We had a new kind of adventure on Saturday. Not the kind of adventure we normally go on. Not an adventure we were expecting to go on or had planned for.
At about 10am, I was on the phone to Nick. Mum was yelling at me for pain killers, which isn’t unusual. She’s always dipping into my stash for her headaches. But this time it was for Dad. Which was weird. Dad doesn’t normally take pain killers. Dad isn’t usually sick enough to take pain killers. Then Mum started asking about appendicitis… I got up out of bed pretty quickly (we have a habit of ‘conversing’ by yelling at each other across the hallway!) and went into their room to find Dad clutching his side and his face contorted in pain. This wasn’t normal. Mum and I scrambled around, messaging and calling our Chinese friends to try to get hold of someone to tell us where we could take Dad. We got hold of Mum’s colleagues, who gave us the address for the Drum Tower hospital, we jumped in a cab and took off.
Thank goodness for Google Maps, which I was following the whole time we were in the cab, crossing my fingers that we were going to the right place. Once we got closer, Google Maps showed me where we needed to go. I love Google Maps!!! I ran ahead of Mum and Dad to try to find the right entrance, looked for someone to help us at the front desk. Now I have always said that Chinese people are not rude, and yet they do not seem to be very good at our Western version of customer service. The hospital was no exception. None of the people sitting behind the long counter seemed very interested in helping us. A security guard took pity on us and helped us. He took the little receipt type piece of paper we got with a barcode on it, walked us up the hallway and showed us how to scan it. He didn’t speak English but he indicated that we needed to wait until our number came up on the screen. He was wonderful! And then another wonderful face walked in! Yuyu, one of the Chinese girls who works in Mum’s office, walked in. And promptly took over. We gave her the barcode receipt thing, she went to talk to the nurses and we waited. Apparently there were five people in the queue ahead of us. Dad couldn’t keep still, he was in so much pain. We were really worried it was appendicitis. We didn’t think it was but until they ruled it out, it was a pretty frightening possibility.
This wasn’t like any emergency centre back home. There was a waiting area, with seats, where we were waiting. There were about 7 open cubicles down on side of the large room. There seemed to be a doctor and his desk in each cubicle. The walls were low enough that I could easily peek over the top of each ‘wall’. Nurses allocated patients and their families to the cubicles, but people also took the initiative to crowd certain cubicles to try jump the queue to get to talk to or see a doctor faster. Against the wall on the other side of the cubicles seemed to be closed off private rooms, but I couldn’t figure out if these were for paperwork, staff only or patients.
Along the opposite side of the room, behind the nurses desk, were what seemed to be lots of old people on beds with wheels and their accompanying family members. There was one or two younger persons lying on beds, and they looked in pretty serious conditions, one with a neck brace on. None of the nurses seemed in any particular hurry to do anything. It was all very foreign to us, even beyond the language barrier!
We think that Yuyu managed to jump the queue, because we went from 4 people in front of us to all of a sudden, yup we’re up! Poor Dad had to shift around into on of the cubicles, the doctor talked to Yuyu in Chinese and, without laying a single finger on Dad, he sent us off to get Dad’s blood and urine tested. No physical exam, merely a few questions, and that was it! Yuyu raced off down the corridor, asking people along the way to try to figure out where we needed to go for the tests.
Mum helped Dad hobble along, as it was right down the end of the hallway. Three windows in the wall with hospital staff on the other side. They sent Dad to the bathroom next door with a little paper cup to pee in. once he had done that, Dad sat at the window, put his arm on the counter, they strapped a rubber strap to his arm and took the blood. All efficient and brusque. There was a self service machine where you checked to see if your results were ready or not. When they were, this machine printed them out for you. Yuyu told us to go back and wait n the main waiting area where we had been before, and she would wait for the results. Which we were really thankful for because between the loo’s and the disposal bins full of the discards from blood tests and pee tests…. Well it smelled pretty damn terrible.
Yuyu was amazing. She came back with the test results, went to see a doctor with them, had to do back to get another copy of the results, waited to see another doctor, and then I am pretty sure she had to go back and get a THIRD copy of the results for some reason. When we finally got Dad in front of a doctor, there were about 7 other people (as in other than Dad, Mum, Yuyu and myself) trying to squash into the cubicle. Dad was puking at this stage, and I took great pleasure at watching them all jump out of the way as I took the bowl that he had spewed in to the other side of the cubicle to empty and rinse out. You should have seen how fast they moved out of my way!!! That doctor took us to another cubicle to see another doctor who actually looked at Dad. He hit him on the lower back a couple of times to see where/if it hurt, and then proceeded to diagnose Dad with possible kidney stones. Which was a much better possibility than appendicitis!
We were sent off to get Dad a jab in the bum (which he was NOT very happy about, but my Mother’s sick sense of humour found it quite amusing) and then to get a CT scan which, thankfully, was on the other side of the same floor.
You know how in Australia and New Zealand, places where you gets tests or scans are generally seperate clinics, or at least have a front desk where someone can take your name, tell you how long to wait and when its your turn. Not in China! Yuyu spent a good ten minutes asking and knocking on doors and trying to figure out who we needed to talk to to get the scan done. She found someone, they went in and I chilled out in the waiting area with all our bags. Until Mum poked her head out of a doorway and said, “Oi! Get in here!” The door to the room where the technicians were analysing the scans on their computers was wide open and anyone could have walked in. A random man did exactly that! Dad was in the CT machine and his scan was up on the computer. We could all see it. Along with a brain scan on the other computer, obviously someone else’s. Just sitting there. It was incredible and weird. They had to change the language on the machine from Chinese to English so that Dad knew when to hold his breathe, when to let his breathe out, etc. And we were watching everything on the computer, as well as watching Dad through the glass!
Back home, my Nanny has just been in hospital, had tests and had to wait a day or two (or three?!) for the results. Dad’s CT scan results were available to the doctors on their computers immediately, and we could go pick up the hardcopy of his results in 90 minutes!
Back in the big waiting room with cubicles, the doctors confirmed that it was a small kidney stone which had left the kidney and was stuck in his urinary tract. It was a pretty tight fit in there for this kidney stone, hence the pain that Dad was in. The doctors solution was to put Dad on an IV drip, give him an anti-inflammatory, a pain killer and an antibiotic to help him pass the kidney stone. So Yuyu, our hero, ran off to fill the prescription so that Dad could get the IV in.
Now, getting an IV put in back home is something that hospital staff would do only after you were admitted. Being on an IV generally means a stay of at least one night on hospital. Yet another huge difference between China and New Zealand! This hospital actually had a HUGE room specifically for persons who were not admitted but were having various medications (prescriptions filled by the pharmacy next door) or even just fluids administered intravenously. When I say huge room, I mean made to accommodate 70 people and their IV bags. It was crazy. And it wasn’t a room I could stay in long. I love my Dad but there was no way I could sit in that room, with all those people and a weird unidentifiable smell in the air, and watch them stick a needle in his hand. I waited outside. Mum had to deal with it. She’s married to him after all!
And then the waiting began. Dad was hooked up to the IV for about 2 hours. We sat. I read books on Mums Kindle. We wandered and found a McDonalds, which was amazing because we hadn’t eaten all day. We bought Dad fruit and he didn’t want to eat it. We went to pick up his CT scan results. And we waited some more. It was about 6pm by the time we were able to go home. Catching a taxi was a mission but we managed it in the end.
Getting home felt soooooooo good. Home didn’t smell like stale human fluids, or the outside of the mens bathroom. Home smelled clean and fresh and pleasant! It was soooooooo good to be home! We were knackered. Dad was feeling a bit better thanks to the pain killers, but he was pretty beat from all of the pain and tension. Mum and I were just glad it was a kidney stone. We were talking about how if Dad needed more serious medical attention, we’d just book into the Intercontinental Hotel, which was only a few hundred metre from the hospital, take turn running back and forth to the hospital for his meds, and take care of him ourselves. Which is pretty much what families seemed to be doing at the hospital anyway. We only saw one patient in a bed being wheeled around by hospital staff. And there were heaps of patients being wheeled around in their beds! Being wheeled around by their families to get blood tests, CT scans, waiting to have an IV put in, getting wheeled from the IV area to the bathrooms. One guy was lying in a bed with a next brace on. He looked in pretty bad shape. And we watched three times as three of his family members wheeled him to the bathroom to help him go to the toilet… He was in a neck brace! Some lovely husbands or boyfriends carried their wives/girlfriends on their backs. Others hopped around because they couldn’t walk properly for whatever reason. Old people, who looked pretty near dead, were being wheeled around for tests and being administered meds via IV.
It’s a pretty new building and set up in Nanjing, and I get the feeling that it’s one of the more advanced, modern hospitals in the city. It doesn’t feel dirty or third world at all. It just highlights the differences between the medical care that I am used to, and the medical care here in China. Things like, having to stand in a queue upon arrival so that you can be given a receipt type piece of paper with a barcode on it before you can go through to the waiting room. Even for a poor guy I saw who had blood dripping out of his bandaged head! Obviously, all of our observations came from what we could see, as we couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying!
Dad’s home now. The kidney stone hasn’t passed yet, and he’s eaten all of my good strong pain killers. He still hurts intermittently and his tired from having to deal with the damn stone and the pain. Having Yuyu at the hospital with us was amazing. It’s times like these when you really appreciate the effort that other people put into you and your family. ‘Adventures’ that you would never have chosen to go on, but once you’ve experienced them, you learn so much. Like we learned so much about an emergency hospital visit in Nanjing!