Again, apologies for not blogging regularly . . . between adjusting to life in China, prepping for teaching, and the Net going offline for two days/being as slow as a snail overdosing on valium . . . yeah, my posting has suffered.

Anyways, here’s an excerpt from a blog about our first trip to a hospital.

Click on the link below to read the rest of the story–if you dare.


A few days ago Julianne and I were on our way home from picking up groceries at a department store called “Metro.”  It’s similar to COSTCO and carries a lot of foreign foods and other things that we can’t get at the other department stores in Changsha.

While getting into a taxi to head home Julianne’s foot slipped on the floor mat and went flying at high speed under the driver’s seat to collide with something metal and unrelenting–she let out a cry and immediately began sobbing.  Needless to say I was freaked out and tried to calm her down thinking that she just pinched her foot or toe or something minor . . .

It was NOT a minor injury.

PROVISO: If you are at all squeamish you should probably stop reading now.

Since it was impossible for either of us to see her foot, and in particular her big toe, because of the bags piled on our laps Julianne said she’d just wait the 3 minute drive till we got  home to look at the injury closer.  She told me she thought her big toe nail had been bent back, but she couldn’t tell how bad her injury was at the time.

Outside the taxi we looked down at her big toe to see a huge white crease running diagonally down her toe nail.  The toe was already swollen to twice its original size, and blood was oozing out the running edge of the nail.  We couldn’t tell if whatever had done a Godzilla on her toe had pierced the flesh underneath or if it had ‘just’ done a number on the nail . . .

Julianne hobbled up the four flights of stairs (no elevator in our apartment building, sigh) and after I got her sitting down I grabbed a lamp and we gave it a closer inspection.  Julianne had been saying she would just clean it up in our apartment and let it heal itself without a trip to the hospital, but after each of us took a closer look at it, and I pointed out we had no clue what had stuck her or how severely, we decided it was “first trip to a hospital in China time.”

I picked up my cell phone and called our university liaison.  I explained that we needed help to get Julianne to the hospital, and help transalting with a doctor.  Her reply was, “I have to go to a meeting.”

Now this probably where my blood pressure rose severely, and I began chanting to myself “don’t start yelling, don’t start yelling, be nice, be nice, be polite, be polite” .  . .

I tried explaining what had happened, and that the injury was such that it shouldn’t wait several hours until it was convenient for her schedule . . . and got the “I have a meeting in an hour” reply again.

Alright, when my lover is in agony, needs medical care, and might have an injury with infection setting in in a place out of sight . . . well, that’s where my cross-cultural diplomacy goes out the f’ng window.

I reply, “Okay. I’ll call ‘high ranking person X’ and ask him to help us.”

Suddenly everything is copacetic (don’t get to use that word every day) and Miss I-have-a-meeting transforms into Miss I’ll-be-there-in-two-minutes.  I hang up after telling her to let me know when she’s arrived with someone to drive us to the hospital.

One minute later, I’m not exaggerating, I get a call saying they’re waiting for us outside the apartment compound.  Julianne hobbles down the four fligths of stairs, and out of the compound to the car.  It’s then I find out we’re going to the campus military hospital.  It never occurred to me to be alarmed because in my mind I was doing the newbie-in-a-foreign-culture-thing and I assumed a military hospital would be similar to ones in Canada . . . yeah.

We drive about 200 meters to the clinic (hospital implies a large building in my mind, and this was not a large building).  Arriving at the driveway we have to circle around a portion of concrete that is falling to bits and cannot support the car’s weight . . . this should have been my first warning of what was to come.

Walking inside there are no lights, and no people.  My heart sinks and it’s then that I realize how all pervasive siesta time is in Changsha.  From lunch time till about 3pm everyone is napping or taking a rest from work–and this includes doctors and nurses.

Our liaison walks around knocking on doors and calling out for someone . . . and after a minute or two a doctor comes out of room dressed in a collared shirt and cotton pants with bare feet in sandles . . . nice.  He pulls on his white doctor’s coat (good thing, cause later on I would have been asking if he actually had a medical liscence based on how often I had to ask for him to do certain things) and we get Julianne into an ‘examination room’ . . .

Inside the room the doctor pulls out a package of q-tips and asks Julianne to sit down on a bed.  I look at him and wonder when he’s going to wash his hands . . . but after searching the room for a sink and soap the one I see in the corner makes me cringe like it’s crawling with vipers–it was filthy, and the bar of soap looked like a biohazard.

I wait one more minute, and then ask him if he’s going to put gloves on.  I think he understood some English because that’s when he reaches into a cupboard and pulls out a package of gloves.  By this point a nurse has arrived, and the room is getting crowded.  The doctor, nurse, liaison, and Julianne and I . . .

This is when Julianne and I begin asking questions.

1. What does he want to do?
2. Does he want to cut off the toe nail?
3. How will he do that?

4. Will he use sterile instruments?

The first three questions get translated and answered pretty easily.  The doctor wants to cut off the nail to see if there are any open wounds or punctures underneath it.

But ‘sterile’ was a word our liaison didn’t know and we had to try and explain it . . . and even after I tried several different ways of explaining and defining the term she didn’t have that glint of “I get it” in her eye.  Julianne and I give up temporarily and gesture for the doctor to get on with it.  Both of us watching like hawks to see what he will do, and where the instruments will come from.

The nurse reaches into a steel and glass cabinet that looks circa 1920′s and pulls out a stainless steel tray with a lid.  Inside it are surgical scissors and other tools . . . all of which are HUGE in dimensions.  I’m sure my eyes must have bugged out as much as Julianne’s were at that point because the doctor picks up scissors that looked like the kind you’d use to open up someone’s chest–not delicately cut off pieces of toe nail!

Julianne then asks “Do you not have anything SMALLER?” . .  . . .

Click on the link to read the rest of the story.

First hospital trip in Changsha, Hunan, China — “You wanna do WHAT with that?! Uh-UH! We’re outa here!”