I know there is a lot of controversy going on in America right now regarding health care. Trust me, it is still better than China, especially rural China. I am sure things are probably different in Shanghai or Beijing, but the following is my experience.
A few random comments, if you have to visit a hospital in China, it is definitely to your advantage being a laowai, foreigner. You get pushed to the front of every line, even if there appears to be 15 to 20 people already waiting in front of you. Be prepared for lack of privacy as tests are not given in nice little individual sanitary rooms, no hippa in China. Be prepared to have everyone in the room watching only you, the non Chinese person.
I received a phone call one day last week from XinLe. She was formerly a teacher here in Dong’e, but quit to open up a shop. When Peter is unavailable she will escort me on marketing events, of which I have done several and she also assists me during the 2 group lessons I give. Back to the phone call, she said she was picking me up in one hour, I had to go to the hospital for a “body check”. Body check, ummmm, what does that mean. She said, “you know, they check your body.” Not really liking this last minute announcement, I got myself ready and went to meet XinLe for my “body check”. She explained that some cities require a health check for teachers, but she didn’t know what all I would need. We arrived at the Dong’e Women’s and Children’s Hospital about 5 in the afternoon. Walked up to the desk, after I walked through a lobby of faces and fingers pointing at me. You know, why is the laowai, foreigner, at the hospital. XinLe has a long conversation with the girl at the reception desk. She looks something up on her computer, makes a phone call, more conversation…….come back tomorrow, reason being, I have to have a blood test and no eating or drinking after midnight.
8 am the next morning, XinLe picks me up and back to the hospital. Lots of conversation, finally we get a piece of paper. XinLe says, “Wait here”. She was only moving 10 feet away from me to the cashier. She had to pay the 100 rmb or $15 for my body check, which, other than the blood work, I have no idea what I am in for. Breath deep, well, maybe not so deeply, and get ready for a new experience.
XinLe, looks at the paper and determines, “we go that way,” as she points to a crowded area at the end of the hall. We get to a window at the end of the hall, us and about 20 Chinese people wanting to get a look at the laowai. She takes all my things from me and has me take off my coat and roll up my sleeve, ahhhh, the blood work. Which I now realize is pretty much like going up to a teller window at a bank. 3 people are behind the counter and 3 people with their arm on the counter having a blood sample taken. Chinese people don’t really que up for anything so it is pretty much whoever works their way to the front and gets their arm down on the counter gets the next needle. Well, the waters divide and I am pushed to the counter. Arm down, everyone pointing at my tattoos, band gets slapped on and the needle inserted. I didn’t even have time to see it coming in this assembly line process. Needle out and I am handed a q-tip to stop the bleeding and pushed out of the way. Whew, hope that’s it.
Nope, XinLe, checks the paper and says, “that way,” as she points to another window with even more people. She works her way to the window, says something to one of the 4 or 5 workers and then hands me a tiny plastic cup, about the size of one that comes with a bottle of Nyquil. My guess is they want me to pee in this smaller than a shot glass container. Sure enough, XinLe says, “urine test” and directs me across the hall to a public bathroom which looks like it has been cleaned…..never!
There was actually a toilet brush laying on the window sill. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, so to spare you all the gory details, XinLe had all my things including my phone, so I couldn’t snap any photos. You will have to rely on my verbage for pretty much my entire experience. Well, at least there are doors on the squatty potties. Ok, doors, but they don’t really shut. So here I am, tiny plastic cup, drop drawers, squat, take aim…..okay now what, you have filled the cup, not to mention soaked your hand and god knows you must have dampened your pants, how do you get your TP, which you have to provide yourself, then manage to get your pants up all while balancing a tiny shot glass of urine. Well, only choice, set the shot glass on the window ledge and take care of business, trying to clean your hand best as possible. Leave the bathroom balancing your cup of pee while trying to avoid the others coming and going to the bathroom, with and without cups, remember, it is a public toilet. XinLe tells me to take the cup to the counter. I maneuver my way to the counter and I am, by way of hand motions, signaled to set my cup on a piece of paper. The girl behind the counter dips a test strip in and then places it in a tiny vial. She then motions for me to take my cup of pee back. I pick it up and look for XinLe who tells me I need to take it back to the bathroom and flush it down the toilet and throw away the cup. Work my way back through the crowd, mission accomplished. I then take my purse from XinLe and find a wet wipe and clean my hands. I am not sure where the sinks were, but in China, you always carry tissues and wet wipes. Blood done, piss test done, hopefully that is it.
No such luck, XInLe says we need to go upstairs, heart check. I can hardly wait. We arrive upstairs and are directed to a room. Wow, an actual room, not a counter in the hallway. We enter the room, lo and behold there are about 15 people in the room and an archaic EKG machine. Of course everyone turns to look, again, gee I get to go next. I am instructed to lay down on the table, I am positive the sheet does not get changed between patients. Next thing I know, what felt like shackles were put on my wrists and ankles and my shirt was lifted.
Oh yes, that was one for the record books. Chinese women don’t have much in the way of breasts, well, they, men and women alike in the room got an eyeful when they saw mine. Next a paint brush was used to paint some sort of liquid where they tried to attach the EKG pads. I say tried because when they tried to put them in place the shackles on my ankles popped off because the cables were a little short. I guess you could say I am too tall for China. After some adjustments they were finally able to take the EKG. Again, no hippa in China, my printout got handed around to every Tom, Dick and Harry in the room before they gave it back to XinLe. Okay, I was totally ready to get out of that room, I’m not usually claustrophobic, but it was getting a bit too crowded in there for me.
We leave, I ask XinLe if we were done, she said, “no,” got on the translator on her phone and showed me the translation……gynecological exam. To which I promptly said, “no fucking way.” Please pardon the profanity, but it was what slipped out of my mouth. I have seen archaic equipment, the group exams, witnessed a bit more than I wanted too. She said to follow her and we went to the desk. I again told her there was no way I would do the gyno exam. Another phone call, she then told me the doctor said it is okay if I didn’t take the exam, damn straight, I would have walked out. Are we done yet, I asked like a whiny kid asking are we there yet? No, we have to see the doctor.
Down the stairs, by the way, no such thing as an elevator in this hospital, its stairs or nothing. We are escorted into a room with 2 men that appear to be Doctors and in fact they were. As Gomer would have said, “surprise, surprise, surprise,” we are the only people in the room and for guess what? I finally have a test in private and it is a blood pressure check. Really, I just had an EKG with 15 people gawking, but my blood pressure test is in private and with 2 doctors. Of course, the BP device was from last century, but even after all the excitement I had just been through my BP was perfect.
“Can we go now?” “No,” she said. Nooooo, really…..okay what next. The Doctors wanted to take photos with me. I imagine I was the first laowai to have a “body check” at this hospital. At least my experience ended with a laugh as we took multiple photos and selfies, of which I have none as XinLe still had my things. And yes, even Doctors give the peace sign in photos.
As we were leaving the hospital XinLe told me we had one more stop, we had to go get one inch photos for my “body check” card. At this point, taking a photo was nothing……so somewhere in Dong’e, most likely hanging or on file in the kindergarten is my “body check” card.
Another reminder of things we take for granted.
Note: The photos are from the internet but fairly represent my experience and survival of a Chinese Hospital.