Friday, October 25, 2013

Good times at the hospital

Do you remember my post about going to the doctor?  If you forgot, HERE is the post.

In Korea, they only give you 3 days worth of medicine.  If you are not better, you are supposed to come back.  After 3 days, I was not better.  My ear still really hurt, and my nose was still runny.  So I went back to the same doctor.  He remembered me and said that my ear was still normal.  Sure didn't feel normal.  Anyway, he gave me more meds, and this time I paid $2.00 instead of 0.39 like the last time.  I guess your payment goes up every time.

Several days later, I was not any better even though I had finished all my meds.  I was supposed to meet friends for the Zombie Run on Saturday, but my ear had gotten so painful that I was almost in tears at time.  I have a pretty high threshold for pain, so when I am in pain...I mean serious business.  I had been to the clinic twice with no luck, so this time I was going to do the real deal and go to the hospital.  In Korea, going to the hospital is not like at home.  The hospital is where the specialists are I guess you could say.  I don't really know how to explain it.  It was recommended to go to Eulji Hospital, which is near City Hall.  It is an international hospital that has many specialists there.  I was meeting my friends at 12:30pm for the Zombie Run, and I really wanted to go to it.  So I decided to meet them and then leave early, grab a taxi, and go to the hospital.

Eulji Hospital
By the time I got there, the regular hours for the hospital was closed (so I couldn't just make an appointment).  They close early on Saturday afternoons.  So the information guy told me to go to the emergency room.  I was there, I was in pain, and I wasn't going anywhere, so I went to the emergency room.

I walk in to registration and hand him my ARC card.  He told me to go ahead and go inside.  I walked in to the emergency room (one big room) and several doctors and nurses come up to me, all speaking Korean of course.  Great.  This is going to be fun.  I hand them my paper, and no less than 6 men are all crowding around me, trying to piece together enough English to ask me questions and understand my symptoms.  They told me to sit down on this stool, took my blood pressure, and then they all get in a huddle and talked among themselves.  It was THE funniest thing.  I just sat there, not having any clue what was going on.  One guy spoke enough broken English among all of them, and I guess he became the designated spokesperson.

He led me to a bed and wait.

Then he came back and led me to an examination room because he wanted to look at my ear.  There were two beds in this room, and one was taken by a screaming little girl where they were doing I don't know to her.  It looked like they were picking out debris from her face.  Two people were holding her down while she screamed bloody murder.  I was about to start screaming right along with her because the doctor took his scope thing and dug around so hard in my ear.  It was so incredibly painful.  Dude!  He just dug and dug like he was digging for gold.

After that, he led me back to my bed and told me to wait.  A nurse came over a little bit later and told me that I was going to see an ENT specialist.  Woo-hoo!

I waited maybe 10 minutes, and then my spokesperson doctor friend came to get me.  We went up the not-working escalator (it wasn't on since it was after working hours) and past the cones to block off the upstairs.  We walked into the ENT's office.  The ENT didn't speak very much English so my spokesperson doctor friend translated everything for us.  He used a scope, looked down my ear, said everything looked normal, and then said that the outer ear was swollen.  He prescribed new meds and then I was led back downstairs again where I paid about $40 for the visit and the meds.  The nurse came out and brought my meds to me, and I got a taxi and went home. would think that I would get better.  Right?  Wrong!  I started getting worse almost as soon as I got home.  My ear became even more painful and my eye even became swollen.  What in the world was going on?  I started taking 800mg of Ibuprofen to help with the pain, and I made my own little warming sock.  I took a sock, put rice inside, and heated it up in the microwave.  That became my saving grace.

I suffered all day Sunday and texted my co-teacher Sunday evening and told her that I needed to go to the hospital on Monday.  The plan was to proctor a mid-term exam during 2nd period, and then I could go to the hospital.

I had taken a picture of my eye Saturday night and another picture of my eye Sunday morning.  I was amazed to see just how bad it had gotten in less than 24 hours.
Top: my eye Saturday night / Bottom: my eye Sunday morning

I went to school, proctored the exam, then found a taxi to go to the hospital.  This time I was at the hospital during office hours.  I stopped in at information, and the sweetest girl helped me and became my guide throughout my visit.  She spoke great English and led me everywhere I needed to go.  I ended seeing an opthamologist, who told me that I had a clogged tear duct at 11:00am, but I had to wait until 1:00pm to see the ENT.  So I went and had lunch during my break...found a great little cafe that had THE best chicken sandwich.  (In fact, I would get on the subway and travel over there just for that sandwich.  I might have to take Julie with me...she would really like it.)

At 1:00pm, I saw the ENT.  He was the sweetest older man, and he spoke excellent English.  He used the scope to look down my ear and said that it was so swollen that he couldn't even get to the middle ear.  He prescribed some pain medication and heavy-duty antibiotics and told me that if I wasn't better in 3 days I needed to come back to the hospital so they could admit me and give me antibiotics through an IV.  Finally!  Someone understands just how bad this was and didn't just tell me that everything looks normal.  I had also gotten recommendations from my friends here in Korea to ask, "I need to rest, don't I?".  Sick days in Korea are not common at all, and you often have to "help" encourage a doctor that you need to rest....which I know I did.  So he agreed and said that yes, I needed to rest for 3 days.  I asked for a doctor's note to take to school, and he said OK (I had to get the doctor's note downstairs and had to pay about $8.00 for it.  I didn't care.  I knew I needed it.)

My guide led me back downstairs where we paid for the doctor's visit at a money machine (almost like an ATM machine), and I got my prescriptions.  I ended up paying maybe $40 for my doctor visits and prescriptions.  My guide was so sweet, and I was grateful for her.  I have my follow-up appointment with the ENT on Monday.  She said that she wasn't working on Monday afternoon though. :(

The medicine started working right away.  I had a teacher thing later that day that I didn't want to miss.  More on that later....

I stayed home for 2 days and rested.  It was much needed.  I hung out on my couch and watched movies all day.   On Tuesday, my co-teacher and another teacher came over around lunchtime to see how I was doing because apparently all the teachers were really worried about me.  They were really sweet.  And Monday evening, Gayong, my co-teacher, brought me some porridge.  It's a Korean tradition to bring someone porridge when they are sick.  It was pretty good but a little bland.  I added some spices and made it much better.

And now, I am happy to report that I am almost completely normal.  My eye looks so much better.  It's still somewhat itchy, but itchiness means healing.  My ear looks totally normal, and there is no more pain.


  1. woohoo!!! finally! i am so glad to hear this - your eye photo had us all scared! so relieved it is all over and for only around $42.39 (seriously, $0.39??).

  2. Yes, Eva, my eye had ME scared! It looked even worse in person. I am so glad that is over!