A happy ending to an interesting experience by an American visiting a hospital for the first time.
I have been living in Shenyang for six months and prior to that I had spent the previous 28.5 years of my life living in the United States.
Recently, I came down with a nasty cold, accompanied by a scratchy sore throat, escorted with a throbbing headache, and ultimately ushered by an extremely loud and obnoxious cough.
Symptoms worsened day after day. I tried everything that was offered as “remedies” by friends, colleagues, and even the security guard at my apartment.
Some of these remedies consisted of massive amounts of ginger, green tea, pickled cabbage, boiling cola, and menthol cigarettes to name a few. After a week of feeling as though my lungs had developed a personal vendetta against the rest of the world; I threw in the towel and decided to take a trip to the local hospital. (For confidentiality reasons, I will not disclose the name of the hospital but I will give you a hint. The hospital had a number in the name…yes that was a joke.)
So, I arrive at the numbered hospital and the first procedure was registration. I was told by my Chinese friend accompanying me that I could pay 7 RMB for a real doctor, 5 RMB for an assistant doctor, or 3 RMB for neither (In my mind I pictured the hospital janitor walking into the examining room and telling me to drop my pants as he hovered over me with a toilet plunger in one hand and a box cutter in the other…needless to say, I paid the 7.)
Chapter 2…Examining Room
Somehow, we made it to the examining room. And for those who take this lightly, bear in mind an American walking through a crowd of people anywhere in China is difficult, let alone a popular hospital. Here, in addition to being on guard for shoves and stray elbows that might blind sight you, you have to dodge the vomiting pregnant woman, the bleeding boyfriend, and the old man screaming on the stretcher…ahhhh the memories!
Cut to Examining room> my pants are at my ankles ( I know I said I had a cough, but I was also showing off a little American pride ;) doctor taking a peak, all of a sudden the door flies open and three people barge into the room!
“What in God’s name are they doing?” I scream. But this is China and privacy is merely an unreachable utopia-state that has never existed and most likely never will.
I was angry. Not at the fact that two 75+ elderly women had just observed my manhood, but because of the principle. Afterall the door was closed and it WAS an examining room! But this was my first visit to a Chinese hospital and my friend sweetly explained “this is China.”
An x-ray confirmed the doctor’s hypothesis, acute Bronchitis caused by either a weakened immune system from smoking a pack of Chinese cigarettes daily for six months, inhalation of Shenyang air during the recent dust storm that painted a gorgeous yellow hue behind the cityscape but left viscous dust particles hovering in the air, or exposure to germs, which believe it or not, exist in China (another joke.)
A prescription was issued for antibiotics and herbal cough syrup which tasted like your worst nightmare, but the stuff ultimately worked!
I was finished with the hospital stay.
I flung open the main entrance doors, wait no I didn’t, they were automated, hmmm???? In any event, I was Freeeeeeee!
Back at my apartment I began the medicine intake and retired to my bed. In a matter of hours, I felt better. I could feel my anti-bodies attacking the bronchitis, relieving my airway and calming the cough. The days of that green substance oozing from my mouth were over and I was on my way to bliss or at least some level of normalcy, at least on a physical scale.
I am now on day three since my hospital visit and my sickness has almost completely departed. Sure I still carry around a healthy supply of tissues and cough drops in my knapsack, but that is merely a precautionary habit.
In conclusion, although my hospital experience left me with vivid observations which
I chose to filter into my off-beat humor; I can honestly say that I was satisfied with the level of treatment I received and my speedy recovery. The doctor was polite, nurses caring, and hospital relatively clean. Now, in addition to having selected my favorite noodle shop and barber salon; I have my hand-picked neighborhood hospital, which for a foreigner in China could come in as handy as a trusted auto mechanic.
So I leave you with a toast to health for anyone that has chosen to read this piece.
(Robert Wasserman can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org )