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Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Trip To The Doctor

If you have known me for any period of time, you know that I am a regular visitor to the hospital.  Whether it was sports injuries, appendicitis, metals bars in my chest, hanging from a fence, ridiculously bad allergies, or any other number injuries, a yearly visit to the doctor is not uncommon for me.  And it seems that Alison is starting a tradition of being sick on Christmas.  Last year she had her gall bladder out just a couple days before Christmas, and this year her Christmas present from me was a cold.

But we will get back to this weeks events later.  First let me tell you about healthcare in Korea.  Each of us pay roughly $50/month for national health insurance, this is the same plan that pretty much all Koreans are on.  You have two options if you want to go to the doctor.  There are clinics and international clinics.  Clinics are like your regular doctors office, and international clinics and small branches of large hospitals.  At the clinics there are usually one or two family physicians.  Their English is OK at best, they can tell you what is wrong if you have a simple cold or something, but they are definitely not fluent.  I have visited the clinic that is very close to our school 3 times.  The first was back during the first month when I did not have health insurance yet.  I had a sinus infection.  The visit and prescription(3 days of antibiotics, tylenol and who knows what else) totaled $16.  When you get the meds from the pharmacy, they give you all the pills that you are supposed to take at once, all in the same pouch.  Kind of convenient, but you're never exactly sure what you are taking.  But no one has died yet, so I think it is safe.  

I also made a trip to an international clinic back in the spring because my allergies were really bothering me.  So I found an international clinic relatively close.  The doctor's, as well as the staff's English, was not much better than the regular clinic.  Actually, there was one member of the staff who spoke English well, but that was it.  I had some blood work done to try to figure out what I was allergic to, but it showed nothing and ended up with some simply nasal spray. Pretty much no matter what you play 50% or less when you go to the doctor.  The blood work, two visits and meds all cost me about $90.  

Well, about three weeks ago I felt my self getting sick.  I just had this feeling in the back of my throat.  So I went back to the clinic, and this is how the visit went.

Sam: I have a sore throat.
Dr: OK, let me look at your throat(looks at my throat)your your throat is red bumps....but not bad
Sam:(nods)
Dr: Now I will check your neck nodes(checks my "neck nodes") Your neck nodes are healthy.
Sam:(nods)
Dr: Now I will check your lungs(listen to lungs) Your lungs are good.
Sam:(nods)
Dr: Now I will check your heart strength(listens to heart)Your heart is strong.
Sam:(nods)
Dr: Now I will check your kidneys(lightly punches my kidneys)Does that hurt?
Sam:Not any more than normal.

He then proceeds to tell me that I do not need medication and that all I need to rest, humid air, lots of water, and a good diet.  I walked away disappointed, and I had a cold the next day.  A week later I thought I was completely over that cold, but no.  Last Friday night my right "neck node" swelled up massively.  So I went back to the clinic(at this point I was wanting to go somewhere else but it was the weekend and I just needed something.  The conversation with the doctor went the same way, but he actually gave me medicine this time.  I thought he was giving me an antibiotic but I don't think he was.  Because later that day, my body decided that it wanted to form a painful and gross cyst underneath my tongue.  I figured that I was taking antibiotics and that it would clear up.  Well, within a few days(by Christmas Day), my cough cleared up but I was still very congested and  still had this cyst under my tongue.  By this time I had gifted my germs to Alison(even though she attempted to avoid me).  We decided that we would go to a different international clinic, one that a co-worker of ours had gone to for a chronic problem that she had while she was here.  She said everyone spoke great English and made everything very easy.  So I call the morning of the 26th to get an early appointment.  Mind that we still had to work at 2:3o that day.  So we get our appointments and get in a cab for the short ride.  We get there, and both the receptionists at the International clinic speak nearly perfect English.  We fill out our paperwork and wait for the doctor.  Alison goes in first and then it is my turn.  I go in, I give her the run down of my medical history and then I tell her what I have told you about the congestion and cyst.  So she is listening to my chest and this is the conversation.

Dr: You have some dander in your hair.
Sam: Yea, I think the dry winter air has dried out my skin, I have some dandruff shampoo that usually helps clear it up.
Dr: Oh, well lets have a closer look.  Hmm, yes, you have scales.
Sam: What is causing that?
Dr: Well, probably an overgrowth of bacteria, its not bad bacteria, but there is an overgrowth.....and your human function is failing.
Sam: OK (at this point I have gotten used to these kind of matter of fact phrases coming out of non native speakers, but this one almost made me giggle out loud)

So she ends up giving me shampoo and ointment for my scalp, more nasal spray, 10 days of antibiotics, and 10 days of ibuprofen.  The doctor visit was $15, and all my prescriptions were $24.  Before we left, Alison decided that she did not want to go to work that day, so we asked for a note so you could have a sick day.  The receptionist told us that it would cost her $10 for a note in Korean, and $20 for one in English.  How crazy is that?  haha. oh well. She got the Korean one. 

All in all I was very impressed with the international clinic at the Asan Medical Center.  It was definitely the best/funniest visit to the doctor I have had here.  

We are both feeling much better now.

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