Sunday, August 31, 2008

now, turn your head and then cough

In order to get a Chinese visa to live or work in China, you have to turn in a bunch of paperwork, pay a big fee, and get a physical examination in the United States before you arrive. Oh, and apparently you ALSO need to get a physical examination when you get to China.

Do you remember getting a physical exam for high school or junior high? Probably not. In the United States they're pretty uneventful experiences, for my most recent one my doctor glanced at my chart, did a quick exam of my lungs with a stethoscope, took a quick look at my throat and ears, then signed me off as healthy and ready to work.

Not so in China.

Chinese physicals are much more intense than any kind of medical ANYTHING I've had done in the United States. I'm a pretty healthy girl, so I don't have a ton of experience in hospitals, but trust me, my Chinese hospital experience takes the cake.

To start things off, we had to leave the school at 6:45 in the morning. I'm still pretty out of it from the 15 hour time difference between here and home, anxious about teaching, and feel like a child because of the whole not being able to speak the host language thing, so I was pretty much a walking zombie when we got to the hospital, which was a good hour van ride away.

All eleven foreign teachers I'm working with were required to go through the physical examination. We handed someone at the front desk our passports, were given a form to fill out and a slip of paper with a number, then pointed in the direction of a waiting area.

In the waiting area numbers were called out slowly and we had to go into a little room where a webcam sat on the desk taking our photograph as the assistant grabbed our forms from us and inputed them into the system.

This whole time none of us have any idea what's going on, since none of us speak Chinese and no one there spoke English.

We all have to go change into gowns, which is where it got interesting. We put our belongings into small lockers, and then preceded to be pushed and shoved from one room to the next with no explanation at all. If hospitals could be assembly lines, this hospital would be the model to which all other hospitals aspired to be like. Each room had a different purpose, and each patient was seen for about 2 minutes maximum by each "doctor". Who even knows what kind of degrees these people had.

I had to have about half a dozen different procedures done, and it was all done so quickly that I didn't even have time to protest. I stood on this metal thing, that apparently took my weight and height through some kind of laser beam, but I didn't see or feel anything so I really don't know how it all worked.

Next, I was pushed into this dark room with one single light in the far corner. The being pushed thing was the most unnerving aspect of it all (at least initially), because it made me feel completely out of control of what was going on. I had a chest x-ray, but at the time didn't realize that was what was going on until the guy shoved my chest against the machine and shouted something in Chinese in my ear.

Then I had to get blood taken. I'm not even going to mention the statistics on dirty needles in China to you, but I had no choice so I did it. They looked clean to me, and it seemed like they were using new needles each time, but who knows what they did with the needles afterward or if they re-used them from day to day or what.

Next was an eye exam which was pretty standard. Every room was so big with just a small desk and a doctor sitting there. For some reason it reminded me of Saw in terms of the overall ambiance of the place (dark, grimy, full of shadows). It's never a good sign to be reminded of a horror movie when you're at the doctor. After testing my sight, the doctor shoved a light up my nose and then aggressively pointed for me to leave.

I sat in the hall with a bunch of other bewildered foreigners for a few minutes, waiting for the ultrasound room to be free. Both men and women had to get ultrasounds of their stomachs and lower abdomens. Good news people, I'm not pregnant! No actually, I still don't know what they were looking for and what they found, and I'll probably never know.

After being poked to the point of bruising by the ultrasound technician, I had to get an EKG. The EKG machine was very archaic looking (like everything else in the hospital) and instead of plastic sensors everything had little metal suction cups on it. Very strange.

Finally, I had my "general examination" which consisted of a woman nurse rubbing on my stomach then asking "You have surgery???" I was kinda confused as to whether she meant EVER, or if I was to have surgery sometime later that day, so I just went with "No".

After that, I was pulled back into the changing area, where I put my clothes back on and prayed that they used clean needles.

Note to self: don't get sick here.


Anonymous said...

"...and then you were RAPED"

KC said...

great. You probably have SARS!!!

Strawberry said...

anon - is that your go-to story ending, kinda like "....and then i found 20 bucks"?

kc - can't wait to get home and INFECT YOU ALL!

Andy said...

LOL at the story... And the needle thing is just... wrong.

But then again, having to provide needles for a billion people isn't probably easy.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

The ultrasound was probably looking for stones in your abdomen and such. And to check and see if you were pregnant, but the stones is why the guys and girls both were done.

Apparently, you're clean because otherwise, they'd go fishing for bezoars in order to protect against poisons. Mmmm...ground up gall stone in my coffee. Tasty.