Doctor’s Adventures in China

Emilee Franklin – Published in the Pine County Courier Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Doctor’s Adventures in China

During my six month stay in China, I had many “adventures,” at the hospitals. My most recent visit was the most comical, partially because it was the least serious. Two weeks to the date I made the fateful hour long journey from apartment to Hospital Number 5 via the #69 bus with my good friend and co-worker Ellie. I had been putting off going to the doctor due to my last few experiences. I do not know how all of the hospitals are in China. I can only speak about the ones I came to know from experience. The ones that I had been fortunate enough to visit did not have English speaking staff, and the one that did, only did during limited non-convenient hours, and not for emergencies. This meant my translating app, “Pleco,” was my best friend as my Chinese is 不好 Bù hǎo, (Not good.) Even with the app, a friend, and our combined minimal Mandarin it was still very hard to communicate with hospital staff, and some were easily frustrated with foreigners.

I had really been putting off this last visit because of my poor past experiences, and the sheer stupidity I felt with the medical “reason,” I had for coming in. After my last experiences in the hospitals I vowed I would not be back, so when I managed to get the minor malicious end of a cotton swab stuck in my ear two weeks after my last visit I was less than impressed. Yes, I know the old saying “Never stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ear”, but I would add to that by saying although nobody is supposed to use Q-tips to clean their ears, if you are going too don’t use cheap ones. This wasn’t due to “shoving it in there”, as some may think, it simply fell off as these were very cheap cotton swabs, and they certainly were not Q-tip brand. Naturally after trying to get it out myself and probably shoving it in further, a Skype session with my Mom was in order. After some quick Google research on her I-Pad she gave me a few different methods to try and get it out on my own, as she too, did not want me to go back to the hospital. Her ending advice, “go ask your friends if they can get it out, “which I reluctantly did, after three days of trying to ignore it. I waited until it was starting to really bother me. My friends, although freaked out, were very cordial about the situation. They could see the end of the Q-tip but did not want to dare take it out. So, off to Hospital Number 5, my friend Ellie and I journeyed.

Despite having frequented the hospitals in Zhuhai where I lived the registration process was still confusing. After a half an hour of wandering around and being directed to other buildings, floors, wings, and rooms we met a very nice Chinese girl who was at the hospital for the same reason. She had something stuck in her ear. She had very good English and offered to take us to registration, which we were thrilled with. While at registration I was asked the normal questions, name, age, nationality, why are you here? Then our nice Chinese translator, turned to me and asked, “Would you like the regular doctor, or the professional one?” “Excuse me,” I stammered in shock and exchanged glances with my friend Ellie, “What does that mean?” Neither the receptionist nor our new translator friend could answer this question, but I was forced to choose a level of service before continuing. I was just going to say the regular doctor before I thought, what is the price differential between the two. I mean, if it is not a whole lot of money wouldn’t anyone want the professional doctor over the regular one? Our translator replied the regular doctor is “17 Kuai”, roughly 3 USD, and the professional doctor is “30 Kuai”, roughly 5 USD, a mere 13 Kuai, or 2 USD separating the care of the two. After a careful decision and a lot of laughter I decided to splurge and go all in with a $5 doctor visit to see the professional.

There were five people waiting for the same care in front of me, but I was delayed no more than 10 more minutes in a waiting room. All of the people in front of me went in the same door to the same doctor, which made me wonder if they had all paid for the premium service?, or if there was only one service? When I sat down in the doctor’s office I was surprised to find an English speaking doctor, which I had found rare. When she peered in my ear, she laughed to herself, and said, “Ha, easy.” She got the small bothersome end of the cotton swab out with no problem. With her enthusiasm and comment I wondered of the things she may have seen in people’s ears, but for my own sake I did not dwell on that thought.

So the question remains …. The next time I go to the doctor in the U.S., should I ask to see the “professional” doctor or the “regular” doctor?

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