Happy Chinese New Year!
From February 7 – 11, Zhuhai becomes a bit of an apocalyptic ghost town but nonetheless, I was determined to celebrate my first Chinese New Year in China with dragon dances, fireworks and a banquet of traditional foods.
But the start of the Year of the Monkey didn’t go quite as planned…
Back Pain – Ain’t Nobody got time for that
It could’ve been that bag of shopping, those laps at the pool, being pregnant or the exceptionally hard wooden beds that so many Chinese swear by.
Whatever the cause, it happened.
Suddenly, and without warning, I found myself unable to walk due to a back pain so excruciating, it felt like someone had a fist around my spine, clenching it tighter with every movement.
So, New Years Eve was spent in bed, trying to find a position that would relieve the sharp jabs of dolor.
After a unbearable night of tears- hubby and I decided to cab it to emergency.
So, what’s a Chinese hospital like?
Well, the best of them are first-class, rivaling any hospital in the world. The worst, are plain scary.
I got a bit of both.
Given the time of year, the hospital is virtually deserted. It looks like an old 80s shopping mall but with more plastic chairs and better haircuts.
Cruising around the empty halls in my wheelchair, I see a spine specialist, who tells me she can’t do diddly given my “serious condition” also known as pregnancy.
No medication at all, she insists.
Instead, she recommends a ‘treatment’, which basically involves me painfully squirming on a hard wooden bench with a hot piece of plastic, tied to my body with a pink towel.
The nurse and doctor then spend a good 15 minutes standing over me on either side, discussing in Chinese what could be the cause. As if they’re playing a game of charades.
“Two words.” “Sounds like, excruciating pain?” “Yes! “Hmm…pinched nerve?” “Slipped disc?” “Kidney stones?”
The piece of plastic is soon peeled from my back and then I’m wheeled off to see the gynecologist (who I’ve now come to know as, Dr Evil Pouty Face).
That time the doctor punched me in the back
“Not to be ageist, but..” it was a bit surprising to see that the gynecologist was younger than me, at a guess, aged in her early 20s, with a pouty face and huge, round Where’s Wally glasses.
I lay down on a bed covered in black, long hairs, with a green curtain flapping against my head, as I stare up to a moudly, hole-ridden ceiling. “Don’t be such a princess,” I tell myself.
Dr Evil’s beside manner is frosty at best, and she makes all variation of duck faces as she checks the baby’s heartbeat. It’s all fine. Phew.
Pulling up my top I began showing her where it is “hen tong” (very painful), wincing as I trace up and down my spine.
Placing her hand over the inflamed, fragile area I’m pointing to, I suddenly feel two taps, followed by an almighty punch in the back.
Did that just seriously happen? Did the doctor really just punch my delicate spine?
I jolt forward with a loud, “Lorrrrdddddd, Jesus!”
I can’t breathe, talk, my eyes won’t focus, all I feel is pain, followed by a rage so consuming that my whole face turns pink.
Dr Evil shrugs off my expletive and announces that I may have kidney stones.
So, it’s off to do a pee sample. Should be an easy test. Right?
How not to do a squat-toilet sample
“OK, here is your cup,” the nurse says, passing it over.
Hobbling off my wheelchair and I give a steely “OK, I can do this!” jokingly adding, “…as long as it’s not a squat toilet.”
Ha. Ha. Ha.
It is a squat toilet and not the kind you’d expect at A HOSPITAL. It is the opposite of sparkling clean, the lights don’t work and there’s no toilet paper or soap.
So here I am, pee cup in hand, with extreme back pain, trying to single-handedly pull down my jeans, over a dirty hole, trying not to touch anything.
To boot, I’m almost six months pregnant so my protruding stomach means my balance is a little off.
Finally, I exit the stall, completely frazzled, and unsure whether I can call what just happened a “success” or not.
Nurse Mother Theresa
Spending Chinese New Year in hospital isn’t great whatever way you look at it.
The medical care and facilities, while adequate, weren’t really what I was expecting either.
But this experience wasn’t all doom and gloom because I had Nurse Judy.
She was meant to just be a translator to make sure I didn’t ask for a colon cleanse by mistake, but she went above and beyond.
Stroking my hand and massaging my shoulders, she told me everything was going to be alright.
She microwaved and re-microwaved my heat pack, she was firm with doctors to make sure everything ran quickly and smoothly.
She even called in a favor from a friend to make sure a taxi would be waiting for us at the door to take us home. It was New Year’s Day, after all.
Giving me a big hug, she told the driver to go slowly and flashed her huge smile, waving goodbye.
Best. Nurse. Ever.
In the end, everything turned out to be “fine” but the cause of the nightmarish back pain was left a mystery.
Overall, my first real Chinese hospital experience was one of extreme opposites, sharing only one thing in common – being entirely memorable.