You’re Never Gonna Stick Me

I write about this today, not because I think anyone of you cares particularly about my feet, nor the fact that one of them decided to swell up to the size of a small melon last night. No, I write this because I’ve not heard of anyone visiting a hospital in China and getting out without getting an IV.

With spring a distant memory here in Suzhou, I decided to break out the Dr. Marten sandals I bought on eBay for my wedding in Sanya and honeymoon in Thailand two months ago. For reasons that are not all-together clear, the sandals seem to have created a small cut/blister on the top of my foot (despite being well broken in), and that cut was advertising all-access passes to any bacteria that had open minds and liked to party.

What was a small annoyance when I got home from work became an increasing annoyance over the course of the evening. It wasn’t until about 11 pm that I really thought something was wrong. I’d had a soft-tissue infection before, and this was beginning to feel similar to that.

Debating what to do (with all pharmacies closed), I couldn’t get the seared memory of writhing in pain that the foot infection had brought last time out of my head. For anyone that’s not experienced this, picture having your foot sprained, and then take the most intense pain of that and make it constant, whether you move it or not.

Thoughts of this beat out the pride I have for my clean record of no visits to a Chinese hospital (for myself) in my two and a half years here.

Emotionally preparing myself, I turned to Maggie, still in her PJs, and said, “Ok, so this is very likely going to be 30 seconds with a doctor and 3 hours willing my veins to suck in the IV faster, right?” To which she replied, “Maybe longer…”

However, after a quick 6 RMB registration (I’m now a card carrying member of Suzhou Fu Er Yuan) and a short wait for the doctor to be hailed from whatever back room he was hiding in, I got swabbed with iodine, given a prescription for Amoxicillin and was out the door. There was some mumbled talk (the doctor spoke in nothing else – but given it was 2 am I’m willing to allow for it) about giving me a bag of saline as part of the deal, but Maggie knew my thoughts on it and only translated it as a footnote after telling the doctor to go to hell (politely, of course).

So… took the day off today, as walking is a pretty big pain in the… foot, and because I can’t squeeze the swelled mass into any of my shoes (I finally did get to wear slippers in public last night, so that’s nice).

The whole experience has renewed my faith that I might actually get through this China thing without ever needing the poke of shame.

Knock on wood (do they still make wood?)

11 Responses

  1. I’ve found that most hospitals are eager to get an IV into you if they expect to have you there for a while. The reasoning behind the IV is to have a quick way of giving you meds without having to poke you repeatedly. Seeing as they were going to give you a pack of pills I can’t even come up with a reason why they would want to give you an IV too.

  2. last 2 times i’ve been in a chinese hospital (the same suzhou fu er yuan, actually) i’ve managed to get out without an IV. perhaps i’ve ended up taking more drugs than really necessary (a kinda compensation for skipping the needle, as you implied), but i’ve been pleased with the ‘service’ each time.

  3. This story once again validates my paranoia about wearing sandales in public, not just in China but anywhere.

    Plus I have hobbit like hair on my toes that is really unattractive.

  4. “I got swapped with iodine”

    Swabbed, I hope, or did Maggie leave her husband at the hospital and take a bottle of iodine home in exchange?

    Anyway, having had new and large holes cut in my feet by a new pair of sandals, you have me a little paranoid about my own state of health. But I hope your foot returns to a regular size soon.

    Oh, and I too have managed to get through a hospital without an IV. Of course, instead of an IV, I had some white hot electric needle jabbed into a small lump of skin to make it fall off, but that’s a whole other story.

    Hope your foot is better now.

  5. The swellings gone down quite a lot, and I was actually able to put my shoe on today and go to work (I put the other one on too).

    The doctor offered the saline quite matter-of-factly… “and hey, before you go, want us to stick you?”… it was like, perhaps, I expected it and he didn’t want to let me down.

    Socks and shoes kill me in the summer. Ma dogs needa breath yo.

    @Chriswaugh_bj: Swabbed it is. Though Maggie was smiling at the iodine… and perhaps it was the pain, but I swear it smiled back.

  6. I’ve only made one trip to a Chinese hospital, and I hope it’s my last. EEK. Just thinking about what I had to go through makes my skin crawl. I made it out without an IV bag though. I was lucky I guess.

    I’ll never forget all the ladies peering around the corner at me. I kept thinking, come on, I’m naked. STOP STARING AT ME!!

    It’s funny now of course, but geeze!

  7. “I’ll never forget all the ladies peering around the corner at me. I kept thinking, come on, I’m naked. STOP STARING AT ME!!”

    Yes, I recall being exhibit N0.1 myself. Not naked, though!

    Broke a bone at the elbow joint requiring an operation and a couple of pins. Four days incarceration followed with charges for anything and everything, including the saline drip. My uni were picking up the tab and insisted the doctors knew best; I knew better, but was not really in a position to decline.

    I guess that confession puts me in the hall of shame.

  8. OH man, it’s been ten years and I can still smell the distinct, over-sterilize smell of Er Yuan. Terrible place, terrible.

    Apparently very good painkillers (Opoids) are available, but you gotta know the doctors to get them, which is totally stupid, but I’m glad you on’t seem to be need that just yet. My grandmother had a hip operation and they gave her Tylenol. My grandfather (ex head of the Light Industries Bureau) bitched the hell out of the doctor and she finally got something you can’t just get off the shelf at Wal-Mart.

    Making friends with the doctors is definitely a good idea. I used to make house calls instead of going to the hospital. They still scare me 🙁

  9. Eep!

    I guess it is a good thing that I have forsaken all of my girly, possibly blister inducing shoes, while here for sneakers. I hope that the Amox works and you can stay away from the IV for as long as possible.

  10. I feel better now

    Jamieson was sicker than a yellow dog recently, having picked up a nasty virus from one of the citizens which had lingered for 2.5 weeks. There he was 3.30 am last Wednesday under 2 quilts, shivering, sweating, coughing and generally being a nuisance, with the coughing waking Yuki from time to time. She’s exasperated. “Get up, get dressed, we’re going to the Hospital” (oh, nooooo……)

    So we arrive at the Taj Mahal of public Hospitals in Suzhou, the “Number 1 Hospital affiliated to Soochow University” by cab at 4 am. Fortunately, at 4 a.m. there are few patients vis. Jamieson and some other nosey prick who wants to see what’s wrong with the Laowai. I wanted to tell him to “fuck off” and get the hell out of the consulting room but he may have been “a somebody” in the Hospital. Anything’s possible in China, best to hold your tongue if you don’t have all the facts. Yeah, there it is, I was expecting it. Fresh blood on the floor. Nice.

    We see a doctor, mosey over to the blood collection window, have a sample taken…. 18 parameters done in about 2 minutes on an swanky, gleaming computerised blood analyser that must have cost about USD$500,000. Blood samples in Australia would take about 2 hours at least !

    Back to the quack, then off to the “infusion chamber” which has about 80 or so seats and about 50 beds, with IV bottles hanging from brackets bolted to the ceiling.

    So I have 2 x 500 ml bottles of this Industrial Grade anti-viral stuff (US brand, but made in China) mixed in with salt, glucose & water over 5 hours. Just lay on the bed and hold Yuki. Drip,drip,drip. So boring.

    Passing Nurse: “You want WHAT ? A curtain around the bed ? Earplugs ? STOP THIS NONSENSE.”
    Jamieson: “Errr, um, OK, sorry.”
    Nurse: “You just lay there and enjoy the shouting and moaning from the other patients.”
    Jamieson: “Ah, OK”

    Off to another doctor, get a bag full of unnecessary medications, then home for a hot shower, lunch and a nice sleep. Wake up 5 hours later, felt like I’d touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. I felt 100 times better than that morning. No sunset fevers of 39.1 C. That’s definitely an improvement!

    I’m rather fond of the Hong Kong Hospital in Suzhou. I like getting told “I am your minder” by a nurse in reception with damn good English who ushers me to private consulting rooms. With closed doors.

    Of course not much change from a grand, but I want ‘the right stuff’.


    Yuki spat the dummy “Too expensive”. “Honey get what you pay for….”

    Double J.

  11. Hi Ryan, Interesting blog. I have a similar problem but afraid to go to Chinese hospital. I dont know what kind of bacteria caused the blister on my sole feet. Thus, I may like to check the infection into the Laboratorium for antibiotic prescription.
    Can you suggest me what kind of antibiotic do you use to treate the blister on the sole feet and where is the hospital in Suzhou can you reccomend for this check up? Thanks and hope your ffet get beeter to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *