At the Hospital in China

This past weekend I was pretty sick. It started with a cough, and then a headache, and then a fever, etc. etc. By the time all the symptoms finished piling on I was feeling pretty terrible.

Now I’m normally a “drink lots of water and rest” kinda guy, maybe I’ll take an ibuprofen or some Nyquil if it’s really bad. None of those seemed to be helping, so my girlfriend, Alana, was kind enough to run to the pharmacy and get me some medicine.

I took the over the counter stuff from the pharmacy and laid down for a nap. When I woke up I was feeling even worse than before. I was feeling dizzy, and my whole body was stiff, like it was about to start cramping. I finally decided to give in and go see a doctor.

I had to ask a colleague where to go. It was about 6pm on a public holiday and the clinic across the street from my apartment was already closed for the night. I ended up at 蛇口人民医院 (Shekou People’s Hospital). My first trip to China was in a study abroad program focusing on Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Chinese healthcare system, so I had spent time in Chinese hospitals as a student but never as a patient. Needless to say I was a little nervous.

I walked into the lobby and over to the reception counter (all the signs were bilingual). The receptionist asked me what was bothering me, so I told her some of my symptoms. I had to pay a fee of about 18 yuan to get in (a little under $3), and then I was told to go wait in the ER.

In the ER there was another reception counter where I showed my receipt to a nurse. I then had to sit down so the nurse could check my temperature via an ear-gun thermometer (not sure of the technical term here). She marked it down on my receipt as 39.7. I was then told to sit in the waiting section and that it would be a long time before a doctor could see me. Perfect, I thought. That would give me plenty of time to figure out what 39.7 means in Fahrenheit.

I sat down and settled in for the long wait (when I was out at the front reception I overheard the receptionist telling some other patients that the wait time was four hours). I prepared for the worst, but my name was called after no more than half an hour or so and I got to go in and see the doctor!

The doctor spoke pretty good English which was cool, but I was a little bummed because I had been looking up how to say all my symptoms in Chinese and now I couldn’t show off. But hey, as Deng Xiaoping said: no matter if the doctor speaks English or Chinese, as long as he heals you up.

The doctor said he thought I had a bacterial infection, so I’d have to go get a blood test done. First I had to go back out to the reception and pay for the blood test. The blood test was 60.80 yuan (a little over $9). After paying I got a new receipt to go take to the blood room (I’m sure it had a more professional sounding name, but I can’t remember at the moment).

In the blood room I got stuck and drained. The nurse there gave me a vial and told me to take it up to the lab on the second floor. I followed another patient up to the lab and handed in my sample. I sat down to wait for the tests to finish and played some Piano Tiles on Alana’s phone. Twenty minutes later my test was done and I was ready to take the results back down to the doctor.

The doctor looked over them and confirmed his diagnosis of a bacterial infection. He told me he’d give me some antibiotics and other medicine, and that I’d get an injection to bring my fever down. Now when he said injection he kept motioning down at his lower body. I crossed my fingers that maybe that’s just what people do when they say injection here.

I had to stop back at the reception to pay for my medicine which totaled 92.88 yuan (about $14). The pharmacy was conveniently located across the lobby. I just had to take my new receipt over and show them and they handed over a small mountain of meds, including the mixture for my injection which I then had to take back to the blood room.

In the blood room again, I was taken back behind a divider and sat on a stool. The nurse pulled out some vials of liquid and mixed them with the stuff I had brought from the pharmacy before telling me to lower my pants a little so she could inject it in my butt (of course). Afterwards I was told to rest outside, drink lots of water, and take the rest of my medicine (we’ll take a closer look at that next time).

At times the hospital felt a little maze like as I wandered from place to place with my different receipts, but in retrospect it all had a strange efficiency to it. And in spite of what I had heard about not seeing a doctor for four hours, I was in and out in about three. And it all cost me a little under $30, and that was without any proof of health insurance. Now after a few days I’m feeling much better!


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