Friday, November 19, 2010

The doctor in Japan

Hey guys,

This is me exhausted in Nagoya. Here's a little mappy to show you where Nagoya is.

The purple dot is where I live. It's exactly 600 km to Tokyo and I guesstimate another 400 to Nagoya. 1000 km in 5 hours. Shinkansen rock! (Bullet train! Bullet train! Bullet train!) The trip only takes that long because I have to switch shinks in Tokyo and because you can't take the train through Tokyo like a bat out of hell. In my neck of the woods it can get up to 275 km/h. Please note that's only because that's the fastest they let it go. It's the fastest train in the world. (World record is 581 km/h or 361 mph). But let me not start fangirling the trains. I'm going to have to dedicate a whole post to them someday :)

Also, I'm way behind on nano. 19,200 words right now, and about 10 days left to get 30,000 words. Did I mention that I'm at a conference for the next 3 days? Or that I've got to go to Miyagi next weekend? At least Wednesday is a holiday and I'm hoping that I'm only required to sit at a desk at the conference and can write while people are in their sessions. We'll see.

Anyhoos, I was sick this week. Sick enough to warrant going to the doctor. Only you don't go to the doctor in Japan. You go to the hospital.

The word for hospital is simply 'sick place' and you might be tempted to think that it's just that they don't have a translation for doctor's office. Nope. They really don't have an equivalent. The little doctor's office you go to 5 minutes away, with either one nurse or a receptionist/nurse, that simply doesn't exist.

Hospitals are all specialised. Remember when I had that horrific neck pain in August? I had to find a orthopedic hospital. Big prefectural hospitals have several departments, but don't expect to just walk into the little private ones. Chances are you'll be in a opthamology hospital with your broken hip.

Another thing that's strange here is opening hours. When I hurt my neck in TOKYO, me and my roomie for the conference hopped in a cab and went to a MAJOR hospital 2 minutes away.

'Oh sorry, the orthopedic department closed an hour ago. Can you come back tomorrow?'

I had to resist the temptation to tell them I might not have a head by tomorrow. (Also ALL hospitals shut in the middle of the day. Like the siesta in Spain. Only in hospitals. Who thought this was a good idea?) So the receptionist told us we could try another hospital. Of course, she doesn't have any suggestions.

By virtue of us actual being representatives of the equivalent of a union for people on this program, we managed to dig up an English hotline, which was at lunch, and directed us to the Japanese hotline. Well thank God we actually speak Japanese. So I called, and they were shut for lunch, (Of course) but I can come in 2 hours.

Well I didn't have a choice, did I?

Did I mention this happened in TOKYO??? Imagine if I'd been in the back-bush inaka! (Inaka is Japanese for Alabama. lol, couldn't resist.)

Another thing is that you have to register at each hospital. You probably have a health insurance card, or if your country is social health like mine, you use your id. The doctor himself keeps a file, but that's about it. Not here. I have a registration card for the internal medicine hospital in my town. And a card for the orthpedist in Tokyo. As if I'll ever need an orthopedist in Tokyo again. Knock on wood.

When they treat something in Japan, they treat it. At the orthopedist's no matter what part of you is sore, they put you on these cool elctro-massage machines. I seriously need one of those for home. And you get a medicine for everything. I have never left the doctor with less than 4 medications. Also they don't really do capsules here.

Meet the packet, my arch-nemesis.

The receptionist ladies make these. It's all they do, besides checking you in. There's a whole 'nother batch of ladies that are the nurses and they were a different uniform.

If you've ever opened a capsule, for whatever reason, you know the stuff inside is bitter as hell. Ditto on the packet. Only you don't have the protection of a capsule.

The first time I got sick, no one was there to tell me how to take it. (Let me say at this point that taking medicine should require only a dosage, not a strategy.) First I tried disolving it- totally insoluble, and then it got stuck on everything, the cup, the dishrag, the sink. Yeah, that's medicine.

Next I tried dumping the contents in my mouth and washing it down. NEVER do this. You will have the bitter taste in your mouth until Justin Bieber finds his masculinity, which might not be forever, but it will be a blinking LONG time.

Later, I learned the strategy from P, my neighbour and colleague, who had learned it from his host family. You pour some liquid in your mouth, dump the contents on top of the liquid and swallow. You still get a little bitter, but not all the way to your SOUL.

Oh, and all public workers here are on National Health, which pays 70% of medical bills. Route canal for 100 bucks? Hellz yeah!

PS, I'm sure you take forgranted the ability to communicate and read. It's always fun going to the doctor, and not quite understanding but saying yes anyhow, and knowing that it's only a matter of time before you wake up from a surgery minus a kidney.

Just sayin'


Unknown said...

Ha! Why did this post remind me of the time my internet went down and I called up Verizon, only to be told that I could check the status of the problem online at Really! How brilliant! Gotta love it;)

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

Almost makes the American health care system sound okay... oh, wait, no it doesn't.

Angela Ackerman said...

I'm not meaning to laugh at your medical woes, but this: <> made me snort Diet Dr Pepper up my nose!


Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Marsha Sigman said...

LOL, I am laughing my ass off right now!

I am so using the Justin B comment.hahaha

I would also like to add that depending on your network of doctors over here, you can actually end up with foreigners who have heavy accents. I don't mind a bit, usually the service is awesome, until I am trying to understand what the hell is wrong with me. One time I came home from the doctor and told my husband that I was either fine or going to be dead within the week. Whatever.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I can't believe how different the medical system is. Who would ever think the medicine would be so different.

Don't worry about making the NaNo word count. You can only do what you can do and the point is to make progress, which is sounds like you've done.

Amy Holder said...

I can't believe the health care system there! Wow, what a pain...literally and figuratively. Good luck with everything, including NaNo!