Won and Won and Won are 3…

“got to be good looking ’cause he’s so hard to see…come together, right now, over me…”

Heh, I’ve not done a Beatles riff on my blog until now. Perhaps I should have continued to refrain from doing so, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pun.

Of course, I am talking about the Korean monetary unit, the Won (pronouced like “Juan”). Which is in the toilet these days. Folks like Jenn of I’ve Got Two Shoes fame who get paid in Korean money have seen what amounts to a significant pay cut. Me, I get paid in U.S. greenbacks, so I’m feeling almost wealthy these days.

When I first arrived in January 2005 the exchange rate was like W1030 to the dollar. Last year it dropped as low as W960 or so. Now it is over W1300 to the dollar. I exchanged $300. Friday and got almost 400,000 Won back. That’s 25% better than just a few months ago.

Not that I spend all that much money on the economy, I do most of my shopping on post. Still, it makes my beer tab cheaper and that’s a good thing.

“Money don’t buy everything it’s true
But what it don’t buy, I can’t use
Now give me money, that’s what I want…”

Day by day

I am doing better with each passing day. It is good to report that I am almost feeling normal again (normal being a relative term when applied to me I suppose).

Still not sure what is going on inside, went to the on-base hospital and saw a military doctor. He doesn’t know either, but at least we could talk about it in English. They took some blood and other bodily fluids for testing, so we’ll see in a few days if they find anything significant.

It is good to have my appetite and sense of taste back. Not sure what caused it, but things like beer and diet Coke suddenly were very bitter tasting. Had me concerned, but I have quaffed a few brews this weekend and all appears normal (eh, there’s that word again).

I have not smoked for two weeks now. And it is killing me. Sometimes I ache for a cigarette, but so far I have managed to exercise more self control than I’m usually capable of maintaining. The real test was playing in a dart tourney yesterday, an event that would normally have me chain smoking a pack or more. Chomped on some gum and craved tobacco like a madman and somehow made it through another day. Wish me luck with this. I have already lost the disgusting smoker’s cough and I keep reminding myself that not ingesting poison smoke may add a few years to retired life, but addiction is not always rationale. So we shall see what happens.

Speaking of the dart tourney, I won the doubles portion. My darts have been shit all season, and the nearly month long hiatis during travel and illness didn’t help my game either. Anyway, I threw much better yesterday which is encouraging. Still not back to where I was, but hopefully I’ve turned the corner on my downward spiral.

Thanks to all who have expressed concern and get well-wishes for me. It means a lot.

In the hospital

I have never previously been hospitalized. But I have visited enough US hospitals to have a pretty good idea of the experience involves.

Of course, I was not admitted to an American hospital, so I was going in pretty much blind. This is what I experienced:

I was put in a relatively small room with two other Koreans. Two beds were against the wall at the far end of the room. My bed was on the opposite wall near the entrance door. In this configuration, the foot of my bed was approximately six inches from the head of my neighbors bed.

There was a small TV mounted on wall at the “far” end of the room with the volume set on blare.

The bathroom was down the hall 50 feet or so and shared by everyone on the 7th floor.

I was apparently the only foriegner.

The room was not particularly clean. No privacy curtains or other such amenities were in existence.

I was not allowed to eat any food whatsover (interfered with “tests” and the medication I was receiving intraveneously).

I could never get a clear answer on just what was in the yellow liquid being continuosly fed into my arm.

It did eventually bring my fever under control.

I was totally unprepared for this visit and had nothing to help pass the hours and hours of sheer, mind-numbing boredom.

Both of my roommates snored louder than anyone I have ever head. In unison they nearly made the walls vibrate.

Although sleep was a sweet escape, I could only manage a couple of hours each night.

After the first night (Monday), I was ready to be discharged. Lack of sleep, lack of food, lack of mental stimulation were taking their toll. The doctor insisted I stay until Thursday.

Test results indicated I had picked up a pretty common virus that had planted itself in my spleen, which in turn had caused significant reductions in my white blood cell count. This was somewhat of a relief because there had been some talk of Malaria from the docs and I was fearing cancer.

Surprisingly, my second night in hospital turned out to be much worse than the first. As I lay there sleepless listening the snorers I was sure I was losing my mind. I felt totally trapped and helpless. It was the biggest pity party I ever had for myself.

The next morning when the nurse tried to attach a new bag of the mystery yellow fluid to my IV, I forcefully said “anio!”. And then I had her remove the IV from my arm. She was shocked and I am sure it got the staff talking about the miguk who must have lost his mind. A different nurse with slightly better English skills tried to get me to take my medicine bag a couple of hours later, but I again declined saying I was through treating the symptoms, I was in hospital to address the CAUSE of the symptoms. Which went completely over her head. The staff pretty much gave me a wide birth after that.

A doctor (not my primary physician) came by and asked if I wanted to go home and I said yes. He asked why and I explained that they could give whatever was in the yellow fluid in pill form and I could treat the symptoms in the comfort of my home. I wanted to deal with the virus/spleen thing. He said there was nothing they could do about that. So I said just release me and he seemed happy to be rid of my whining ass.

I had to wait two hours while the did the out processing paperwork. I had called Blue Cross earlier and they were getting the documentation they needed to process my claim from the hospital. Or so I thought. The phone rang in the room, and since I alone was ambulatory, I got up and answered. It was Blue Cross asking if things were going ok. I said you tell me. The rep said they had asked for my medical records and were told they had to FAX the request, which they had done 3 hours ago without response. Uh oh, I thought.

So, I am advised by a nurse that “international finance” is ready for me now, and when I arrive I ask if they got the FAX. Apparently so, but it did not matter because they did not have a working arrangement with Blue Cross and I would have to pay out of pocket.

I admit I get grouchy sometimes. Especially when I’m hungry. Or tired. And I was tired and hungry. So, I kind of let the poor guy have it. Then I regained my calm enough to get Blue Cross on the phone. They show Soonchunhwang Hospital as a preferred provider on thier website and I thought they could clear up this misundertanding. Well, it would be funny under different circumstances, but the bottom line is Blue Cross and SCH never completed a contract. Which left me where?

To everyone’s credit more calls were made, higher ups consulted, and finally an exception was made on my behalf. So, six hours after I began trying to escape I was out the door.

And there you have the tale of my first (and hopefully last)time in a Korean hospital.

Something to blog about

I’m not going to belabor this too much, but I got sick the day after returning from the States. Started out with just a feeling of lethargy which I attributed to jet lag. But driving home from work on Thursday I was overcome with the tell-tale chills and shivers that are the precursors of fever.

And fever it was. I was holding pretty steady at 103 through Sunday. Well, I would knock it down for a bit with ibuprofen (prescription strength) but a couple of hours later I would be cookin’ again. Needless to say I was getting much sleep, wasn’t eating, and apparently wasn’t getting better.

When the fever came back stronger than ever Monday morning I was sufficiently motivated to get off the couch and down to the local emergency room at Sookchunhwang Hospital (to which regular readers will know I became acquainted through a couple of previous incidents involving me, er, falling down). Fever is a symptom and since I couldn’t seem to defeat the symptom, I thought maybe some antibiotics to attack the root cause was the way to go.

I’ll give the ER staff credit, they took blood, x-rays, and urine but 3 hours later they had come up with no more clue than I had regarding my condition. So, they scheduled me an appointment with the Intenational Clinic at SCH later that morning. I asked for a shot of anti-biotics but the doc declined stating it might interfere with whatever tests they might perfrom at the clinic. So, I headed home W400,000 poorer and in no better condition.

After managing a couple of hours sleep, it was back to the hospital’s International clinic and my appointment with Dr. Yoo. After hearing my tale of woe and taking my temprature (still 103) he wanted to admit me for testing. I told him I live right up the hill, he could do his tests on an outpatient basis. He was pretty insistent that it would be much better for me to do this inpatient. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and finally reluctantly agreed to be admitted.

And then the nightmare began.

(to be continued)