the best is yet to come

The one where I take on Huashan Hospital (once more) and live to tell the tale

Walking into a Chinese hospital is never a pleasant experience.

There’s always something to throw you off – whether it’s the process of sardine-squeezing into at least three elevators before your find one without an overload sign, or being asked to carry samples of your own bodily fluids down four flights of stairs to a collection bank. My last time at Huashan was… memorable, and I’ve written about my Birthday Eve spent in the confines of a Chinese emergency room. We celebrated that midnight with shots from a Jack Daniels bottle in the Hospital parking lot — although I was still sick and in retrospect shouldn’t have been drinking. Since then I’ve done everything I could to avoid Asian hospitals, aside from that one time I went with T to get his ears drained.

This week, I had no other choice but go back to Huashan.

I spent every day and night since Monday fitfully, unable to sleep, swallow, or speak, because my tonsils were inflamed following a bout of food poisoning. My third sleepless night and waking up at 5am to stand over my kitchen sink in pajama bottoms to catch my breath was what it took to finally push me over the edge.

This time, I decided to go to the foreign clinic –  although foreign may be an overstatement. I may be trying to better integrate into living in China, but going to a hospital in a foreign country (while incredibly sick to boot) is never easy. I can passably speak Mandarin, but I am nowhere fluent enough to be able to complain in Mandarin. And that (along with a super-human ability to push through lines) is what it takes to brave a Chinese emergency room. To be fair, I also have difficulties visiting clinics in Russia (the look of the nurse when I asked what an ovary was, because I didn’t recognize the Russian name for it, made it seem like I had been raised by crazy Fundamentalists). Still, the ‘Worldwide Medical Center’ was worldwide only in name. The equipment was straight out of the 90s. The staff’s English wasn’t stellar (I had to explain what the word ‘cosmetic’ meant). My doctor stuck me with a tongue depressor until it hurt and asked me if I knew what my tonsils looked like on the regular.

No. I’m sorry, doctor. I rarely check out my tonsils at home (although, I’m beginning to think that I should start).

Overall, this morning wasn’t awful, because D spent the entirety of it at Huashan with me, drinking cups of hot chocolate and keeping my mind busy with silly asides as needles were stuck into my forearm. We hadn’t seen each other much in the past weeks, so it was nice to spend time together, even if I was still pretty unresponsive and racked from sleepless nights (though, to be honest, we both were).

I think in hospitals is where I am very starkly reminded that I am American. I know my height, my base temperature, and my weight in inches, degrees Fahrenheit, and pounds, but am completely useless telling it using the metric system. I am still unused to a hospital bill ending up so relatively cheap without insurance. I would (for once), like to get a bandaid when I get my blood taken. I am also skeptical of doctors recommending IVs in lieu of antibiotics (just stop talking and give me the drugs I need to get better). Plus, I still don’t quite understand why the doctor gave me a (basically) lethal dose of steroids with a stern warning to only take my dose (barely a fifth of the baggie), rather than just giving me the number of pills I needed. The charms of living in China.


In better news, I finally bought my tickets home (and then back to Shanghai). This will be my first visit to the U.S. in almost a year and I’ll be flying into New York with a weekend in L.A. I’m already so giddy. After all, there’s nothing like coming home.

Somehow this weeks much less frightening than my one-way ticket to Shanghai last summer.
Somehow this seems much less frightening than my one-way ticket to Shanghai last summer.

10 thoughts on “The one where I take on Huashan Hospital (once more) and live to tell the tale”

  • I am wondering now, what countries all use this American measurement system? For me it is still often enough a nightmare to convert everything in the metric system because those numbers are just insane 😮

    In China I am always surprised how quickly you get iv transfusions. In Germany and Finland I never got any, no matter how bad my condition was but in China when I had a sore throat they plugged me in /)

    • haha I believe that it may just be us in the U.S. that do the English system regularly, which is a pain, I completely admit. I actually do prefer Celsius to Fahrenheit, but I remember reading an article lately about Fahrenheit being a more efficient way to track outside temperature since it’s not based on water temps, and that the most efficient way to use the two systems would be in combination, but that was too difficult to process.

      I think last time I was in the hospital, I saw an entire room of people getting IVs, which I agree I’d never been prescribed in a hospital back home, save for wisdom teeth removal and some minor surgeries. I wonder why it’s so prevalent here!

    • I wish it just took the 40 minutes! It’s about a 14 hour flight with a 13-hour time difference, but I’ll be crossing the international date line, so I actually get in the same day! The reverse of the magic happens when flying to China, because I remember leaving the U.S. at about 5am on a Friday and landing in China Saturday afternoon.

  • I am sorry about the food poisoning. That’s awful. I don’t have China’s health insurance, but I do have Taiwan’s health insurance and it’s amazing.

    I am happy for you that you’re coming home. It took me 23 hours (including transfer and waiting) to get to Taipei from Florida. I don’t miss that.

    • Does the Taiwanese health insurance work in the Mainland? I’m actually transitioning plans, since my last plan didn’t cover any pre-existing conditions, so I picked the wrong time to get sick 🙁

      I’m not looking forward to the 14 hour flight, but it’s actually the same flight that I took when I initially came to China, so i feel like there’s at least poetic justice there

      • Not exactly. Only Taiwanese people can have Taiwanese health insurance (I am married to a Taiwanese national, so that is why I have it as well). In China, I have to go to a Taiwanese doctor to be able to use my insurance. I still have to pay but when I go back to Taiwan, I get a refund. It’s like going to another country for surgery, you have to pay out of your own pocket but you will get a refund when you go back to your home country.

        My husband can’t get China’s health insurance because (on paper), he is considered a foreigner like me. I also don’t have China’s health insurance.

        • Ahhh yes, this seems like exactly the sort of inconveniences that someone from Taiwan would have to deal with. I watched the documentary ‘Citizenfour’ this weekend and the establishing shot for the scenes shot in Hong Kong said ‘Hong Kong, China’. It’s crazy how these distinctions appear on paper.

          • mhmm, absolutely. Inconvenience may not have been the proper term, from talking to friends who are Taiwan nationals, it seems that the distinction becomes flexible based on what would be easier for the people making that distinction. But that’s a much more complicated conversation on a much more complicated topic. 🙂

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