Forced Visit to the Doctor Part 2: What Happened?

This is the second in a two part series on my recent experience with a Korean medical facility. You can read Part 1 here. This blog has never been, and will continue to not be a place to complain about Korea. If you don’t like being here, show yourself the door. That said, there are many cultural differences that an expat should know about. This is a place to share those differences.

Forced Visit to the Doctor Part 2: What Happened?

Tackling the required medical forms was how my forced visit to the doctor began. I take the blame for not knowing how to communicate better in Korean. When the nurse’s English is worse than my Korean, we have a problem. Together we were able to knock out the questions on smoking use, alcoholic beverage consumption and the frequency with which I exercise. The rest we left blank.

Next, I stepped up to height/weight machine. In a quick swoop of measurement capturing documentation, this particular model gently dropped a lever on my head while displaying a reading of my heftiness.

On to the eye chart. Cover one eye, read the numbers as they progressively got smaller. Next, the other eye. I was pleased to learn that my eyesight is still impeccable.

The blood pressure station is where things got weird. As she prepared, I asked if they had a large size blood pressure cuff, something the doctor has had to use for my massive biceps since I was in high school. To this request she laughed, as if to suggest nobody needs a larger version of this perfectly good cuff. This perfectly good cuff with velcro stitching popping off that is connected to a reading device circa 1950. That would be silly. Her laughing was followed by a gasp of disbelief when the cuff in fact did not fit. Her logical solution was to ask me, with the hand on my other arm, to forcefully hold the cuff place in an attempt to keep the velcro fastened. When this method did not reveal an accurate reading (I can’t understand why), the blood pressure reading was skipped.

On to the phlebotomist. Left arm please. Slapping, poking, slapping, poking … hmmm … can’t find a vein. Right arm please. Repeat. Can’t find a vein. Left arm please. Repeat. Right arm please. After three attempts on each arm, blood was drawn out of a vein IN MY HAND. She was not wearing gloves. The needle was disposed of in an open bucket on a table next an open window, which was positioned next to an uncovered trash can which was filled with the cotton swabs used for dabbing the drops of blood that remain after the needle has been removed from your skin. Yikes.

Time for the piss test. A line was drawn on a dixie cup (the same kind of cup you would use for your Maxim sugary coffee mix) and I was shown to the bathroom. When I finished relieving myself the nurse was nowhere to be found. After a good five minutes of waiting, she appeared and motioned me over to the hearing test station. I sarcastically set the cup of piss down on the table where my blood was drawn, next to the uncovered biohazardous material, as if to make a joke. My joking got no response, so that’s where I left the piss.

For the hearing test, I was told to indicate with my right and left hands which ear I can hear the beep. One very loud beep in the right ear, followed by one very loud beep in the left year. OK, you’re done. Nice. 100%.

Back out in the room, I asked one last time if she wanted my piss. With no response, we moved on to another part of the clinic.

For the chest X-Ray I was asked to remove my shirt and stand against the machine, which would have been uncomfortable if I was a woman because the examination room door remained open the entire time. A Korean phrase which I could not understand was repeated twice. Afraid to remove myself from this very important machine, I stood patiently and waited. The tech walked up to me laughing, and motioned for me to take a deep breath upon her signal. With a deep breath and a blast of electromagnetic radiation, the tests had concluded.

Last, I was taken to a super friendly doctor who could speak English. Together we reconfirmed the already completed questions, but still failed to answer the questions that were previously skipped. He informed me that I’m too heavy, applauded my efforts to walk to and from work everyday as well as my will power to refrain from smoking. When it came time for the blood pressure reading, he miraculously squeezed the cuff on and attained an accurate reading.

In the end, he let me know that I would receive the test results in the mail and offered to help me decipher their Korean code if I wanted to come back to the clinic. I received this document a few weeks later, interpreted it to the best of my ability and decided to not return. The only column in the red was my weight, and he already told me that was a problem.


~ by ripcitytoseoul on October 10, 2011.

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