If you’ve read at least ten of my posts concerning my experiences in China, you should know that 1) crazy things happened and 2) nothing was, well, easy. My first trip to a Chinese hospital was no exception. It is probably the most insane, embarrassing experience I had during my year and three days in China and quite possibly my life. With that said, I want to let you know that what you are about to read is extremely personal. If you don’t want learn about my experience in the gynecology section of the Shenyang hospital that I visited one fair day in March, I suggest you exit your browser now and come back in a few days when I have written about another memorable experience. However, if you decide to read on, and some part of your soul wants to learn what it is like to be a woman in China when her womanhood goes wack, I promise I’ve tried to take as much of the graphic grossness out as possible. One last warning, if you are still reading this – this story is personal, it’s a tad bit icky, and it will probably make you go EWWWW.
If you are still with me, thanks. Now on with the story.
I actually thought I had written about this long before, but when I searched through all of my old posts, the only thing I came across was the mention of my visit, but none of the details. Knowing I had written my experience down somewhere, I finally found it in my email. I had written home about it, but I had never made it public. Thankfully, the day that I sent the email was the same as the day I went to the hospital. Therefore, everything you are about to read is very accurate. I’ve gone through it though and added or taken somethings out because it was written during the time that my English had gone to super crap, but not too much.
Before we jump into the email I sent my parents though, I should go a little into the back story. It’s half of the reason I had to go to the hospital in Shenyang in the first place. Grr.
While we were being held against our will in Beijing, I somehow managed to get a yeast infection. I wasn’t all that worried at the time. I had had one in Fuyang, too, but with the help of one of my fellow teachers, I was able to get some cheap medicine down at the local OTC(Over The Counter – Pharmacy). Within a few days, I was back to normal and all was well with the world again. I meant to save the package just in case I had ever had another one, but when we moved, I lost it somewhere. Well, anyway, in Beijing, I discovered that I had another yeast infection. I went to the school there and asked Mandy, one of the school aides, if she could help me get some medicine. I showed her the word in my dictionary, but she didn’t quiet understand what was wrong with me. Finally, after some research on the internet, she thought she figured out what to tell the pharmacists and off we went. I would have just used the medicine that my mother had sent me some months back, but I had sent it on to Shenyang with all the rest of our stuff.
We walked into the OTC and Mandy started talking to the pharmacist for me. The pharmacists asked Mandy some questions and then Mandy translated for me. I tried to answer them for her the best that I could so she could correctly tell the pharmacists what my symptoms were. I think the pharmacists got the gist of what was wrong with me. She ended up giving me these strange blackish herbal things that had a horrible smell. I was instructed to put them where they hurt. I was sad that they didn’t give me the same medicine I had gotten in Fuyang, and a little scared that these smelly round things were going somewhere I’d rather not send them. I didn’t have much of a choice though, so I took them and prayed for the best.
Three days later, we arrived in Shenyang. The medicine the woman had given had done absolutely nothing except possibly make me worse. I could barely walk. There are just not words to describe how it felt . . . down there. After I got all of my suitcases and boxes unpacked, I was able to use the medicine my mother had sent me, but I was so far gone at that point that it didn’t much matter. It was time to ask for some professional help. And that is how I ended up at the Shenyang hospital.
March 12th, 2007 – An email to my parents.
Well, I just got back from the hospital. My yeast infection was driving me mad, and even though I took the medicine mom sent me, I thought that it was a good idea to go and get checked out. I feel better than I did this morning, but I think that I will take the new medicine I got to make sure that it goes away. This has been the worst yeast infection I’ve ever had. I mean, it’s painful just walking around. I’ve never had a yeast infection make me feel like I’ve gone horseback riding for eight days straight.
Hrm . . . where do I start? Well, I guess the first thing is that Chinese hospitals are very unlike western hospitals. I wouldn’t say it was clean, at least in comparison to the hospitals I’ve been to back home. All the paint on the walls was peeling and the floor was discolored and brown. It didn’t even have the typical hospital disinfected smell. I’m sure you know what I mean. I think that it had something to do with the bathrooms, but who knows. There was just so much to take in as we walked around. You’d really have to visit one yourself to know what I mean, although, I wouldn’t recommend it. I had to go though and I’m glad I did, but man, it was an experience for sure. Since there was no way I’d be able to get there and explain to a doctor what was wrong with me, I had Alice, one of the two teacher aides, take me. Phil tagged along for support.
It took Alice a while to find the gynecology section of the hospital, but after asking a few people she got it all worked out. Once we got to the right department, she registered me, but since she didn’t know all of my information, she wrote down a made up birthday, a name and her phone number. I don’t know why she just didn’t ask me. I would have told her. We then went into an office where they asked me what was wrong. The doctor asked Alice questions in Chinese and then Alice asked me the same questions in English. I gave her answers in English and then she gave my answers to the doctor in Chinese. This went back and forth for a while until they knew all of my symptoms. They wrote them all down in a little blue booklet and handed it back to me. (I’ve still got it somewhere. If I find it, I’ll take pictures and post them for you). It was hard for Alice to translate everything, but she did a good job with the limited English that she knew. I understood most of what she was saying. Then we had to wait for a bit. We got called back to the room for more questions, and then we had to wait again. Alice kept disappearing as we waited, apparently paying for services as we went or before we had them done. I’m not sure which, I just know she kept coming back with receipts. The only thing I figured out was that I wasn’t going to be able to leave the hospital until my debt was paid. China in general is very disorganized, so I wasn’t all too surprised to find the hospital acting in the same fashion. It was all sorta frustrating. I just wanted someone to make me better, and quick. Some time later we were called back into the room. And this is where it gets strange.
The room that we had been going in this entire time didn’t have a door. All it had was a door frame and a sheet to act as a door. On the other side of the drape, there was a desk where two doctor-looking people sat. They were constantly taking forms from people, filling them out and typing something into the computers before them. To the left of them was a half wall with an opening into what appeared to be an examining room, but it didn’t have a door or a sheet.
When it was my turn to be inspected, Alice motioned for me to enter the room. Before me was the ever wonderful examining table that I’ve learned to file under the adjectives invasive and uncomfortable. I heard the doctor say something to Alice, but didn’t understand. I looked to Alice for guidance, even though I was pretty sure what was about to happen.
“She wants you to take off your pants and underwear,” Alice said handing me a blue paper-like blanket. “And put this over you.” Hey, at least they gave me a blanket.
I was pretty familiar with this part of the act. I’d done it before, but usually there was no one else in the room. I looked at the doctor and Alice for a second, thinking that they would disappear so that I could disrobe in private, but the two of them stood there staring at me, waiting. I took it as a clue, and off came my clothes. Neither one looked the other way. Eh, I thought, I’m never going to see these people again, well, except for Alice, that is. I just met this woman yesterday, so you can imagine the embarrassing moment I was going through. I seriously doubt this was in her job description. I jumped up onto the table and assumed the position.
My table didn’t look anything like this one,but it served its purpose just the same.
The doctor snapped on her gloves and didn’t waste a minute. She tapped the stirrups(the foot rests – see picture above) and I obliged. Alice is still standing there, staring at me, taking in all their is to see. I guess after an experience like this, I can say that we have bonded in the strangest of ways. Down below the blue paper-like blanket the doctors face went and almost immediately her face popped back up. The face of total disgust she gave me almost made me laugh and also made me worry – dear God, what is wrong with me?!!
The doctor started speaking to Alice, probably telling her that this was the nastiest white woman she’s ever seen, but I guess I’ll never know. After a short conversation, Alice looked to me and started translating, probably leaving out all the dirty things the doctor just told her about me. Although, if she did, he face never showed it. All of the questions she asked me were pretty normal. Does it hurt? How long have it been hurting? And a few other rather embarrassing questions I am sure you’d rather not read about. But it wasn’t until she started referring to the “land down under” as the “Secret Passage” that I just about lost it. By lost it, I mean laugh. Eternally, I was rolling, but it was really hard to keep a straight face. I don’t know if she was trying to be polite or if she just didn’t know the real English word for it. For those curious, vagina in Chinese is ??, or yi-n bù, just in case you ever need to know.
Who knows, it could be on Jeopardy one day when I am rich and famous. Answer: During her year and three day stint in China, author Gabrielle Cook went to a Chinese hospital to make sure this certain part or her body wasn’t about to die. Question: What is a yi-n bù?
Anyway . . . all the while, there are 2 or 3 Chinese woman peering around the wall at me. Maybe they had never seen a white woman before or perhaps they were just very concerned. I probably should have been mortified, but I think I took it all very well, considering.
This is pretty much exactly what it looked like, including the nosy peeps staring around the corner as though I was the first magical unicorn they had ever set eyes on. Yes, I just referred to myself as a magical unicorn. I’m that special!
The doctor took a sample and then I got up and put my pants on. The 2 or 3 nosy peeps’ eyes had not wavered from the corner of the wall. They wanted to catch the thrilling finale of this five star movie. We had to wait on the results for like an hour and a half. Finally, we got the medicine I had been dying to get all day – all 4 different types of them – diflucan(which was a shock – I never thought I would have found that medicine in China of all places), some more monistat like things, some other monistat like things, and then some wash. If this doesn’t cure me, I don’t know what will. And that was my experience of a Chinese hospital. Not as bad as I thought, but then again, this was the best one in Shenyang. All in all everything cost me 267 RMB – about 34 bucks. That includes exam, test, and medicine. If only it was that cheap in America.
End of Email
And now that I have written a freaking novel . . .
I will try and ransack my memory banks for some more interesting stories, but I’m not sure any of them will be as crazy as the one you just read. Hopefully, I didn’t gross you out too much. Just remember, I did try to warn you!