I have terrible allergies. For those of you who know me, you know I always sound/seem sick...but I'm not, it's just my allergies. One thing that I absolutely love about being in China is that my allergies do not bother me and I do not need to take all the daily nose spray and pills that I used to. Yay!!
When I first arrived in China my body needed to acclimate to my new environment and I got really sick during the winter. It seems that all the other foreigners that I have talked with here have gone through the same sickness pattern after they arrived also. I had bronchitis, a sinus infection, and strep throat, all at the same time! And, I had to work...no sick time. My helper, Janice (I absolutely love her! She is wonderful!), took me to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist who diagnosed me and prescribed a bag full (I'm not exaggerating) of medicine for me to take, and had me do nebulizer breathing treatments for my throat.
Going to the doctor in China is similar, and different, than going to the doctor in the USA.
- You register and receive a patient ID number.
- You go to the area of the clinic/hospital where your doctor is located.
- You see the doctor and he asks you questions about what's going on with your health.
- The doctor uses the same type of equipment/instruments to check you out.
- The doctor diagnoses you, prescribes medications, and tells you to drink lots of fluids.
- You pay for your office visit and medications.
- You pick-up your medications from the on-site pharmacy.
- You go home.
- You must pay 2 RMB (equivalent to 0.32 USD) for your medical card. The card contains your electronic medical record, so no matter where you go for medical services in China, it can be swiped and your record can be accessed by the current medical staff. You will also receive a paper booklet for the doctor to write his notes and diagnosis in.
- The exam room and waiting room are "all in one". You will be examined while other patients are waiting and watching. By watching, I mean..."all up in your business".
- There is no privacy about your medical condition. Waiting patients will ask questions about you and your illness, and the doctor will tell them. Being a foreigner makes it even worse, people are curious about you and want to know every detail, and want to look at what's wrong.
- There is no "wait your turn" or "first come, first served" mentality here, at least that's how it was at the ENT. The pushier, more up in the doctor's face you are, the sooner you are seen. Note: This point applies to everything!
- You will be given Chinese medicine and Western medicine. So, a mixture of herbal drinks and pills, along with antibiotics and, in my case, asthma inhalers.
- Unless you speak Mandarin Chinese, you will need a translator.
- Cleanliness is questionable.
- Single-use items are used multiple times. I had to do a breathing treatment using the same tubing for the nebulizer that many people before me had used. I waited for the person before me to finish, and then the mouth piece was just cleaned in hot water. The mouth piece is plastic and was chewed up with teeth marks from all those persons before me. Needles...the most important single-use item. I want any needle that is going to be inserted into my body to be new and sterile! No ifs, ands, or buts! There have been many instances here of facilities reusing needles to keep costs down. That's worrying.
- The cost is much less (about $10 USD for an office visit and medication).
When I was being examined by the ENT, the whole "lack of privacy" thing was strange. The other people waiting to be seen, or waiting for their family members to be seen, kept asking questions about me and my condition, and the doctor would go into full on discussions pointing to my nose, sinuses, and throat. A couple of people were even squatting close so they could see up my nose while the doctor was examining it! My God...I can only imagine what it would be like to get a pelvic exam done here...feet up in stirrups, people jockeying for the best view... My uterus will have to rot out before I want to experience that!
A couple of weeks ago I had an episode that caused me to go to the hospital. It was 100˚ F, feeling like 117˚ F, humidity around 96%...this is what the weather app on my phone said. I got on the bus, the driver turned on the air conditioning and closed all of the windows, I could smell mold and mildew from the air conditioning vent that was blowing in my face. A few blocks down the road I started having an allergy attack, runny nose and itchy eyes, a few more blocks and I started having difficulty breathing. I started to panic and got off the bus immediately, and called Janice so she could meet me at the hospital (I need her to translate for me). At the hospital, I was registered and seen immediately because of the difficulty breathing. It ended up that I had an anaphylactic allergic reaction, more than likely due to the mold from the bus' air conditioning as I'm highly allergic to mold, which caused an acute asthma attack. A couple different asthma meds for a few days, and I was back to normal.
I do think that I freaked Janice out though with the whole "difficulty breathing" incident. She wanted to call me an ambulance, but I said no (it felt like allergies and asthma, and I was certain that I could make it the few blocks to the hospital). Janice works for the same company that I do, and the company says she is responsible for me. I bet that she thinks it will be her responsibility to dispose of my body if I die here...and she would probably be correct.
Here are a few pictures from inside the hospital where my ENT is...
Medical cards for each hospital that I've visited...
The paper booklet medical records...
Medications of various kinds...
Liquid cough syrup in glass vials. They come with straws that you insert into the vial so you can suck up the medicine...
Pills, powders, and granules...
That's all for now. It's time for me to take something for this cold I have...and take a nap.