OVER AGAIN?! Me.

Then, I got a promotion 6 months later. And last week I got a text message, “Teacher, I will take you to hospital tomorrow.” “Why?” “New contract. New hospital tests.” Le sigh. At least there wasn’t any blood on the wall.

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Obviously there have been some updates since February 2014. I have been in the hospitals for various surgeries as well.. Feel free to read those articles. 

Bye Bye Baby: Part 2

For the last 10 years I’ve had a hernia about an inch or two above my belly button. Check out ByeByeBaby for more information on that. 

Well, the surgery is done. It has been just about 3 weeks since I had it taken care of. 

I heard a lot of ‘Wow. You’re brave for getting surgery in a foreign country’ and ‘I hope you didn’t contract anything in that Korean hospital’ – – – Let me tell you something right here, right now. Korean healthcare may not be what us “Westerners” are used to… but I would be in massive debt right now if I had this surgery in the US. My school provides insurance and perhaps that covered a good chunk of it, but I was not insured in the US. The last time I went to the hospital in the US was for a kidney stone that I couldn’t tolerate anymore. that cost nearly $10k. I was in an emergency room for 3 hours maybe? I had blood work done and possibly an xray? or ctscan? Frankly, I can’t remember. The medication cost well over $100 that day as well. 

This ordeal included a CT scan, blood work, urine test, chest xray, 2 ultrasounds, the surgery itself, 2 nights stay in the hospital (shared with one person and had a bathroom), included meals and medicine, plus the medicine after I left the hospital, 2 follow up visits, and a minor surgery to remove excess fluid from the treated area. 

           The total cost: ~600,000won – – – less than $600USD. Even if I hadn’t had insurance this wouldn’t have cost more than $1,500USD.  

So what was the experience like? It was fine. The doctor, Dr. Im, was fantastic. He had a light sense of humor and spoke decent enough English. When he didn’t know a word, he’d look it up or just draw the surgical process. He joked that US doctors couldn’t do the surgery because of their fat fingers – “Asian doctors? We have small hands. Good for small surgery.” 

They briefed me on my pre-surgery do’s and don’t’s. I checked in and had an ultrasound to properly locate the affected area. Then waited in my room for a bit. They stuck an IV in my arm and wheeled me to the surgery room. They gas-masked me and eventually I fell asleep. I dreamed that I had slept too long so when they woke me up, I tried to sit up in a start. Note to self: NEVER SIT UP AFTER SURGERY ON YOUR STOMACH. It was incredibly painful. They brought me back to my room where a friend had been waiting for me. She helped me back into the bed and then I spent a few days in a bed. No, the hospital room wasn’t as accommodating as US hospitals maybe. The bed was hand-crank and I had to get up and do it myself. The phone and help button were on a table that was just out of my reach, so I had to stumble out of bed when I needed help. The IV was put in at an awkward angle and filled my elbow and upper arm with fluid to the point that I couldn’t move my arm. Then they put it in my hand and the same thing happened, and then they put it in my other arm. Luckily before that could do damage, it was time to leave. Each morning, afternoon, and evening they brought Korean food and medicine. The nurses were too afraid to speak English so they just spoke Korean at me and laughed and walked away before I could try and explain my pain levels. That was honestly the worst part – – the lack of English communication by the nurses. They apparently knew basic medical English but were too shy to use it. 

Anyway, 3 weeks later, I’m allowed to ride a bike and clean my apartment and do normal life activities. It still hurts if I eat too much or when I’m bloated.. And when the occasional fuck-face pokes, rubs, or hits my stomach. Otherwise, I’m doing okay, and I look forward to dropping some weight. 

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This is what the waiting list looked like. I was 06. it reads ‘swha-noen’ – – Shannon.

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Breakfast and lunch. IMG_20140801_183719    

 Scar after the stitches were removed and the healing process has begun.   IMG_20140811_093228  

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