Culture shock: Being in the hospital in China

@daeckardt (6237)
United States
January 30, 2011 7:39am CST
Hi everyone! I wanted to share an experience that I had in China before returning to the United States. I was having some issues and wanted to get checked out. I went to one hospital that was across the street from the school I was teaching at and it was a joke. My co-teacher went with me to translate, but he had trouble understanding what the problem was. He thought it was something simple like a cold or something, but it turned out that it was much more. They asked for a urine sample, but when I gave them the sample, they refused it because it was not clean (feces was coming out in the urine). We tried to explain with my nephew's minimal Chinese (but far better than mine) that I had a fistula but all the doctors there said it was impossible. My boss showed up while they were giving me an IV (their solution to everything including the common cold). He decided that I should go to the "number one" hospital (as the one we were at was private and not necessarily very good). We went there and told the doctors there everything that we had told the doctor at the first hospital and they just laughed at us and called my nephew a liar because what we were describing was impossible. I guess doctors in China are not accustomed to people telling them about medical issues. They decided to admit me to the hospital so they could run some tests. The first thing that surprised me was how cold the hallways were. Everywhere we went, we had to have a coat on. When they put me in a ward, it was warm, but once you left the area where people had to sleep, there was no heat. I was taken to get a CT done and I was bundled up in my winter coat because the hallways were not heated. Then when they gave me the contrast, they gave me a large container with hot water and said I had to drink three of these containers in a relatively short time. In America, I always had cold drinks so that was hard getting used to. Another thing was the food. If you wanted to eat, someone had to go and buy food for you. The hospital didn't provide meals like they do in America. The nursing staff only checked on you if they had to give an IV or provide some specific treatment. I was in the hospital from Sunday night until Wednesday morning and I hope I never have to be in a Chinese hospital again. I think the hardest part for me was that very few people working in the hospital spoke English at all, and those that did had very minimal skills so it was hard to understand what they were trying to get at. One doctor that could speak English told my nephew that I had colon cancer (I get back to the states and it turns out it was a recurrence of ovarian cancer occurring in the colon) that caused the fistula. I think the worst part about the whole experience was that they wanted me to pay up front for care even though I had insurance. If I wouldn't have had any money, they would have let me die (or so it seems). Needless to say, I returned to America for treatment rather than risking getting part way through and running out of money. Have you had a similar experience? Let me know. Thanks!
2 people like this
5 responses
@jwfarrimond (4473)
30 Jan 11
I had an accident when I was working on a site in Milan, Italy, when I was hit on the head by the bucket of a mechanical digger. I was rushed off to the hospital in a private car and that journey was nearly fatal as well when the Italian driver tried to take a short cut through an archway that was clearly signed "No Entry"! The reason for that was quickly apparent whe we met a tram coming the other way and the driver was forced to reverse rapidly! Anyway, we managed to get to the hospital in one piece and I then spent a considerable amount of time sitting in a corridor waiting to be seen by a doctor. Then when I was seen, I got the briefest of examinations in which the doctor concluded that I was not actually dying and so needed no treatment! There was not the slightest sign of urgency in dealing with a possible case of a fractured skull or any sign that they considered an xray might be necessary to make sure that there was no skull fracture. Fortunately there was no fracture, just concussion, but I'm convinced that it would have been all the same if it was fractured.
3 people like this
• Italy
30 Jan 11
Yes, being Italian I can tell you that all what you said above looks very 'usual' to me.
1 person likes this
@mysdianait (66046)
• Italy
30 Jan 11
Sadly I confirm
1 person likes this
@zweeb82 (5653)
• Malaysia
31 Jan 11
Wow!~ S-H-O-C-K-I-N-G!~And I thought Italy was an advanced nation & such things only happen in 3rd world countries? mysdianait, things that bad on that side of your country?
• Philippines
30 Jan 11
I have never gone outside the Philippines but culture shocks can also happen here coz there are a lot of foreigners here. I knew a Korean living in the same building as I was and going to the same school too. He was okay at first. He had no weird gestures or routines until one time at school. He came in 5 minutes late and he was all worked up and sweaty. I just let it go because the professor was blabbering in front. Just after the class he just grunted, "Damn, walking from home is a drag." I was like "What? You walked from our building up to here?!" Seriously, this guy never runs out of money and he just walked from our building, which was several blocks away from school. It's like 45 minutes to an hour walk from there. Then he explained that in his town, it's normal to walk from home to school or work or wherever. I just told him "Suit yourself."
1 person likes this
@daeckardt (6237)
• United States
30 Jan 11
I find that really interesting. When I was in China, I walked more than anything else because I didn't like trying to talk to a taxi driver since I didn't know any Chinese and it was easier to walk unless I was with someone who knew how to get around. Many Asians do save their money and it is often hard to change a person's way of life when they go to a new place. I just hope that it doesn't rain much when this guy needs to walk. I don't mind walking long distance unless it is cold or wet. Thanks for the response!
• Philippines
31 Jan 11
I guess he lied about it. I'm always suspicious about the idea because there were a lot Koreans in our building and I don't see any of them walking long-distances. Maybe he just didn't want to talk to jeepney or taxi drivers. Well, that's all in the past now. Didn't even care whether the guy went to class or not. All I know is I know his name. Cho- something..
1 person likes this
@jaiho2009 (39175)
• Philippines
30 Jan 11
hello daeckardt, I was never been in such situation. But reading your experience gives me horror. Can't imagine myself being treated that way,and you are too lucky to have managed that 4 days confinement without knowing the real cause of your ailment. Not even the most high tech hospital in that country,that nurses and doctors can speak English well?...my...that would be a hard deal,than the pain of sickness (uh) hope you are doing fine now
1 person likes this
@daeckardt (6237)
• United States
30 Jan 11
I think if I would have been in Shanghai or Beijing, there would have been some better facilities available. I was in a "small" town so it doesn't surprise me that there weren't many people who spoke English well. My boss told me to not ask him to translate any more because they had a translator, but I couldn't tell. Oh well...I am gone from there now. I am recovering from surgery (two weeks ago) and now I can look forward to chemo. Thanks for the respone.
1 person likes this
• China
30 Jan 11
I am sorry for what happened to you.I am chinese and i've been going through this very often.Heard what you said,maybe american's hospital seem to be more human touch.In here it's impossible to get treatment without money and once you enter the hospital there will be a lot to cost,even though just a tiny cold.
1 person likes this
@daeckardt (6237)
• United States
30 Jan 11
Thanks for the response. I don't blame the Chinese for the way they do things. They have to pay for taking care of people somehow. It seems funny to me that I was required to have insurance when I got to the school I was working at but the insurance would not pay for the care until after payment was made. That seems a little backwards to me. Since the insurance would cover 90% of the cost, I don't see why they can't just collect the 10% copay at time of admission and bill the insurance for the rest. That is how it is done in America and it is much more convenient. Who knows, maybe some day they will come around there. Have a great day!
@joygracia (1325)
• Philippines
30 Jan 11
wow!.. what a trip.. guess every where we go we have to expect always for the unexpected..