A couple of weeks ago, I visited some hospitals with a group of friends. We thought it would be great to be prepared, you know, just in case. As we wandered around the different facilities – some ok, some not – I just kept hoping we would never REALLY need to visit one. Well, yesterday, I did.
My daughter fell at school and split open her eye.
Let me set the scene…I had been home for a week with my 10 year old who had an unspecified bacterial infection. A common practice in Chinese hospitals is to offer IV medications for EVERYTHING. We saw this at some of the hospitals we visited, rows of chairs with IV poles just waiting for customers. I declined the offer to have my 10 year old started on IV medications. Oral antibiotics are good enough my my family. Even though there were Chinese antibiotics, what what’s a girl gonna do? She needed them!
My 13 year old had been out sick from school the day before AND my husband was out of town. I really needed a break, so a friend agreed to meet me around 2:00 for a late lunch. I was really looking forward to it. I rode my bike to the restaurant and was waiting outside when I heard a large crack and scream. Two scooters had crashed and sent one passenger flying through the air. (Bad omen.) The driver was ok. She was just scratched up and her scooter was trashed. Nobody called the police, just literally picked up the pieces of her broken scooter and limped away.
Back to my story…my friend and I ordered some snacks and drinks and were settling into a nice conversation when my cell phone rang. The middle school was calling. The nurse, in an irritatingly calm voice, told me that my daughter had fallen and had a cut over her eye. She paused then told me to come get her and bring her to the hospital. Sure. How? On my bike? Off I zoomed to school, calling my driver along the way. When I got to the nurse’s office I found my daughter swollen and bleeding from a gash on her eyelid. Since I had just visited hospitals, I knew the closest one was Ruidong. (You can find it on Facebook – 瑞東醫院 – no lie. This Chinese hospital is on Facebook. The photos are, well, interesting to say the least.)
The school nurse called to make sure there was a surgeon there – one who could suture her face. After waiting for the driver, we rode to the hospital.
Now, there are some who might say that the hospital I chose is NOT a Chinese hospital. (There are some who say we don’t even really live in China, since we live in such an international area. But I beg to differ. It’s totally China.) This hospital is Chinese, but has an international floor. We arrived and went up to the second floor where they asked for my insurance card and daughter’s passport. (I keep shrunken copies of passports in my wallet for this purpose.) After a bit of Chinese/English discussion, we saw the doctor. He was very kind, mid-50’s…I have no idea what his name was. He brought my daughter to the exam table which was in his actual office, behind his desk. He examined her eyelid and explained that she needed sutures. He could do this “plastic surgery” for her. No problem. What followed is pretty standard procedure – lidocaine injection into her eyelid, cleaning of the wound, two layers of sutures etc. He asked her constantly if she was in any pain. He did a nice job, as far as I could tell. Was it completely sterile? Probably not. Is sweat sterile? The sweat dripping from his brow was everywhere, but I didn’t actually see any land in the wound. He also covered her face with a drape. Sterile? Probably not. And difficult for her to breathe under, so I held up the corner so she could get some air. He put her on antibiotics and asked that she come back the next day so he could clean and re-dress the wound.
This is where it got funny. After he prescribed the antibiotics, he looked at me and said, “no alcohol with this medicine”. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. He turned to the nurse for translation help, then turned to my daughter and said “no beer with this medicine.” He was serious! Beer for my 13 year old? Too funny.
When we returned the next day, they were careful to take my insurance card copy again. They are obsessed with payment here. Some hospitals require cash payment up front and all ambulances require cash at pick up. This hospital accepted debit cards, so I knew I was ok.
We go back in two weeks for suture removal. Right now, she looks like Frankenstein with purple eyeshadow. Her friend brought by a pirate eye patch today…how cute is that? Seriously, my girl is a trooper. Being in a foreign country in an unfamiliar medical environment and getting 12 stitches was a lot for me to handle – and I wasn’t even the patient!
I am thankful that we did the hospital tour and I successfully navigated through this medical crisis. I didn’t do it alone. My new “China family” was there to help me out – my driver, ayi, neighbors and other friends who offered to round up my other two children while I was at the hospital. A hearty shout out to my neighbor, Len, who delivered an emergency Stella Artois last night. Not for my daughter, though. She’s on antibiotics.