My Korean Hospital Adventure

As a lot of you already know, I have been ill for about 2 weeks now. First, I had the flu for a few days, felt better, then had a cold for a few days, felt better, and then on Wednesday I woke up with a cough that made my lungs feel like they were going to pop and I had such horrible chest pain that it was hard to breathe.

For reasons that are still unknown to me, I decided I would go in to work. I figured that I could let my co-teacher take the lead (I had a cooking class for 3 hours) and that perhaps I would take the afternoon off. Do you know that one of the hardest things to do is to be friendly and pleasant when you feel absolutely miserable? This is especially true when it’s a class of 3rd- and 4th-graders who are there to have a good time cooking with the fun foreign teachers. It is even more true when your co-teacher has never done cooking before and needs YOU to take the lead.

I lasted as long as I could, but I had to tell the Head Teacher around 11:00am that I needed to see a doctor, so he filled in for me and I walked (yes, walked) the 20 minutes to the English-speaking doctor’s office in Paju. Along the way there were hills, snow, and bitter-cold wind to walk through. I had to take several rests along the way because of my violent cough and shortness of breath. I thought it would have been silly to take a cab such a short distance, but in retrospect, I probably could have killed myself doing what I did.

I got to the doctor’s office and had to wait only 10-15 minutes before I was seen. I told the doctor my symptoms, then he took my temperature (39 C/103 F) and looked in my throat (my tonsils are swollen and I have bloody spots on my uvula and throat) and told me that I needed to go to the hospital immediately. The lady at the front desk called me a cab and off to Geumchon Hospital I went.

It was 12:30pm when I arrived, and the person at the front desk told me that they were on lunch break and that I would have to come back at 1:30pm. I had nowhere to go, so I just found a table in the corner, sat down, and put my head down to rest. I couldn’t relax enough to actually fall asleep, but I think I did doze off for a few minutes here and there.

As soon as it was 1:30, I went and checked in. Nobody there spoke a word of English, and I obviously don’t know enough Korean to explain what was wrong with me, so I just said “influenza” (making the “z” sound more like a “j” a la Korean pronunciation of English words). I was immediately taken to a separate waiting room, which seemed to be in a different unit of the hospital. There were only a few other people there, so the wait wasn’t long. I went in to see the doctor, showed him my symptoms via hand gestures and miming, and then he ordered that I get my chest X-rayed. I had that done, then came back to the same waiting room.

When my X-ray came, I was called in to see the doctor again. He was talking and pointing to various parts of the picture, but the only word I understood was “OK.” I am pretty sure that what he said a couple of times was “pneumonia,” but even now, I’m not positive that that’s what I have. Anyway, next thing I know, I’m whisked away to a hospital bed and put on an IV for 3 hours. Man, those things hurt! I thought the worst part would be when they stick the tube into you (I had one on my right hand and one on the inside of my left elbow), but the worst part was the last hour when my arms were just killing me. It was so painful that my eyes watered that entire hour and I just stared up at the IV pouch, wishing it would drip faster so I could get the heck outta there. It was just one hour, but it felt like 20.

When the IV pouch was finally empty, the nurse removed them from my hand and arm (ouch again) and I was brought to the front desk to pay (because if they had simply told me, I wouldn’t have understood what they said). $18! That’s even better than my $30 co-pay when I went to the ER when I had mono.

After I had paid, the woman kept saying something and pointing towards the door, so I assumed I was being told to leave – but I was confused, because I was sure I was supposed to get some medicine because I was clearly sick. Luckily, one of the guys in the waiting room was watching and came over to me, told me IN ENGLISH (thank God) that I needed to take my prescription to the pharmacy across the street (so that’s what that paper was that they handed me – entirely in Korean) and pointed me in the right direction. I thanked him, walked out the door and across the street to the pharmacy, and within 2 minutes (I kid you not), I had all the drugs that I’m to take for the next 5 days. There are 6 pills that I have to take with every meal, 3 times a day (the pharmacist knew enough English to say “6 pills breakfast, 6 pills lunch, 6 pills dinner. 5 days.” Wonderful. I was finally going to get well!

Being in Geumchon – sort of the downtown of Paju – I expected to be able to find a cab easily, especially with it being rush hour. No such luck. I found what I thought to be a busy street and waited about 20 minutes, not seeing even one cab. I started to walk around and found a couple of bus stops, but none of them were any bus numbers that I could take to English Village. Plus, I remembered that I didn’t have my bus card with me, and I didn’t have any cash on me, so a cab was my only option. I found another busy street and finally saw a cab, put my arm out, and with that, I was on my way back home.

I got back to the apartment shortly after Glenn had come home after work, which was good timing because he had started to worry about me. Neither one of us have phones yet (we’ve been meaning to get them but I keep being sick on the weekends) so I had no way of letting him know where I was or when I would be home (I hadn’t been there at lunch time, so all he knew was that I had probably gone to the doctor’s during lunch and I’m sure he didn’t think I would get home so late). I had sort of an emotional meltdown just from the frustrations of the day: walking to the doctor’s office just to be told that I had to go to the hospital, not really understanding anything that was happening at the hospital, being on the IV for 3 hours but not knowing why, being unable to communicate with anyone there, having a hard time getting a cab to come home, and not really sure of what exactly was wrong with me. I felt a little better, but physically, I was still a wreck. I went on to have a rough night, because I could only sleep a couple of hours at a time. I was so cold that I was shivering, but I was sweating so much at the same time that I kept having to change my clothes.

Needless to say, I took another sick day today (Thursday) and will go in to work tomorrow only because it’s a half day and it will be devo all afternoon. I’ve spent most of today sleeping, so hopefully, I will be feeling a little better tomorrow. I can tell the medicine is working already because my coughs aren’t dry anymore – I’m coughing up all the bacteria that are in my lungs (which is possibly the most horrible taste ever) and my chest pain has subsided. I’ll be able to rest all weekend and hopefully, will be able to work Monday. I’ve only got half a sick day left before I have to start using vacation days.

So, that was my Korean hospital adventure (or nightmare?). In other news, they have released another video of English Village showing different footage – and guess who is the star?! Our very own Glenn Vickerman! Check it out: http://gnews.gg.go.kr/popup/pop_movie_news.asp?number=201301111804254703C048

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2 Responses to My Korean Hospital Adventure

  1. zimzimmie1 says:

    ACK! I really hope that medicine helps! What an ordeal! GET BETTER! NOW! 😉

  2. I’ve heard those IV bags contain ‘miracle’ juice…and if you have even the slightest inkling of a cold, one bag will cure you. Of course, we live in Korea so that could be a slight lie.

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