Wednesday, Jul 26, 2017, 8:34 PM CST – China


Tummy Trouble

Knowing how much international hospitals cost without good insurance, I went to the local military hospital

In certain ways, I have an artist’s disposition. I don’t enjoy planning, I dislike getting bogged down with details and I don’t apply too much logic in my decision-making process. These traits are a mixed bag – they allow me to be fairly easygoing, but they can also conspire to get me into ridiculous situations that might have been avoided with a little bit of research or common sense. While I’ve learned that it’s important to know when to go with the flow and when to force yourself to use that common sense, I still struggle to actually apply this lesson.

 Last year, I started to suffer from nausea, and it got steadily worse until finally I could barely eat. Knowing how much international hospitals cost without good insurance, I went to the local military hospital, which was, I was told, the best Chinese hospital in town. 

They had no idea what was wrong with me (though they had some rather presumptuous guesses), so they advised that I get a weijing to find out. A quick check of my phone’s dictionary app revealed that this meant a gastroscopy. It sounded unpleasant, but no more so than the inability to consume food, so I made myself an appointment.

“Would you like a putong weijing or a wutong weijing?” Was the first thing the receptionist wanted to know. A quick check of my phone’s dictionary app left me no wiser as to what that meant. When asked to explain the difference, she said that, “The wutong one is slightly more comfortable. It’s also slightly more expensive.”

Now, this is where I should’ve planned better, forced myself to get bogged down in details, and applied copious amounts of logic. I should’ve endeavored to find out exactly how much more expensive and exactly how much more comfortable this wutong thing would be. These facts would’ve been pertinent to making this particular decision. But deploying exactly the amount of wisdom I had, I just picked the cheaper option.

So, I returned for my putong weijing the following week.  “OK, I see here that you – ” the receptionist looked up from my file and stared at me, aghast. “Are you getting the putong one?” She asked incredulously. I confirmed that I was.

“Guys!” She called to her colleagues, “she’s getting the putong weijing!” A murmur went around the room, and the nurses looked at me with a mix of admiration and horror. This was my first indication that I had made a grave mistake. “Alright then, take this form and wait here.”

I was ushered over to a bench where two women were waiting. As I sat down, a third woman was wheeled out of the exam room on a gurney, and the next woman in line went in.

“Hello!” Said the lady in front of me brightly. She looked at my form and then at my wrist and then at my confused face and said, “Oh no, are you getting the putong one?” I nodded nervously. I noticed that she had an IV needle in her arm that was all set up to be hooked up to something or other. I placed a mental wager against no one in particular that whatever she would be hooked up to would be more expensive and comfortable than whatever was in store for me. “I got the putong one last time and it was awful,” she continued, “so I’m never doing that again. That’s why I splurged and got the wutong one this time.” I nodded meekly, not sure what to say.

“What’s the difference?” I asked, far too late, but before she could answer, the exam room door opened and the lady that had walked in completely upright not 10 minutes before hobbled out, shaking. “That was awful,” she whimpered.

“Putong,” my new friend whispered, pointing. My heart sank even lower.

 By the time it was my turn I started to reconsider just how uncomfortable not eating really was. “Here sweetie, put this in your mouth,” said one of the nurses, handing me a plastic contraption that was clearly designed to prevent me from biting down on the tube that was about to be fed down my throat without anesthetic.

 Now, my artist’s disposition has gotten me into plenty of really fun situations that I would never take back. I’ve taken impromptu trips, met some amazing people and moved internationally: things that have greatly enhanced my experience on this earth. But, every now and them, I find myself in a situation like the putong weijing one. Rather than leaving me fulfilled, it has left me only with a diagnosis and a creeping suspicion that if it all happened again, I would do exactly the same thing.


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