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. 

Not Just Another Beautiful Face – A Dedication

I saw my great-aunt for the first time in years. She was in the hospital getting ready to go for surgery. She called me a few months ago and when I asked to see her before I left for Korea, she said ‘No my sweetheart. It’s better this way.’ I’ve felt heartbreak before. I’ve felt it from young love, and the death of a beloved pet, and realizing that my dream would not be my reality.

But to be told by a dear family member that I may not see her again… that was new. I’m not happy about the circumstances that allowed me to see her. I ‘facetimed’ with my uncle while she writhed in pain in her hospital bed. But I saw her. I was as close to her as I may ever be again.

I looked at her aged face: the deep wrinkles, her teeth, her white and thinning hair. But what I saw for just a moment was such a beautiful smile. I know the smile masked the pain she was in. But we got to see each other. After years of not reaching out enough, her family surrounded her. Her nephew and sister in law (my uncle and grandmother) were by her side. They turned the camera away while she was in pain, and we talked of things far less important than her health: sports, tv shows, wedding details. I may not have been in the room to witness it, but I could hear her cries of discomfort.

Maybe this is a horrible thing to say, but I’m glad I wasn’t there. I mean, in the room. If I was in Florida, I would have dropped my life and been there in the fastest way possible. But to see her in pain, in a hospital bed, pale and frustrated… this would have torn me apart. Here was a woman who talked me through some hard times, hugged me in the few instances I saw her, and I couldn’t be there for her today.

Perhaps I’m making this sound morbid. She had a successful surgery. She woke up to her husband and only daughter, her brother and his wife (my grandparents), and her nephew. She had family surrounding her. This is something she had not experienced in YEARS. I can only imagine how happy she was to see all their faces. Maybe a bit humiliated too.. she doesn’t like others to see or feel her pain.

Now she’s headed to a rehabilitation center. She suffered from broken metacarpals (fingers/knuckles) that has her in a cast up to her elbow. She needs a walker too, which will be interesting I think with a cast. But she’ll have the help she needs, that my great-uncle could not provide.

Her strength empowers me. The thought of losing her weakens me. I suppose this is part of the balancing act of life, huh?

Here’s to you Shirley, you’re not just another beautiful face!

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