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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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).

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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!

J

Almost two weeks ago Julianne became very ill with flu-like symptoms.  But she didn’t have a fever so we thought, perhaps wrongly (apparently a fever is NOT mandatory to have H1N1), that she probably didn’t have H1N1.  A couple days later she was really sick and having some trouble breathing so we headed to the hospital.

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The first contact people in the ER are two clerks behind a counter, and one to two security guards who monitor incoming patients and people.  Considering the hype over H1N1 I was surprised that there wasn’t a person at the door taking everyone’s temperature as they entered the area.  Instead, the security guards hand out masks to incoming people . . . but didn’t seem to be giving them to 100% of the people entering the ER area.  (Also, inside the ER area I only saw about 60-70% of people wearing their masks, some incorrectly, and no one seemed to be asking the people not wearing masks to put them on.)

Since the security guards act as first contact people (after the two clerks) in the entrance of the ER they had sterile masks.  Some of them wore them correctly, while others wore them around their neck with the nose and mouth uncovered . . .

Considering the fact that a security guard comes into contact with EVERY PERSON entering the ER I was rather disgusted with the guards not wearing their masks.  If they did have H1N1 they could be infecting patients and visitors to the ER . . .

Anyways, more on this after I continue the story . . .

Julianne gave her alien registration card, national health insurance booklet, and hospital info card to the two clerks at the desk who then waved us through to the ER doors where the security guards pass out masks.   We were handed masks and then walked through to the open treatment area (open as in there are no private rooms or wall dividers between each area and everyone sees everything that is taking place while you talk to your doctor–there are curtains but they are rarely pulled around the patient).

Before seeing a doctor Julianne was seated in the hallway where a nurse with excellent English asked her some preliminary questions.  But when she tried to call up Julianne’s registration file on her computer we found out that the clerk at the front desk had failed to sign Julianne into the hospital as a patient–uhm, hello patient in-take procedures? I wonder why he didn’t enter her into the system . . . the nurse looked puzzled and did what should have been done earlier.

It was around this point that another nurse walked up and asked me to sign the ‘friend/family responsibility for patient form’ that you must sign if you’re the person coming in with a patient.  It says things like: take care of personal belongings, be with the patient at all times, and other things along those lines.

Anyways, Julianne was having  a hard time breathing and when the nurse found this out she hooked her up to a heart rate and blood pressure monitor.

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After asking Julianne and I several questions and typing the info into her computer, Julianne and I walked into the open diagnosis area where there are four or five desks with computers and doctors sitting at them.   Each desk is beside a bed where the patient sits while the doctor asks them questions.

Some of the doctors had masks on, and others didn’t.  Our doctor didn’t wash her hands or disinfect them before beginning the consultation with Julianne.  Albeit she didn’t touch Julianne during the diagnosis ‘interrogation’ (there were a LOT of questions) I am still surprised that this isn’t a common practice before seeing each patient . . .

One thing that surprised Julianne and I (as opposed to our previous visits to the ER) was that the doctor was using a list of diagnostic questions from a window on her computer screen.  Some of the medical vocabulary in the questions was ridiculously high level and the only reason Julianne and I knew the definitions was because Julianne’s mother was a nurse, and I’ve had my own share of life experience and exposure to medical terms.  If we hadn’t, there were at least 7 questions if not more that we would not have known how to answer.  It would have been really “interesting” at that point to see the doctor try and explain to us in ENGLISH what she was trying to ask, lol, sigh!

Julianne hooked up to the monitor and sharing an “I hate coming here” look with me.

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This is my “I really really HATE coming here!” face . . .

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After finishing up the insanely long and difficult diagnosis Julianne was sent to get an X-ray to make sure she didn’t have pneumonia.  We waited about 20 minutes, which is quite good I think, and during that time Julianne just wanted to go home and rest.  To cheer her up and try and get a laugh I made a joke that we should sneak into this room and ‘play doctor’–heheheh.

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One of the patients that went ahead of us had a badly broken leg.  Hearing her whimpering and begging the X-ray technician to stop moving her leg while they X-rayed it was hard; we both felt really bad for her.

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After hearing the poor woman with a broken leg the little bit of energy Julianne had began to crash.  This is her “I really really want to go home now” face.  I rubbed her head and tried to help her be more comfortable.

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Finally it was Julianne’s turn–I tried to sneak a shot of the room . . . it didn’t work as well I was hoping, lol.

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After the X-ray was done we headed back to the diagnosis area where we were told that Julianne’s X-ray was clear.  The doctor then told us she was going to prescribe medicine and that we should go sit down and wait.

Back outside the ER and in the waiting area I became really INFURIATED with the freaking security guards standing at the entrance to the ER area.  Both weren’t wearing masks. One was sneezing and coughing, touching his face without washing his hands after, and then HANDING OUT MASKS to new patients/friends/family entering the ER….and then I saw another guard PICK HIS–yes, I’m going to swear here–FUCKING NOSE and then hand out masks to incoming people…

I went and asked a doctor to order the guards to put on their masks (they were wearing them on their necks), and asked her to explain to them that as first contact personnel they were at HIGH RISK for infection, and then passing the virus on to each person they pass out masks and talk to entering patients and people throughout their shift.

The real kicker was that a cancer patient with an IV bag was sitting about 10 feet away from the guard sneezing and coughing without a mask on. I suggested to the doctor that she might want to tell the CANCER patient that she should wear a mask while sitting right beside the main entrance area of the ER…you know, the whole chemotherapy thing compromising your immune system…yeah. The doctor thanked me after with a surprised but happy tone that I cared about the welfare of Koreans . . . and while I appreciate the response I really wish a nurse or doctor had been the one to notice this kind of thing–and not me.

After the doctor spoke to the two guards, one of them complied, the other did not.  I really hope that some kind of inspection takes place at the hospital where that guard is read the riot act by his superior for not using his mask.

In spite of the very critical comments I make here I should temper them by saying that the doctors and nurses are friendly and do a great job.  I should point out that my expectations are incredibly high because I love Julianne and when a loved one is sick I think most people become very concerned with the quality of care–which was very good overall.  While I may not be happy with some hygiene practices at the hospital the doctors have never made any mistakes, and each time we’ve had to visit the outcome of their prescribed treatment is excellent.

I will say, however, just one more time . . .

Do NOT pick your nose and then hand out sterile masks!

Whew! I’m glad I got that out of my system.

J

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