The last two weeks have been tough. I was busy taking exams, meeting deadlines, and then taking a little visit to the hospital. I had some stomach issues for a couple days and I needed to go to the hospital to obtain some medicine. Right after I took my exam, I headed for the city’s main island.
As soon as I stepped into the hospitals’ main doors I realized that consulting a doctor was not going to be as easy as I originally thought. I knew a little Chinese to get by, but my main sources of help were a Chinese nurse with a translator, a Danish man who spoke fluent English, and a young deaf boy asking for donations.
I first met with the nurse who had instructed me that I needed to buy a special health card before I could see a doctor. This card is entered into the hospital’s main data system and is your main ticket to make appointments and payments; it also has important information about yourself that the doctor will need. After obtaining this card, I saw a doctor quickly afterwards.
The first thing the doctor says to me is “kă” or card. I hand him my card and tell him my symptoms using a translator. Afterwards he told me I should go see a doctor in the afternoon. When he said this I became puzzled, since I already thought I was seeing a doctor I guess he just wasn’t the right kind of doctor? I thanked him and left to find the patient nurse from before since I had no idea where to go.
Well long story short, I was sent to all sorts of places in the hospital asking for directions to find a self-service card (which I never found and ended up not needing) and searching for a doctor. In the midst of all this confusion and stress, I ended up feeling very lonely in this very crowded hospital. I wanted to give up and head back to the dorm, but most of all I wanted to go back home to the familiar comfort of my family, boyfriend, and friends. However, after having a little time to cool off, I decided to take charge of this situation and make the best of it. I went back to square one: the nurse.
I told her again that I wanted to see a doctor. I got my appointment straight away, but with the same doctor from before. So I went back again to ask her if I could see another doctor. After 3 hours, I finally got my appointment and was sent to building one to wait. While waiting, I had my first encounter with the young deaf boy. He had come to ask me for a donation, but, before I could say anything, he was chased away by a security guard. Soon after I was called to the doctor’s office.
Of course the first thing he asks me is “kă.” The first thing I ask him is “Do you speak English?” (in Chinese). Luckily he spoke English and I was able to have a direct conversation with him. One thing I found out was these doctors are very, very direct and do not waste time asking you for permission to begin your check-up. After being checked I was faced with another challenge: finding the pharmacy to purchase my medicine.
Having no idea how to obtain my medicine, I approached the Danish man who stood out from the crowd. The Danish man had explained to me that he had been living in China for 10 years and understood the hospital system could be confusing at first. He kindly explained to me that I needed to enter my card in a machine that charged me and notified the pharmacy about my medicine. He then directed me to the location of these machines.
My second encounter with the young boy was when I entered my card into the machine, and he suddenly appeared next to me. He was trying to tell me something that I didn’t understand since he couldn’t speak. He then directed me to someone who told me that my card did not have money inside, so I had to find another place to enter money into my card. Things became easy after this because whenever I ran into a problem the young boy directed me to someone who could help. Towards the end, I started thinking of him as a guardian angel and gave him a donation for a non-profit that supported young kids like him. Before departing, he handed me a bracelet for the donation.
When I came back to the doctor’s office, so he could explain how to use the medicine, there were three different patients already in there. The first patient was getting their foot checked, the second patient was getting checked behind the curtain, and then the third patient had paperwork to discuss with the doctor. I waited ~ 45 minutes for the doctor. Finally, it was all over. I could head back to the dorms to study for my exam the next day.
After my exams finished, things started looking up. The medicine took effect, so I was starting to feel better. I could finally go out to celebrate with my friends, but not without wearing the bracelet the boy gave me. That bracelet now serves as a reminder to me of the lessons I learned during this experience. That no matter what situation you are faced with, there will always be people willing to lend a hand; even if you don’t notice at first.