Saturday, August 27, 2011

Korean Hospitals 101

To a traveling American, foreign hospitals equal death and maiming, the likes of which resemble Civil War surgery tents. It always seems like the best (re: most horrifying) tales from abroad involve either local bars or “doctors,” so yes, I had a pang of anxiety when I entered a Busan hospital yesterday.

The hospital workers were polite and assiduous and terribly confused as to why I was visiting them. I couldn’t help them much.

All those boats (ships??) sit out there,
floating just the way bricks wouldn't.
“Hi! I need blood-work.”
“Mmmm. Write your name?”
I wrote it. They checked their computers and frown. Apparently I’m not in the database, yet.
“Hmmm. What is your [somethingsomething] number?”
“Yes, yes! I think that’s what I need to get. An Alien Registration Card. So I need blood-work.”
“Hmmm. Yes. Where does it pain?”
“Nowhere. No pain. I just need blood-work.”
“Hmmm, yes.” Everyone behind the desk (and probably all over the lobby) exchange politely baffled expressions. “Please, third floor.”

Luckily, they warned the third floor of our imminent arrival and they were ready for us with a Konglish-speaking doctor on hand.
“You need blood-work?”
“Yes! Exactly! For an Alien Registration Card.”
I tried not to picture Kang and Kodos and failed. The doctor tried not to look baffled and failed. So he made some intricate phone calls. Ten minutes later:
“I see. So you need blood-work?”
“Yes, please? For an Alien Registration Card?”
He nods. “Good. Good. Please follow.”

I live on that mountain!
I followed. When we arrived at the next stage of our journey, we slipped off our shoes, left them in cubbie holes, and slipped into oversized slippers. There, more half-understood questions and answers were given until I was directed to a mini-locker room and instructed to change into a flimsy hospital shirt. When I emerged, I was tugged to and fro by polite waves of a nurse’s hand accompanied by “Please follow,” “is finished,” “this way,” and “please take off your bra.” I suspect she had to look up that last one, after my apparently lead-based bra blocked the chest x-rays.

Otherwise, it was pretty normal: pee in a cup, draw blood, putter around in slippers, clutch a hospital shirt closed, eye test, hearing test, height, weight, bust size. I like to think I held my composure when she wrapped a tape measure around my chest, because after all, what’s an odd quirk like that compared to rusty needles and sawing off a shrapneled leg?
It was near a school zone, if that helps anyone
figure this one out...

On my way out, I saw an elderly Korean man standing next to a motorcycle. In one hand was his IV pole and in the other a cigarette, a slight smoke haze around his face. Then I almost stepped into a lady’s bucket of live eels for sale and had to start watching where I walked.

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