Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cǎoméi's Hospital Visit

I’ve just removed Cǎoméi’s stitches from her face to avoid having to go back to the Children’s Hospital where they were put in.  Here’s the story.

A week ago, she was leaping from her closet onto her bed but her foot slipped and she landed short, splitting the side of her face by her eye.  It wasn’t large but it was obvious she needed stitches.  We’d only been here a few days, I have no Chinese phone, there is no phone in the apartment, my email was not working, Baba was at work and I was in a tad bit of a panic.  Luckily, I remembered seeing that there is a clinic on site so grabbed the kids and away we ran.  On the way there, we ran into the same woman we’d met twice already that day while riding the elevator.  She’s English and speaks a little Mandarin, she saw the blood on Cǎoméi and me and immediately offered to help.  She went with us to the clinic and we were told that Cǎoméi needed to go get stitches at the Children’s Hospital.

The nurse wrote down the Hospital name in Chinese for the taxi driver and we went to the street to flag one down.  There was a taxi waiting for hire right across the street but the driver was relieving himself behind a bush so we opted to wait for the next cab.  We arrived at what appeared to be a filthy train station in NY.  We were “adopted” by a registration attendant who walked us through everything.  Then a man dressed in security uniform took over for her and took me everywhere when needed.  First, he took me to the cashier/admissions to pay for Cǎoméi’s hospital ID card. RMB 14.00 ($2.30).

Doctor's Desk
The walls were filthy, holes in them, and the room where we sat with the doctor had an old wooden desk painted an odd peach many years ago, chipped and dirty.  The purple sink desperately needed cleaning, latex gloves that didn’t make it into the garbage can were lying on the floor.  The boys sat on the 1960’s exam table while Cǎoméi huddled by me and the doctor and I talked.  (I established that he was the doctor as he looked so young – what does that say about me?)  He used his copy iPhone to translate words. 

Nurse's Station
We had to pay cash up front for the visit and stitches.  (“Phew, I’ve got my Marriott Rewards credit card,” I thought.  I couldn’t help thinking that this bill would glean us mucho bonus points and a few free nights in Thailand!)  The guard took me down a few halls again to the cashier window  to pay for the stitches.  I was preparing to take out my Marriott rewards VISA card when I did a double-take at the total.  RMB 126.00  ($21.00)

I am in shock.   I pay cash and we head back to Cǎoméi.  After further discussion, I say I want Cǎoméi to have local anesthesia.  The doctor says I will have to pay.  Fine.  The guard takes me back to the cashier but now there is a large queue of people.  He walks right to the front of the line.  I hold back embarrassed.  A woman engages in challenging him for cutting in line but he must have explained my daughter’s circumstances.  She is quiet and I am waiting to pay the huge anesthesia bill.  I kept the VISA tucked in my wallet but I am pulling out 100 RMB bills.  I am told the price and I stop.  What???  I look at the register which reads, 0.40 RMB.  My mouth gaped open and I questioned the amount.  Yes, that was the price that I had to pay.  Total, not even $0.07!!!  For that he cut me to the front of the line in front of everyone else?  There’s no time to feel embarrassed, I pay and we head back to Cǎoméi. 

Nurse and Doctor
Cǎoméi was super during the procedure.  The nurse (without gloves) pushed gauze into her wound to clean it and then yellow sponge-like things in to sterilize it?  The “Procedure Room” looked as though it came out of a M*A*S*H set.  Unbelievable.  I grabbed Yu Gege’s iPod Touch to take a few pics before the stitches began.  I talked to Cǎoméi and held her as she lay on the gurney.  She never flinched as the anesthesia was injected into her wound in 4 places and then 3 stitches were put in.  I prayed for the guidance of this doctor’s hands, as you can imagine.  It came out perfectly! She was so good.  They praised her and smiled and, rather than go back, I took out her stitches tonight.  Heck.  I’ve seen my Dad do it enough and I’ve had enough removed from me. 

So, that’s our fun (and lengthy) experience with a real Chinese hospital.  People have since said we should have gone to an ex-pat hospital, and I think for something more serious, I would agree.  But this gave us a unique experience that we won’t forget.  And I really know that God helped out when we needed it most.  Phew!

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