About 3 days after visiting the ER of a hospital in Seoul (see this link for the story), and getting Tamiflu along with several other medicines, Julianne began to feel worse not better.  We headed back to the hospital last Wednesday morning after she called me at school to say she needed my help.

Arriving at the hospital we headed to the International Foreigner Clinic.  As we walked through the main entrance of the hospital I couldn’t help thinking ‘oh my god, there are so many people coming and going from the hospital, and many of them are elderly, why is there no temperature check and sterile mask check point at the main entrance?’  In the main waiting area just inside the entrance I immediately asked a nurse who was wearing her mask around her neck for two masks for Julianne and I to put on.  While Julianne was not tested for H1N1 during our last visit (not sure why), we were pretty sure that she had it.  We wanted to be responsible and put on masks so that she wouldn’t infect any people inside the hospital . . . I have to be a bit sarcastic here and say that I guess this must be a foreign concept . . . sigh.

After hearing me ask for masks, and saying “H1N1” to the nurse she put on her mask immediately with a very alarmed face.

Julianne and I then headed over to the main desk that has the international clinic sign above it but we were directed to go to the right of the desk and down a hallway about 15 feet to the actual clinic itself.  Apparently there are no English speaking medical staff or clerks posted to the desk in the main lobby where the giant sign is but rather you’ll only find them in the clinic itself.

Arriving at the small office we waited while the secretary (nurse?) kept answering the phone . . . and waited, and waited . . . and then she finally stopped to talk to us.

The nurse (I’m guessing) began asking us why were visiting (apparently failing to notice that BOTH of us were wearing masks) and after hearing “fever” and “Swine Flu” she paused and reached behind her to pick up a N95 mask . . . lol, lucky for her that Julianne already had her mask on, eh?  I don’t know how quickly someone can be infected from talking to a person with the H1N1 virus but if you aren’t wearing your mask and the sick person isn’t wearing a mask I would have to hazard a guess that the odds do increase at least a little that you’re going to be infected . . . sigh.

The nurse asked Julianne for her alien registration card, national health insurance card, and we also gave her the hospital info card.  After typing in some info, and asking Julianne some questions, the nurse took Julianne’s temperature.  It was a little high, and probably would have been higher if Julianne had not already been taking anti-flu meds.  The nurse wrote this info down on a form, and then told us someone would come and take us to the “H1N1 Clinic.”

After waiting about 2 minutes a guy in his late 20s or early 30s showed up to escort us.  He was wearing a mask–wow–and we began walking to wherever the “clinic” was located.  I asked Julianne if she wanted to get a wheelchair but she said no, she’d walk.  I was worried, though, because we didn’t know how far away this “clinic” was and Julianne was VERY weak, and needed to walk very slowly.

Walking outside, I asked the escort if he spoke English and got a quick head shake ‘no.’  We slowly walked across the parking lot, and had to pause while trying to cross a through way because traffic wouldn’t stop for us (why stop for sick people when driving through a hospital? Yes, this pissed me off!).

I asked the escort how much farther away the clinic was because I had the sinking feeling that it could be several hundred meters away . . . he pointed at a place that looked like it was about 50 meters from where we were, so the total distance was about 150 meters from the hospital entrance–this being a great location for sick people to walk when they need to see a doctor, of course–NOT!

Telling myself to calm down, and that things could be worse Julianne and I walk past construction vehicles roaring around, and BEEP BEEP BEEPING as they move materials to see a collection of 4 white tents . . . needless to say we were rather shocked.

Julianne began saying “There’s no way I’m giving blood in there!” and I tried to reassure her that they wouldn’t ask her to do that in an open air tent with construction being done a few feet away from its entrance . . .

Inside the tent we were told to “wait a minute” to which I replied that Julianne needed a place to sit down if we’d be waiting.  We walked over to the waiting area of the tent and sat down.


After waiting about 5 minutes or so the escort called us over and we walked to the 3rd tent area where there were four desks with stools for patients to sit on while a doctor consulted them.  The first doctor that begins talking to Julianne tries to ask a question, stumbles, tries again, stumbles, and then another doctor walks over and begins speaking fluent English to us–THANK YOU!

This guy was awesome!  Good English, friendly, and he also used everyday level vocabulary when asking Julianne questions about her symptoms and why she was visiting the “clinic.”  About one minute into the diagnosis a heavy construction vehicle began doing something just outside the tent wall we were next to.  The beep beep beEP bEEP BEEP BEEP!!!!!!!!!!!!! became so loud that we could barely hear the doctor speaking–I’m NOT exaggerating.  Julianne was wincing from the volume of the piercing warning sounds of the construction vehicle, and the doctor couldn’t hear her answering his questions so I had to take over.

I told the doctor I couldn’t believe that the hospital was allowing construction near the “H1N1 Clinic,” and I said I felt sorry for all the medical staff having to work under such conditions.  He appreciated the sympathetic comments, and we finished up the diagnosis in spite of the RIDICULOUS noise levels inside the “clinic.”


The doctor came to the conclusion that the Tamiflu was making Julianne’s symptoms too severe and that we’d need to discontinue using it.  He prescribed a different antibiotic, and other medicines for her symptoms.  We were happy to hear that this should help Julianne feel better soon.

The doctor then asked for Julianne’s hospital card so he could put it into a machine that looked like an ATM bank card machine.  He slipped it in and then ran into difficulties–the International Foreign Clinic nurse had failed to input Julianne’s info correctly and she wasn’t in the system as a patient . . . amazing how this can happen TWICE in two visits . . . the doctor was surprised but then volunteered to walk back to the ER desk with me to get Julianne put into the system and organize ordering the prescriptions he had given her.

I asked him if Julianne needed to come with us because it meant walking farther than she had energy for and he suggested that she sit down again in the waiting area while I accompanied him to the ER desk.


After getting Julianne signed in to the system (which should have been done when we first arrived, but hey, maybe that’s not the way things are done? But both times this has happened the doctor and nurse were surprised by it, I don’t know…) the doctor and I headed back to the tents aka “H1N1 Clinic” and Julianne and I thanked him, got Julianne’s prescription printed out from the ATM-type machine, and we left the hospital.

Since Julianne was still feeling really crappy I suggested that we get her back into bed at home, and then I headed out to get her prescriptions.  I walked the short distance from my apartment to a part of Dongdaemun Market that has several pharmacies thinking that ‘a pharmacy is a pharmacy’ and I’d be able to get Julianne her meds and head home quickly . . . WRONG!

After trying 3 different large size pharmacies and failing I realized I had to go back to the hospital area and visit one of the pharmacies sitting just outside the hospital grounds.

Inside I placed my order, but then the pharmacist told me they didn’t have any English instructions for the drugs.  At first she didn’t want to try explaining in English what each drug was, when and how often to take them, and with food or without . . . so I called my co-teacher to help out.  They spoke in Korean for about 2 minutes, and my co-teacher translated the important info for me.  I LOVE MY CO-TEACHER!  And in fairness to the pharmacist medical English is NOT easy, and my Korean is (literally) poor (no, I’m NOT being humble here, lol).


About 10 minutes later Julianne’s drugs were ready and I paid for them and left.  Before leaving, however, the pharmacist explained what each drug was for, when and how often to take them, and a few other details in ENGLISH!  I will never stop being astounded how a Korean can claim to be unable to speak English, or that their English is poor, and then given the right motivation or some time to think things over and build up their confidence how GOOD their English actually is when they try.

I thanked the pharmacist for helping me and headed home to give Julianne her meds.

Thus endeth the . . . 8th (?) trip to a hospital in Korea with Julianne–and let’s hope it’s the last!