Friday, October 24, 2008

kim goes to the doctor...

i've been experiencing a bit of digestional discomfort this past week, so yesterday i finally went to the doctor to see what's up. i can't help but love chinese medicine. some things that they tell you are very up-to-date and make total sense, but then the advice is peppered with ridiculous, superstitious nonsense that makes it very difficult for me to trust anything they say at all. on top of that, there are some things that they just do differently here, and when you don't speak the language, it all becomes quite an interesting adventure.

when we got to the office, we went to reception to sign in. they have you fill out a short form and then they send you to the cashier counter to pay. then they send you back to the reception desk, where they check your receipt and then send you halfway accross the building to the nurse's station by the patient rooms, who finally ushers you to an open room. everything is such a process here.

we waited for just a few minutes and then the doctor came in. no nurse to weigh and measure you, take your blood pressure and then ask you all the questions the doctor will ask you again anyway. just the doctor. i got pretty lucky, though, my doctor actually spoke a pretty good amount of english. she still had to send a lot of things through my chinese friend and occasionally pull out the chinese-english medical phrasebook, but i managed to piece together most of what was happening, minus the details.

after a lot of questions, a quick examination, and a side-note about how beautiful my voice is when i speak english, the doctor decided a blood test was in order, which was another multiple-desk affair. first the cashier, then reception, then the blood nurse, then back to the waiting room to watch a ridiculous korean movie until the results were ready.

did you know that they can draw blood from your wrist? hold your hand out in front of you, with the back toward you. then follow the line of your thumb all the way down to your wrist, stopping when you reach the joint. there should be a vein that runs right over a bone there. they can and will draw blood there if the ones in your elbow don't stick out enough. even if you don't want them to take blood from your dominant hand, they will. they'll keep talking in chinese and not give you a choice even though they understand exactly what you're saying in english and know full well that you want them to use your left hand. the good news is it's actually not sore at all, unlike the last time they drew blood from my elbow. it did, however, hurt a little more at the time. you win some, you lose some.

lucky for me, the blood test came back normal. at least i think that's lucky. it might have been easier if something had clearly shown up as the culprit, but this probably means it is something less serious. at any rate, after another brief audience with the doctor i was again ushered to reception to take a breath test. yes, a breath test. they gave me a pill and made me wait 15 minutes, then blow into this flat, card-sized thing until the blue dot turned white. which it never really did, but after about 7 minutes they told me i could stop anyway. apparently it was supposed to test the levels of bacteria or acid in my stomach to figure out if i had a certain kind of bacterial infection.

i don't. in case you were wondering.

the only test left was a stool sample which i was unable to produce on command. figures. in the absence of that data, the doctor concluded that i had a stomach infection and proceeded to prescribe a whole slew of medicines. i have yet to figure out if infection is indeed the word she was looking for or if that simply happened to be the only english word she knew. at any rate, while we were waiting for angelina to pay for the medicine and then for someone to bring them, i had the chance to talk with the doctor a bit more. she cracked me up. she was older, probably early 40's, and the advice she gave me was very stereotypically chinese. i'm supposed to make sure i eat regularly and get lots of protein. i should avoid stress and ice water, though, since those will disrupt my digestion, of course. i should also eat slowly and chew my food thoroughly. i just stood there smiling and nodding, all the while thinking, is she serious? how much do i trust her medical advice right now? what on earth is she prescribing me? is this real medicine? are they going to come back with crazy chinese herbs?

finally, someone came with 4 boxes of medicine and directions in chinese. they gave me a pen and some sticky labels so that the nurse could tell me what the directions said while i took notes on the boxes. then the doctor came out and was very adamant about explaining to me how to take them and what they were for and everything. which was kind of adorable and fine with me b/c i really like to know exactly what i am putting in my body. by the time i left, i kind of maybe knew. i think she gave me an antacid, something to make "activity" in my bowels and a probiotic, to make things normal again. we shall see how things go. i'm very curious to see exactly what "activity" means and how well that will work out at school...

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