Posted by Robert July 21, 2008 Living in China
The ceiling above my outstretched body was just a blur as my stretcher was rushed down a long dark corridor. "Get out of the way! Move it!." I am guessing that is what my Chinese attendants were yelling as they rolled me towards a large operating room on the other end of the hospital. For a moment, I panicked. Why were they yelling? Why the rush? I was just going in to have my appendix removed, was I not? And then I remembered. I was in China; a place where cars do not yield the way for ambulances, a place where everyone is looking out for their own interests. A combination of speed and frantic yelling was the only way my attendants could expect to push my stretcher through the masses of other patients waiting for help.
Tonight there is a full moon outside my window; I think it looks yellow. I have seen many full moons during my travels but tonight I am seeing one from somewhere I never hoped to be; a hospital room in Central China.
I turn my head away from the window and crane my neck to the left. There are two other patients in my room. One woman, who is next to me, had a tumor on her backside removed yesterday. She is resting comfortably now but she has been moaning off and on. Next to the door is a young man who underwent the same operation as I did. Unfortunately, his wound became infected so he is still in a great deal of pain. I feel blessed; my wound, while it is sore, is healing nicely according to the doctor.
I was not scared until I was wheeled into the operating room. I had never had an operation anywhere before, but here I was in China, a third world country, about to undergo an appendectomy. The pain had started on Tuesday morning after I had arrived in one of China's largest cities via a 4 hour bus ride. It was also one of the hottest cities in China. I thought that I was just suffering from a bad stomachache. I drank orange juice and water while I waited in line to buy a train ticket. I was out of luck. I could not even find a ‘standing room only' ticket to where I wanted to go.
之前我并不感到 害怕，直到我被推进手术室。我之前从来没在任何地方做过手术，但是在这儿，在中国，一个第三世界国家，我要做一个阑尾切除手术。疼痛开始于周二早上，在我通过4小时车程来到中国最大的城市之一 之后。同时，它也是中国最热的城市之一。开始我以为是我的胃痛。我在排队买火车票的时候，喝了点橙汁和水，我真倒霉，我甚至都没能买到去我想要去的地方的站票。
I would have to try flying or taking a bus. Four hours later my discomfort was so great that I could barely stand up. I had, however, managed to secure a bus ticket which would afford me a bed and hopefully a good night's sleep. I purchased the ticket at 15:55; the bus, which would carry me for 12 hours into the south of China, was leaving at 16:00. I rushed to the gate only to find that there was a big red metal lock on the door. There was a delay, I was told. The bus would be leaving an hour late. As it turned out, this delay may have saved my life.
By 16:30, I knew that I could not get on the bus. I was still convinced that I was just suffering from a bad stomachache but the thought of being trapped on a bus for the next 12 hours was almost unbearable. I called some friends in a city a few hours away and asked them to help me cancel my bus ticket. It was not easy but a sympathetic supervisor was able to refund me 80% of the ticket value. I could have cared less; I just wanted to find a cool place to lie down.
Fast forward two hours. I am pacing back and forth in my hotel room; it is the only way I can be comfortable. I have tried to throw up but I can only dry heave; nothing can take the pain away. I am also annoyed. Checking into this little hotel had been a big hassle. I was standing there at the front desk literally moaning with discomfort while the hotel clerks copy information from my passport onto a slip of paper that they must retain for their records. The paper is in English and Chinese; my passport Visa is also in English and Chinese. The process usually takes 5 minutes but they cannot seem to figure it out. What is my last name? Is it Vance? No, it must be Robert. Where was I born? Is it the same place where my passport was issued? I am growing more and more frustrated; my discomfort is also growing. I have to kneel down. I do not understand what is taking so long. I finally stand up and try to grab the passport from them.
I tell them in Chinese that I can do it. They smile and shake their heads. They tell me to wait. I watch as they slowly and methodically write every letter of my first middle and last names on their slip of paper. Twenty minutes later I find my hotel room. It takes me five minutes to figure out how to open the door; I think I was a little delirious. I throw my bag on the floor and I rush to the bathroom. I am just closing the bathroom door when I hear a knock on my hotel door. Guess who? It's Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum again. They forgot to copy something from my passport. They need to see it again. I shove it to them through a crack in the door and wait for them to return.
我用中文告诉他们，我能搞定这些。他们微笑着朝我摇摇头。他们告诉我让我等会。我看着他们慢慢地、有条不紊地在他们的那张纸上，写下我名字的每一个字母。20分钟后，我找到我的房间。我花了五分钟弄清楚怎样开房间的门：我想我变得有点神志不清了。我把包丢到地上，冲进浴室。正当我准备关上浴室门的时候，我听到了敲门声。猜猜是谁？又是Tweedle Dee 和Tweedle Dum两兄弟（译注：卡通人物，《爱丽丝梦游仙境》里的胖子双胞胎兄弟。） 。他们忘记从我的护照上复制一些信息，他们需要再看看我的护照。我从门缝里将护照递给他们，然后等着他们还给我。
Fast forward two hours. My friends hired a car and came from a city 2 hours away. Maybe I am still in denial about what I am experiencing but they are convinced that there is something seriously wrong with me. We find the nearest hospital which was not very near at all. Maybe 25 minutes away. We walk into the emergency room.
I talk with a doctor who can speak some English. She has me lay down on a small bed. She presses into my stomach and I whimper in pain. She nods her head knowingly and then sends me upstairs for some more tests. They test my blood and they give me an ultrasound. A surgeon examines me and he nods his head knowingly as well. I have appendicitis; I need an operation.
I spent my first night in the intensive care room; I cannot really call it a unit because there were at least 20 other people with me. Many of them seemed to be much worse off than I. Towards the front of the room was another standalone small room where the nurses prepared medicine and stored their notes. By this time, I was hooked up to an IV and my discomfort lessened as the inflammation around my appendix subsided.
The next fedays are nothing but a medicated hazy medicated memory for me. I remember being rushed dramatically to the operating room.
I remember the doctors peering down at me with curiosity and perhaps some amusement written on their faces as they tried to practice their English. I remember the injection into my stomach and spine area and the doctor telling me to "be still." I clearly remember the mask that was placed over my face. I said a prayer and there was darkness.
Pipes. One big pipe and a lot of small pipes. This was the first sight that greeted my hazy eyes when at last I regained consciousness. I was not in the operating room. In fact, I was not in a room at all. I quickly ascertained that I was resting on a small portable bed in a long dark corridor. I was not alone. When I groggily got up to use the bathroom I saw dozens of beds, lined up on the right side one after another all the way down the corridor. There was someone in each bed and often another person sitting on the bed or on a stool closeby.
The left side of the corridor served as a narrow path for doctors, nurses, stretchers, and visitors. So there I was. I had just undergone an operation but I was resting in a hot and unfinished hallway full of other sick people. But I did not care. I was too tired to care.
Eventually, I was moved to a small room containing two other patients. The room itself did not look much better than the hallway. There where pieces of chipped paint falling from the wall close to the door and there were more bare pipes. But it was air conditioned and more private; I was thankful for this. When I asked my friends why I had the chance to stay in the room I was told that we had "paid some extra money." Not alot but just enough to get me out of that stuffy and dark corridor.
For the next three days, I was almost constantly attached to an I.V. I told my friends that I did not want an I.V. I preferred to take the medicine orally.
My friends shook their heads as did the doctors when they heard of my request. According to Chinese medicine, my friends told me, an I.V. is a much more direct and effective way to make sure that the medicine interacts with my body properly. I did not argue anymore although, when a young nurse (presumably in training) had to poke me three times to get an I.V. going, I still wished that there was another way for me to take the medicine.
In the end, I believe that I received excellent care. We did not seek out the best hospital in town. I do not know how this hospital was rated compared to others. We just found the nearest Chinese hospital and put ourselves in the caring hands of a great staff of doctors and nurses. No, perhaps the building was not in excellent shape. Perhaps there was some chipped paint and bare pipes running through the place. I think I even saw a green neon exit sign that was hanging broken from a wire.
But the hospital seemed to be clean. The needles came out of sealed packages; the doctors and nurses wore gloves and masks and sheets were regularly changed. China may be a third world country but it is also a developing country. I was quite impressed with the medical service that I received.
When you are traveling and sickness strikes you suddenly, you just have to ignore your apprehensions and go for it. And do not forget to pray. That is what I did; I prayed all the way into the operating room. Why do I share this experience on TeachAbroadChina.com? I just want my fellow ex-pats to know that having to go to a Chinese hospital is not the ‘end of the world.' Chinese doctors are trained in Western and Chinese medicine although they are taught that they should only use Western medicine when absolutely necessary. If you have to go, do not fret too much. Most likely, you will be in good hands. I was.
Do you have a Chinese hospital experience to share with TeachAbroadChina.com? Leave us a comment below.
July 9, 2009 at 1:40 am
Third post, I think it'll be my last. Remember, Hospitals aren't available everywhere. By the way, you were a foreigner. You had a good experience because 1) You are a foreigner, and if you die in China, it'll be reported back to America and less tourists come. Result? China loses money. If you get bad care in the hospital, likewise, people will be afraid to come. The second 2) reason is, that you have money. Chinese hospitals generally will never accept patients without enough money. The 1.4 billion densely crowded population is viewed by many as a bane. If a local Chinese who is hardly known dies, they don't really care. Of course, they cover it up. You do remember showing them your passport, right? BEFORE the operation? You must be catching on to my drift!
September 3, 2011 at 6:30 pm
Chinese Medicine, Chinese hospitals. etc.
I have been here three years. The first time I went to the hospital was for my wife. She had this great Tooth ache all night.
This is in a small Village called Natong. We went to sleep that night. I was woken later that night by my wife beating herself in the face to contain the pain from her tooth.
I said let me take you to the hospital. (basically a red cross building).
She said no. She continued to beat herself in the mouth.
I put my clothes on and threw her 120 pound naked ass over my shoulder and walked a half mile to the hospital.
We got there and beat on the door. (a long time.) They finally opened the door and treated her. Later ( i'm Guessing) the Doctor chewed my ass for carrying her over my shoulder for a long distance.
I have more personal comments about Chinese Hospitals. But for now I will suggest. Stay out of them if at all possible.
However the nurses are great!!
February 5, 2012 at 12:04 am
i have been living in Changsha for 5 months now, i am a first time esl teacher here and on my third month here i started to have a pretty bad toothache, i went to the dentist before i left the states and they gave me a filling and pulled 2 wisdom teeth.
i thought it may have been something that i ate, i thought i ate something cold, i thought i had a headache, anything, i was in denial that i had a toothache i wanted it to be anything but… i was willing my body to not have a toothache because the last thing i wanted to do was have to go to a dentist in china. i even considered flying to japan or Australia to see a dentist. one night the pain became so bad that i called my liaison and off to the dentist we went. (the next day of course because he was busy) when i got there this place was bad… and i mean scary… as in i still have nightmares from this Texas chainsaw massacre style operating room… the tools and machinery looked like it was leftover from the 50′s (1850′s) and when i greeted the dentist, he offered me a cigarette (yea, smoking in a hospital in china is totally the social norm.} i ended up having 6 fillings… no pain numbing drugs, no Lidocane no Novocaine nor aspirin available for the pain of having a drill rip into your teeth…
i sat there for over an hour doing sit ups to spit out water and tooth chinks and bone dust because the suction machine apparently hadn't caught on in china at the time. after he was finished i left and i asked about a medicine to help with the pain.. there was nothing available.. no nothing.. i just wanted some drugs to make the pain go bye-bye… if there were ever a time in my life where i would have tried illegal narcotics… it would have been then. it was the worst pain that i have ever felt and there was nothing i could do about it… no pharmacy had medicine for the newly violated mouth… i found my comfort after an entire bottle of jack Daniels that i had brought from home for a special occasion… the occasion was special enough for me… after i woke up the next day from my black out i inspected the doctors work… honest to say… not to shabby… would i do it again……. hell yea i got 6 fillings for under $100 where in America can you get that for under $1,000. i would gladly undergo a shit load of pain to save $900 .
Peter Durran says:
May 9, 2012 at 1:01 am
Very interesting to read the comments about Chinese hospitals. My experience of treatment is as follows:
I had what I thought walking back home after a visit to Starbucks was heartburn and shortage of breath due to the moderate pain. It turned out to be a heart attack. I suffered the intermittent pain and discomfort overnight and as I was still having the pains, the next day decided to go to my local hospital. Due to the fact, it was late in the afternoon I was directed to the Emergency Department. Having had my hospital card swiped, had a card due to a minor problem before, so they had all my details. Then on to triage where my blood pressure and temperature was taken and due to the results was immediately laid down and had an ECG. This indicated a heart attack. I was then placed on drips and blood sample taken. I did spend the night in the emergency department and taken to a cardiac ward the next morning. For the following eight days, I can say that the care I received was beyond my expectations. A senior nurse introduced herself to me and informed me that she will be looking after me and five other patients; she also had a junior nurse to assist her.
An intern Doctor was monitoring my care and first thing, every morning would come and talk to me and several times during the day. I was in a small ward of three beds and it was a mixed ward, which appears to be normal. Within a day, we all became an extended family, which included all our visitors. I think I was a bit of a novelty and received lots of attention from staff and visitors alike. My only concern was the toilets and bathroom that was not as clean as I was use too. Overall, I was impressed with Shenyang City hospital. The follow up after being discharge with no waiting around for ECG and blood tests, results of which you get within two to three hours, compared to the UK, which takes two days as a outpatient. One thing that really impressed me was never feeling needles put in, never mind that saying you will only feel a scratch as they tell you in the UK and end up with a bruise. I hate the thought of having needles like most men. One point I would recommend and that is always have some spare cash or a Chinese bankcard, as it is pay now and claim off you insurance later.