A Not So Humorous Experience
A little over six weeks ago I broke my arm. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and luckily I hit my head at the same time, so I kind of passed out from the pain. I woke up and found myself in hospital – not the ideal place to be on a Saturday morning in any country, let alone a country where no one speaks your language and the practices are not perhaps up to western standards.
I was woken up by a medical team of perhaps nine doctors and nurses. I have the suspicion that although a couple of them were there to help me, the rest wanted to partake in the usual curiosity that they all have with people who are not from their country. I didn’t mind though because this time I had more pressing matters to deal with – my favourite t-shirt was being cut to shreds before my eyes. During my unconscious state they had already strapped a rudimentary splint to my arm, but in all honesty it wasn’t doing much, more like a symbol of what was wrong with me.
The break was quite severe and my bone was in three pieces. Luckily I still had the use of my lower arm and the feeling was quite surreal. I was able to use my hand and wrist fairly normally, perhaps with a little less control than usual, but to do so I had to hold my lower right arm where I wanted it to be. Pins and needles swept over my palm occasionally and it felt detached from the rest of my body, whilst at the same time being able to use it. I have to say a huge thank you to my girlfriend for being there and translating. None of the nurses could speak English and apart from the obvious – which they reconfirmed every now and then with new x-ray pictures, I didn’t really understand what was going on. Finally it came down to it and they announced I would need surgery. Beforehand the news of my arm being broken wasn’t too much to comprehend, but it really started to dawn on me how bad the break actually was.
Operation and Recovery
As previously mentioned in another blog, being foreign does give you benefits and one of these that I doubt anyone knew about was you would be put to the head of the queue for surgery. Excellent! So, the following day, I was taken down through the hospital, wheeled before crowd after crowd until we reached the operating level. I was a little nervous and expressed this to the best of my ability. It was interesting and worrying at the same time. I could see all the instruments that were going to cut me open, I could hear my heart beat going and I could also get in some last minute practicing for my Chinese.
I woke up in a different bed than my last one and unfortunately this was right next to the reception with a giant window for everyone to gawp at me through. Even when I had my catheter removed. Good times. I came to anyway and had a couple of tubes coming out my arm too for puss and blood, and also an English speaking doctor! Huzzah! He explained the procedure, why they had had to do it, how long I would be in hospital for and how long my recovery would take. By the end of ten days I was starting to lose patience. My arm looked great, the scar was healed, I was able to move my whole arm – because of the two metal plates and ten screws holding it together – but still they weren’t willing to let me go home. The doctors explained I would have to wait a further five days but if I would like to I could walk about downstairs in the garden. I asked why I couldn’t go home and they were afraid I would break it again or risk an infection. Both these answers made me frustrated. How could walking in a garden be less dangerous than me sitting at home on Facebook (sssshhh! China’s listening!). The infection risk just made me angry. In most places in China; bars, airports, schools, shopping centers, you can smoke. This is no different in a hospital. It was horrible and by the time I was released I had developed a cough. I was livid and made my point to the only doctors there that could speak English. Unfortunately they were just entry level and not the ones who could make decisions.
I’m glad I ranted however as by the next day they removed the first half of my staples. It was the first sign I would be able to go home. The following day they removed the second set and I was allowed to leave. Relief washed over me like a shower. I was so happy and everyone could tell from the nurses to the cleaner. I had made some friends by the time I left and I’ve promised to visit a few of them if I could. I’ve been out now for about three weeks and I probably could write an article twice as long as this one. Although it wasn’t the horror story some would have you believe it is definitely not the same as treatment back home. Hopefully in time, with the amount of money they are investing in the healthcare system they should be able to catch up pretty quickly.