A Trip to the Doctors

Hello!  I’m back from the dead.  Well, not quite, but pretty close.  I was really ill for three weeks with bronchitis. This did not mean I was lying in bed watching Mad Men.  Oh no, I was at work every day.  Sick days don’t work the same here as they do back home.  If you’re ill, you still go to work.  I’m not even sure how sick you would have to be to warrant a day off, but you’d probably need to be on a gurney.  It’s all part of the culture, so I’m accepting it.

This also meant I had my first trip(s) to the doctor.  A few of the hospitals in Daegu offer English speaking clinics.  This is a huge benefit.  It can be very difficult to cross the language barrier when explaining symptoms.  The only problem is that their hours coincide with my work schedule.  The closest one I found is open from 8:30 to 5:30.  Yes, I only work till 4:30.  The problem is that the walk from work to the subway still takes around 40 minutes.  The first time I tried to leave immediately from work, I wound up reaching the International Office at Keimyung University Hospital at 5:20.  No bueno.

Next, I tried going to a clinic nearby my school.  This was very convenient.  Clinics are everywhere in Korea.  All I needed was my cell phone number and my ARC card.  There was no line, and I was seen by the doctor right away.  The only problem was again the language barrier.  The doctor was in his 70’s, so he hadn’t been been forced to take English in medical school.

I think most medical programs in Korea at least require students to memorize terminology and pharmaceutical names in English.  Really, it’s completely okay if they don’t speak English.  It’s Korea, and I should be making more progress with the language. Still, I am grateful for those doctors that have some English at their disposal.

Anyway, he took my temperature by popping the thermometer under my armpit.  Not sure if I’ve ever had that happen at the doctors before.  Then he checked my throat with a metal tongue depressor.  Okay, I’ll admit this weirded me out a bit.  My first thought was, “When did you clean this?”.  I’m so used to the disposable tongue depressors.  In fact, the thermometer didn’t have one of those disposable plastic covers which are so common back home.

The doctor then announced I had the common cold.  Which I know I didn’t.  I’ve been sick at least twice a year since I was born.  I know my body and how it acts.  I figured it didn’t matter though, as long as I could get my hands on some antibiotics.

That wasn’t the end of it though.  The nurse took me behind a curtain and indicated that I should pull down my skirt.  Oh boy.  I had heard about Korea often used shot to the butt. She gave me two in the hips, one for each side.  Slightly embarrassing,  but I wanted my drugs!  They could have shot it in my neck, and I would have been okay with it.

With a prescription in hand, I was sent of to the pharmacy.  Korean pharmacies, like the clinics, are everywhere.  Really, there’s at least two on every street I’ve walked along.  They didn’t speak English there, but I have enough Korean under my belt now to understand when to take my medication.  I also found out that they sell some other vaguely medical items that could come in handy.  They’ve got floss(which I didn’t think you could get in Korea), mouth wash, vitamins, and….bug spray.  I guess keeping the mosquitoes away is good for your health.

The major bonus of visiting a clinic versus a hospital is the cost.  The doctor’s visit cost around 4,000 Won, and the pills were about 3,000!  That’s around 7 dollars for everything.  Definitely the cheapest doctor’s visit of my life.  Thank goodness for the Korean healthcare system.

This would have been my only visit to a Korean doctor, except I didn’t get better.  After another two weeks of feeling like crap, I asked to leave early so that I could finally go to the English clinic.  I have some medical problems that I just can’t explain in Korean at the moment.

The International Clinic at Keimyung University Hospital is made up of a few really good English speakers that fill out the paperwork for you, and escort you around to the different departments.  This worked out perfectly.  I got the same treatment as the Korean patients, just with a bit of translation.

While at the clinic, I had an x-ray, and a visit to the family medicine physician.  The visit itself was 17,000 won, and the x-ray was about 5,000.  What?  Even though this was much more than the clinic, I got to use English speaking facilities. I was seen very quickly, and I got a prescription suited to my illness.  If I am sick again in Korea, I will definitely go back to Keimyung.

I’m feeling much better, so I can start posting more again.


2 thoughts on “A Trip to the Doctors

  1. I’m happy to hear that you are okay. Your post brought me memories of being sick in Japan: it’s pretty difficult and, even worse, when you know what is happening and they don’t accept your “ideas”. Pack yourself with vitamins, multiminerals and bottled water, rise your nose often (I know, I don’t like it either) and sanitize your hands after a class. Be well!


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