Well, it was bound to happen eventually. I figured that if I stayed in any place long enough I would eventually need to go to the doctor. And that was something that terrified me to the bone. Anyone who knows just how uncivilized China is as a country knows still can’t imagine what kind of a terrifying show the hospitals are. I went to one for a medical exam when I first arrived. It was hell, but a shockingly fordist hell where we were sent from room to room. Getting wordlessly poked and prodded one nurse at a time without even a joke about buying us dinner first. We were treated like slabs of hanging meat.
This experience was not unique. I’ve been told by those friends who have been here for an extended period of time that you can expect the same results if you visit any doctor in China. A doctor’s visit, it should be clarified, entails going to the hospital as doctors do not have offices proper. And you go to those hospitals with every other sick person in a country of 1.5 billion. Just so you know what the odds are.
I guess before I go on with my anecdote I will just announces that I am ok. A doctor’s visit is about 90% being told that I am ok in a nice confident voice. I suffer from form of hypochondria rendered mild by the fact that my father was about the worst hypochondriac in history, and spending a childhood watching him claim to be on the precipice of the great beyond and then miraculously recovering taught me a lot about what the human experience is like. I make a mental note of every god damn ache and pain I feel, and then I make a point of remembering how it simply goes away. What I thankfully don’t suffer from is hypochondria’s 21st century, cousin, cyberchondria. I webMD every ache and pain I get, and am often able to figure out just what the fuck I don’t have. Or, as this occasion would have it, what I did have: but I am now in my 30’s and I would be a fool not to get the doctor every now and again and make sure it is all all right. Turns out my guess was 100% correct. I am going to be fine.
So now that you know not to worry, let us continue our fine tail. There are throughout China a number of western style hospitals and clinic. Besides being more expensive, the staff their all speak English and are meant to have a western bedside manner in terms of how they treat their patients. In theory.
But this is just a whole lot more of Chinese cargo cult culture. They don’t know really know what proper bedside manner is, and they are at best faking it for the audience.
My friend, one of those people stranded here longer than they should have been, recommended one of the foreign hospitals to me. All of this occurred just after new year, so the first two days of my endever were dedicated to trying to make an appointment only to find that it was closed either for the holiday or the weekend. I am not sure what I would have done in the eventuality of an actual emergency, but I guess that is a bridge to be burned when it actual occurs. When I finally was able to make the appointment I found a surprising level of professionalism over the phone. I made an appointment for the following morning and I was surprisingly confident about how things were going.
Those days were clouded in the kind of Chinese smog that legends will one day be made of. I could see the ground from the window of my 16th floor apartment, but I mean just barely. I got in a taxi and made it out there in a reasonable amount of time. The complex was a part of Zheijing University, the largest and most important one around these parts, and I think a pretty respectable one just as far as these things go. I found where I needed to go and entered the building, only to find a solid mass of bodies hanging out in the lobby of the building. Everywhere you looked there was a body waiting for something or the other. Thankfully, I was going to the fifth floor where the international clinic was, and hopefully, a few people less. The elevators were coordinated (odd elevators go to odd floors, even elevators go to even floors) which is something I approve of until I am not paying attention and get into the wrong one.
Well, I was right! On the fifth floor there was an extremely crowded dentist and an almost totally empty international clinic. I walked in and behind the reception where two nurses and a doctor busy gossiping and playing a game of Ass-Grabby-Grabby (big shout out to Security Weekly). I felt a bit awkward interrupting them, but decided to do so nonetheless. I introduced myself and was given the normal pamphlet of things I had to fill in about my name, next of kin insurance etc. But this was exactly where I wanted to be. A proper damn doctor’s office just like everywhere in the civilized world, with the same gaudy yet comfortable chairs and piles of month’s old magazines littered about for us to nervously look at while we wait for our appointments.
I only filled in my name and phone number when the nurse came to tell me not to bother with the rest of the forms, and that the nurses were to start the preliminary tests. They took my blood pressure and informed me that it was a bit high in that same tautological tone that the Chinese seem to love speaking in. They inform you that your blood pressure is high just the same way the caption in the museum informs you that “The chair being sat upon is a chair.” Then they wanted to weigh me.
Now, I am fully aware of just how fucking overweight I am. I weigh myself every morning, just to spite death. But these people decided to weigh me on an old school analogue Chinese scale, which apparently topped off at 110 kilos. That is a full 16 kilograms, about 32 pounds, short of my weight. Thankfully I have no shame.
“I am 126 kilos” I told the nurse who was weighing me as a stepped off the antiquated scale. “I am very sure of this because I weigh myself every day.”
(I will conclude this story next week. Fear not! I won’t pull the shit I did last time and keep this going for several months. This story is finished next week. I promise.)