Watching the sunrise on my balcony

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Okinawa Hospital

In celebration of my 30th birthday, I got to experience the hospital in Okinawa. It was a rough and lonely birthday. I was dealing with a boyfriend break-up and spent my whole birthday in the hospital alone. I was having some stomach pain but this had nothing to do with the break-up, it was just something else and happened to affect me at the same time. For this stomach problem ordeal, I went to the hospital a total of 6 times. The first visit was October 24th and I was both blown away and shocked by the hospital here in Okinawa. I thought we had it pretty good in Canada with our socialized medical system, but in Japan it's AMAZING. 

I had been to the doctor before April a handful of times in Canada and they just told me, this and that, but no testing was needed. I always went to walk-in facilities because I had no family doctor for the two years I lived in Edmonton before coming to Japan. Anyways, I was sure something was up, but it is hard to get testing permission when you are always seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know much about you or your situation.

So I walked into this Okinawan hospital near my school with my Philippine friend Julie (an angel I swear) and checked in. First of all the parking is free! Like does that even exist anymore? From the time I walked in and out of the hospital, it was two and a half hours total time. The doctor was a lovely Japanese man who spoke English and examined my stomach. After the manual press/feel exam he then pulled out an ultrasound machine and did an ultrasound right on the spot. I was shocked, back home it takes weeks to get an ultrasound and the doctor certainly doesn't do it! So then he told me what he thought the problem could be, and booked me in for X-rays and a CT scan. He was pulling up his dates on the computer and I was expecting to be put on a waiting list and then come back in a couple months.  He said to me "does tomorrow morning at 10am work for you?" I was dumbfounded.  You mean you don't have to wait 3 months to get a test? Wait I am not even Japanese? This is crazy! I said, "sure 10 am is great!" So his nurse then proceeded to walk me around the entire hospital, because she knew I couldn't speak Japanese and would be alone the day of my test. She showed me the room I had to go to first to get my IV of iodine, she then pressed the call button “PING PONG”. A cute Japanese man ran out to check who needed assistance, and she said "just practicing (in Japanese)," it was so helpful! Then we walked to the X-Ray room to practice tomorrow's events, and then the CT room. Finally we arrived at the last area where you wait for the results. They give you a schedule chart that tells you when each test is happening and then the estimated time for your results. You never have to wait more than an estimated time of 30 mins to get answers at this hospital.
After all the amazing help and assistance it was time to pay my bill. I figured it would cost a pretty penny for that type of service but when I got my bill it was only $34.

So the next day (my birthday) I went to the hospital and all the staff were expecting the token English teacher to come. They had a speech therapist waiting and she spoke amazing English. She stayed with me for about 20 mins and went over the procedures with me again. She is a very interesting women. For the last 5 years she taught at universities in Turkey and Thailand, recently moving to Okinawa. She was lovely but had to get back to her real duties, so I was on my own. The whole experience wasn’t intimidating at all. Japanese people have an amazing way of making you feel okay about things even if you have no idea what they are saying and poking you with needles and hooking you up to machines. The coolest part of the whole test was when they put iodine into the IV and my inside felt like they were boiling. It was the strangest feeling I have ever experienced. After it was all said and done Julie was able to come to the hospital in time for the doctor to tell us the results. He explained the problem and then suggested the next plan of action. Since it was all translated I am still kind of confused on what exactly is the problem, but Julie tried her best to explain it to me.  It was time to pay the bill and 70 bucks was all I owed. Couldn’t believe it.

November 9th I went back for some more tests. This was a very invasive test where they put a camera into my body to get a better look. The preparations for this test were so strange and I was given strange bags of food to eat for the day prior to the test. I couldn’t eat any of it because it was really gross so I just didn’t eat which, believe me, was the much better alternative. Even though I was starving and ate nothing for two days straight it was better that eating that strange liquid “food.” At the hospital I was given my own little bed to hang out in until my test about 4 hours later. I passed out and slept in the bed with a hoddie over my face, listening to random Japanese conversations and the torrential downpour of rain outside.

My little bed
During the procedure the nurse gave me some sort of painkiller through my IV. As soon as she started pushing the clear liquid into my body I started to laugh hysterically at the doctor and nurses standing over me! They probably thought I was nuts but whatever they gave me was super strong. When it was all said and done I got to sleep off the drugs in a lazy boy chair beside some cute old man, we shared a moment!
My Chair was to the right!

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