By Amanda Sinclair
I struck down, after 6 months living in China. It came on slowly, and then suddenly hit. I thought it was a simple bug, and armed with antibiotics written in Chinese, I headed to the pharmacy and bought myself some medication, thinking that, an early night, and lots of water would see me right as rain. And yes, you can buy antibiotics over the counter here in China without a need for a prescription.
My plan did not work out as I had expected. Instead I went to bed feeling worse, if that was possible than I originally felt, and was even up throughout the night running to and from the bathroom. So my hope of a restful night, and plenty of sleep did not work. I called into work sick the next day, thinking the tablets hadn’t had enough time to kick in, and promising myself the day of rest that I probably needed. Plus I didn’t want to make any children ill.
The Next Day:
Come the next day, I arm myself with plenty of water, a blanket, my medication and a comfy seat. I am adamant that I will beat this. The cough will go, the world will stop spinning, and I will be able to hold down food long enough to digest it. Again though, the’ best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray..’ and it was not to be. By the end of the day, after feeling like I was on a continuous carousel, I rang work again, and had to tell them that I didn’t think I could safely come into work again, and apologise, and then ring our Chinese and English liaison at school to see if she would take me to see a doctor the next day. Then I settled down for another night of hacking, coughing induced vomiting, and sweating. Being sick is such an ugly way to be.
Now, it is the third day I have had to be off of work, and I am feeling so bad. I haven’t taken this much time off for an illness since I had my tonsils removed in year 9, and then that was because I had to have an operation. I was feeling awful for all the teachers who, with an already full work load, had to take on my classes as well.
I finally left the apartment to meet the liaison at 10am outside the school, to go to the Clinic. Hospitals are apparently closed on a Sunday, well the walk in hospitals anyway. So after a very slow walk, so that I didn’t faint, and could still breathe between my coughing fits, we arrive at the clinic. It is unobtrusive, and I wouldn’t have given it a second glance if I had walked past it, which I had done several times since being here. We go in, and fill in a form about my details, and have to put money on a card.
In China you have to pay up front for any medical treatment like this, and they just put the money on a card, and when you go to get treatment or see the doctor, they put the card into a card reader and deduct the fee each time. They also can use the card to write notes for the pharmacy and to let other departments now. It definitely beats trying to fill in a million insurance forms before being seen.
So I wait my turn to see the doctor, who turns out to be really friendly, and doesn’t seem to question that I am ill because I am a foreigner, which I had heard other people say. Though I was a bit disconcerted by the fact that you didn’t seem to have a doctor patient confidentiality as I would have expected. My examination was done in front of two other families waiting to see the same doctor, and she did not feel it inappropriate to ask me about my menstrual cycle in relation to my illness. I personally didn’t see the correlation, I don’t generally get hysterical and over exaggerate illnesses depending on the time of the month, but I went with it. She was the doctor after all.
After a chest examination, so she could listen to my breathing, (I was glad she didn’t lift my top up in front of everyone else, I might have had to ask for some privacy), she stated that I had a throat infection. Even though my throat didn’t hurt, and my symptoms were coughing fits, often inducing vomiting, the world continually spinning, feeling faint and a headache that felt like someone was trying to pry my skull apart. I asked her if the infection can cause all of these symptoms, and she said yes, but she sent me for a blood test to make sure it wasn’t something else as well.
The Blood Test:
I have never been good with needles, in fact my first memory of having to have an injection involved me running around a room, screaming at the top of my lungs like someone was trying to murder me, evading my mum and two nurses, whilst my baby brother looked on bemused. So I went with trepidation to have this blood test. I was very surprised when the nurse, after taking my card, and reading the instructions, reached for my finger to get blood from there. I suddenly reverted back to the screaming 5 year old, and in panic pulled my hand back and said no. No, they could not take blood from my finger, only my arm. I stubbornly refused, and made her take a blood sample from my arm, to the bewilderment of the nurse, my liaison, and the group of 5 year olds actually waiting for their test. They were having their pre-school health check-up, and were nervous enough, so I probably did not help them – Sorry. The blood test done, I went back to the doctor.
The doctor looked at the blood test print out, and then said I had a throat infection, and proceeded to prescribe me four sets of medication. 3 are a liquid, whilst one is an antibiotic in pill form. I say pill form, it is about the size of a pill I would expect a horse to be given. The liquids aren’t better either, every time I take them, three times a day, I have to remind myself what my mum would always tell me; ‘What doesn’t taste good makes you better’.. Though I do really think that was her way of making me take all the vile medication growing up, and even the vile food she made us eat, but at the present it comforts me. The whole experience cost me less than a prescription back home, and it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was clean, hygienic and as professional as I could have expected it to be.
I have since finished the medication, and feel human once more. Well the world has stopped spinning, even if the coughing hasn’t yet. I also wasn’t sure about not eating and drinking cold things, in this heat I need my cold to room temperature water. I am not converted to the warm water drinking just yet. I am glad that it all worked, as I was really starting to feel the effects of cabin fever. There is only so much resting you can do before you just need to burst out and see the world; run, skip, jump and just explore the world, rather than your bedroom!