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.