Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser (31 January)

Having spent the weekend in my apartment studying Korean phrases and talking myself up to chat to the cute doctor even more today, I arrive at the Oriental Medicine department feeling very confident.  When I text the translator to tell her that I’m at the right department, I even tell her that it’s okay if she needs to attend to other foreigners or paperwork because Dr Kim and I can understand each other.  Within minutes, she’s walking towards me with a big smile and greeting me.  A doctor stops her and asks her something while pointing at me, pointing towards Dr Kim’s office and then showing blushing cheeks while asking something in Korean with a wide grin – she’s asking if I’m the foreigner who made the cute doctor blush in December and Sunny affirms this with a broad grin. Apparently all of the doctors on the first floor have heard the story of how I made the cute doctor blush!  Sunny then sits beside me where she notices my nails and comments on them favourably before we move inside.

We Can Communicate!

We continue to chat while the nurse starts the first part of the treatment and then later while we wait for Dr Kim who is busy doing hospital rounds.  The nurse has already told me that it’s going to be a long wait which I don’t mind; I come from a country where waiting hours for a doctor is common practise and I’m chatting to the translator anyway about a variety of topics.  Just before Dr Kim arrives, the nurse pokes her head into the cubicle and says something to the translator who jumps up and excuses herself to use the restroom.  Within a few minutes of her departure, Dr Kim greets me with a big smile and seems far more relaxed today. He notices the book in my hand and makes a comment about my studying hard.  I place the book behind me with the rest of my things where he sees the cover and seems surprised that it’s a Korean phrase book.  He tells me that he studied English over the weekend and I take this bit of information as a good sign. 

The translator is gone for quite a while but cute doctor and I manage to communicate fairly successfully with one another.  He even mentions that my birthday of the previous week and wishes me a belated happy birthday.  I’m slightly disappointed when the translator returns and I expect the conversation to return to Korean entirely as the two of them chat over me.  Surprisingly, the cute doctor continues to alternate between English and Korean which I appreciate.  When he proceeds to give me an injection in my elbow, he pauses long enough to warn me that it may hurt slightly since there’s very little space in this particular part of the body.  I anticipated that it would hurt but the pain is worse than I imagined.  I don’t have a high pain tolerance and I cry fairly easily.  My ego won’t allow me to cry in front of this doctor so I start laughing which is what I do when I can’t cry. 

My arm feels like it’s on fire!  As I move my other hand to massage my arm slightly, cute doctor takes my arm and does it for me.  He then positions the needles in my back and asks where I’m going skiing – everything I’ve told Sunny has been relayed to the cute doctor.  He chats to me briefly about where I’m going skiing and then tells me to enjoy my trip and “take care” before he leaves again.  I struggle to hide my disappointment as I say goodbye thinking that this is probably the last time I’ll see him.  Within minutes, he’s back and eager to chat some more. 

So...Let's Chat

He asks if I had a birthday party so I tell him of the surprise party that my friends held for me a week before my birthday.  He then gleefully tells me that he’s slightly older than me which I proceed to tease him about.  Had I been able to think quicker on my feet, I would probably have commented that I have to do everything he says on account of his being older than me but that doesn’t come to me at the time.  He then asks if he may look at my Korean book and pages through it with interest, asking if I can read the Hangeul or if I only read the romanization of each phrase.  I can read Hangeul and actually find it easier to decipher the pronunciation.  I watch as he seems to look for something in the book before he turns to me with a cheeky grin and says that he thinks I’ve only read the first 30 pages.  Conveniently, he’s opened the book to a page that has an old bus ticket as a book mark although that’s not a true reflection of what I’ve read in the book.  When I respond that I’ve actually read through the book three times already, he nonchalantly tells me that I still need to read it 97 times.

The cute doctor seems quite content to just sit and chat to me and the translator despite the fact that my appointment is pretty much over.  Eventually I’m told to change back into my clothes so that he can do the final, and my favourite, part.  The other doctor is busy finishing the treatment of a patient so we wait a few minutes and continue chatting about nothing in particular.  During the final part, the translator once again leaves the room and the cute doctor tells me to be careful skiing because he doesn’t want me to get hurt.  I somehow manage to maintain a calm exterior while my heart thuds in my chest.  By the time he finishes the spine and neck adjustment, the translator has returned and it’s time to leave.  However, the cute doctor seems eager to continue the conversation and keeps asking questions like why I came to Korea and how long I’ve been here.  When I tell him that I’ve been in Korea for four months, he asks why he hadn’t seen me in the first three months.  What answer do I give?  Eventually, it is time for me to leave having been at this appointment for over two and a half hours!

I leave the Medical Centre in a giddy delight and hurry to Catfish’s apartment to tell her of my morning’s adventures.  We have lunch together at the Kimbap restaurant near Lotte mart before I have to head back to the Medical Centre for the nerve test that I was referred for to assess the numbness I’ve been experiencing for the past month in my left hand.

Nerve Test and a Sadistic Doctor

The first part of the nerve test involves an electromagnetic pulse stimulation that feels a little strange but generally does not hurt.  Since the first part of the test goes so well, and the doctor is very kind and considerate, I don’t really give much thought to the second part of the test until I’m lying on the bed with my hand stretched toward the doctor brandishing an ominous looking needle.  I ask if there will be only one needle in this test but I’m out of luck – it involves three needles.  I’m not quite sure of what to expect in this part of the test since it’s not common practice to question doctors or ask for explanations of medical things in Korea; everyone simply trusts that doctor’s know better. 

The first needle is pushed into the muscle at the base of my thumb.  Not only is it pushed in hard, but the doctor then proceeds to dig it even further into the muscle while wriggling it around.  Anyone who has had a needle moved while it is partially inserted into any part of your body will know just how painful this can be – in a muscle, it feels even worse!  The pain is incredible and I can feel tears welling in my eyes.  This is not a very friendly or sympathetic doctor and I don’t quite know what to expect next.

The second needle is jabbed into the muscle on the side of my hand in line with my little finger.  Again, it is dug deeper and deeper into my hand while this sadistic doctor makes wide arcs with the needle.  I look at him in terror as I anticipate the third needle and I can’t help sobbing in pain as he grinds the needle into the muscle of an already aching hand.  The third needle is just as bad and I now know that he’ll be just as ruthless so I find myself clenching my body while he tells me to relax.  I can’t help thinking, Here’s an idea: Let ME ruthlessly dig needles into YOUR hand muscle like I’m attempting to uproot a rather old tree and see if you can relax!  I’ve never been more relieved to have a procedure over as I am when this torture ends.  Without a word, the doctor gets up and leaves and the translator enters just in time to see me sobbing slightly hysterically in pain.  My hand is throbbing painfully!

You Pass

I’m told to go back to the first doctor who will do the first part of the test on my right hand to compare the results.  The sadistic doctor will then give me the test results.  I pass this particular test as he tells me, “Everything normal” before returning to his paperwork.  With only two words, he’s done his job in conveying the test results to me, made it clear that I’m not worth much of his time (less than the three minutes Korean doctors usually spend with patients) and dismissed me like a naughty schoolgirl.  Sadistic bastard! is all that I can think of as I leave the Medical Centre wishing I could go back for more acupuncture, and a chat with the cute doctor, to make myself feel better!

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