Merriam – Webster Definition:
medical: of, relating to, or concerned with physicians or the practice of medicine. Requiring or devoted to medical treatment.
medical: of, relating to, or concerned with physicians and their prescribed treatments that I avoid at all costs back in the U.S. However, here in Korea, a medical visit is a whole different story. Seeking medical attention, with a language barrier, can be quite intimidating.
Here is my tale of woe.
After a wonderful birthday, my immune system decided to rebel against me and give into whatever sickness it has been trying to fight off since the beginning of the week.
I awoke on Thursday morning feeling awful, with all the symptoms of a nasty cold. I wasn’t really worried until I awoke with a start on Friday morning, having a difficult time breathing. Over the past few years I have had pneumonia several times, and it seems to always develop from a severe cold. I am usually the sort to say “just push through it,” but being sick in another country when you live alone generates a bit more worry from me.
I arrived at work, and went immediately to my co-teacher, Hyewon, and told her that I needed to go to the doctor. She walked with me to the doctor, a few minutes away from the school. He listened to my breathing and looked up my nose, and then told me it looked like allergies and asthma symptoms. He ushered me into the side room, the nurse gave me a butt injection, and I was prescribed some allergy meds before heading back to school.
My brain was quite fuzzy, most likely due to the lack of oxygen, headache, and sinus pressure. Once safely back in my office, I turned to my coworker and said, “Hayley, I really don’t think this is an allergy issue.”
Hayley, being the awesome co-worker and friend that she is, offered, nay, insisted on bringing me to the hospital after our classes.
“You look and sound awful,” she told me. “We live in a foreign country girl, you don’t want to mess around with health stuff.”
After work, one of our very kind co-teachers offered to drive us to the Good Morning Hospital in downtown Ulsan. This particular hospital is known in the foreigner community for having good doctors that speak English and are foreigner friendly. We ended up having to go to the ER, as the hospital closes its doors at 6pm.
The doctor in the ER was very nice, listened to my breathing and asked for all my symptoms. He told me that my breathing, or lack thereof, was worrisome. However, he told us that this particular emergency room was only for trauma patients, those in life or death situations or those requiring surgery.
He wrote down the name of another hospital we could go to. Off in the taxi we went. I was beyond thankful to have Hayley with me.
The ER doctor at the second hospital was equally friendly, and actually spoke English quite well.
He asked me questions about my symptoms and listened to my breathing.
He recommended a lung X-ray, nebulizer treatment, injection, and medication.
The X-ray showed no signs of pneumonia so far, which is wonderful, and the nebulizer treatment did make breathing slightly more comfortable.
The doctor was so cute when he tentatively asked if I would like the injection, as “some cultures are different and don’t like shots.” I think what he meant is that most foreigners are completely weirded out by getting a shot in the butt. As for me, what the heck, I had already had one, why not another one.
With medication in hand the doctor instructed me to rest and drink a lot of liquids, and hopefully with all the combined treatment pneumonia will stay away.
Side Note: To walk in the door of my doctor’s office back home invariably costs me around $400. My visit to the ER (X-ray, neb treatment, and meds) cost me exactly $47.
Sadly my story does not end here. While I am feeling minutely better today, at least I can breathe, it has not been a good weekend for the foreign teachers, health-wise that is.
I am holed up in my apartment trying to breath, while I received this picture from Hayley this morning.
She tripped on the wet, and very slippery, sidewalk as we were trying to find a taxi outside the ER. After a fretful sleep, because of the pain, she went to the hospital where they put a cast on her fractured toe. We both realized the irony of her injuring her toe while walking out of the ER.
What a good friend she is. Supporting me in the intimidating hospital setting, braving the rain, and even suffering the abuse of the very treacherous and aggressive Korean sidewalks.
Two ER’s, one doctor, two sets of prescriptions, a nebulizer treatment, an X-ray, two butt shots and a fractured toe: It’s a sad day in Ulsan, I think.
Oh well, down the road I am sure will we will both look back and laugh at our interesting, medically filled weekend.
Have you ever had an ER experience while in another country? I would love to hear about it!