Sunday, 19 December 2010

Korean Surgery

So last week we ended up not going to the Namhae Hilton, which wasn't a huge surprise given how things seem to work around here! We've been told 'maybe around New Year' but no one's holding their breath.

My hospitalization went well, as did my recovery - the whole experience was more traumatic than painful or risky or anything. Unfortunately, the moment I stopped taking the various medications I was on to prevent an infection, I started to develop another bad cold. I'm very angry at whichever student it was who gave me this cold, and I fully intend on punishing them for it!

This is an email I sent to my parents on the day of the surgery, if anyone's interested in what it's like to have surgery in a country where you don't speak the language, or quite understand the culture, or have the same beliefs:

After a quick consult with the doctor at 9:20ish, I was sent down to another ward and told to put hospital clothes on. They were huuuuge, and Tom said he hoped they were big enough. I wasn't amused. It was cold here today, particularly early in the morning, but they wouldn't let me keep my socks on. I had to lie down and have an IV drip put in - it was just a glucose solution, necessary to reduce the number of puncture marks in my skin when other medications were given to me later. I looked like a sick person! It was a travesty.

Celeste [my friend, co-teacher and translator] had to leave but that was fine because everything had started by then. We were meant to wait around in the ward until a surgical room was free. The head nurse on the ward - who was also a nun - did I mention that it was a Catholic hospital? - came over and told us about the time she'd been on a pilgrimage to Dublin (?!). She left, and a few minutes later came back with a couple of CDs and asked which CD I'd prefer her to play - classical or holy music. Bear in mind there were a few other people on the ward too, including a little boy who looked really quite sick. Funnily enough, I chose classical, and Tom and I made a few jokes about being 'the patient of honour' and a 'very important patient.' It was ridiculous. Oh, and another patient - a teenage girl - was taking photos of her IV and texting them to her friends.

We went up to the surgery floor about fifty minutes after I had the IV put in. It was a really weird experience, to be dressed in hospital clothes (and no underwear!) and pulling a drip around in public when I was perfectly fine. It didn't help matters when I accidentally kicked one of the hospital's flip flips halfway across the main waiting room at the entrance of the building and Tom had to rush to get it for me. Like we're not enough of a spectacle anyway.

Tom sat in the surgery waiting room and the nurse/nun took me in. My hair was tied back under a surgical bandana (it was a good look), and I was handed over to the surgical team - without the stand for the IV. So the surgical nurse is walking me to the operating room, holding my glucose drip above her head, and I'm basically in scrubs about to have my insides electrified, and a teeny tiny old nun stopped us. I think she was asking whether I was Catholic but I pretended I couldn't understand her accent and just shrugged. The nun put her hand on my shoulder (she was so small that she had to really reach up) and prayed. In Korean. For at least two minutes. I could see that my blood was dribbling into the IV tube. At the end (finally), she said "amen" and gazed expectantly up at me. I figured that I couldn't exactly get into a philosophical discussion with her, not when her colleagues were about to perform a medical procedure on me, so I kind of stammered "amen. Kamsahamnida [thank you in Korean]" and THANK GOD (no pun intended) she left and I could go to surgery.

I had to wait in the operating room, lying on the table, arms spread, various things stuck in and on me, legs in stirrups, wearing a device that randomly (and frequently) took my blood pressure (nothing like THAT to raise your blood pressure), WITH MY ARMS AND LEGS TIED DOWN... for half an hour. While the nurses asked me if I liked Korea, where I lived, whether my students were well behaved - very nice, but all in very broken English.

The whole thing was completely surreal.

Eventually, just before 11.10, they injected my IV with some Wonder Drug which puts you to sleep for fifteen minutes. I told them I didn't want a general anaesthetic, which was fine, but wussed out of only having the local because this Wonder Drug guaranteed no pain, unlike the local. Also I was quite tired and fancied a nap. The injection REALLY hurt. It looked like milk, and felt as thick and cold going into my veins, and just thinking about it now is making me teary. (Apparently LEEP can mess with your hormones.) Just before I fell asleep I thought "shit, I'm not supposed to sleep with my contacts in!"

I was woken up at 11.25 and wheeled to a recovery room. I asked for Tom and they said no. I cried and they told me I had to stay there for ten minutes. Nothing hurt, and I could still feel everything - Tom had been concerned that the local anaesthetic would affect my legs. Eventually they removed the blood pressure monitor, heart monitor, and pulse monitor and wheeled my bed out to the waiting room, where I met up with Tom again. We'd been told the procedure itself would only take 5 minutes, and given that I'd been gone for nearly an hour I was worrying about him. Thankfully the doctor had gone to talk to him and given him a better time estimation, which - to be honest - is a courtesy I wouldn't have expected!

To go back in time... on Thursday, we were accosted in Tesco by two English-speaking Jehovah's Witnesses, who talked to us for a good five minutes, I say 'good', I mean 'painful.'  So when the orderly wheeled my bed into the lift and a Korean woman looked at me - in a bed, in scrubs, in tears, possibly in pain but clearly in distress - and said "hello!", I just turned away.

We went back to the ward where the really nice head nurse/nun from earlier came and spoke to us about my medication. Except she only spoke to Tom. She didn't even look at me, and treated us as if my answers had come from Tom (he obviously didn't answer her, because he's not a moron who thinks I can't speak for myself). That REALLY pissed me off. She took the IV out, I put my clothes back on - I felt SO much better after that - and our boss came and picked us up. Came home and have been lazing around all day feeling perfectly healthy.

No comments:

Post a Comment