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SDE International - Shenzhen

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After nine months of living in China, I was finally forced to navigate through foreign pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and medicines. When I first began feeling sick, I was in denial about the severity of things and continually found excuses to avoid proper treatment: “I’ll be fine in a day or two.” “I have medicine now, it will pass.” “I have more medicine now!” “Most of my symptoms are gone, I’m better.” I rationalized with all of those statements for over a week, until I finally caved and found a local English-speaking doctor. After just fifteen minutes, he confirmed that I was battling both the flu and bronchitis. Below, I’ll detail some of the things I learned and some of the things you should avoid doing the way I did.

When your body is telling you something, believe it

I suffer from an autoimmune disease, so my immune system already isn’t in tip top form. As such, I need to be especially careful with taking care of my health. As it was explained by my doctors, a simple common cold for most people has the potential to be much more difficult for me to deal with; in other words, illnesses tend to be amplified for me. The catch with this is that, after having dealt with my condition for nearly five years now without much concern, those “tougher-than-usual” cold symptoms don’t freak me out. I assume, “Oh, this is a quick thing for most people. I’m sure it will pass for me in maybe three days.” However, it’s not always that simple, as was the case for me this past week and a half.

On a Thursday night, I began getting splitting headaches and a bad cough. Knowing that Friday is my lightest day of work with just two classes to teach, plus stubbornly wanting to maintain perfect attendance for the year, I figured I’d go in and just deal with things. Sure enough, I got through the day with minimal issue, though I was very ready to head home by the time my classes were over. Over the course of the weekend, my headaches became much worse, my cough deeper, and I began dealing with nausea and extreme fatigue. Still, I thought I could and would sleep it off.

Go to the doctor. The sooner the better

Admittedly, I was nervous to go to a foreign doctor. I had no idea if we would be able to communicate. I didn’t know if they would know of my medical condition and understand the things I had to avoid as a result. Lastly, as an American who’s all-too-aware of ridiculous medical costs, I didn’t know what I would have to pay. As such, I bided my time by purchasing over-the-counter medicine from a local pharmacy at the recommendation of my employer. Initially, I only purchased cold medicine (ten tablets for the equivalent of $0.87), which did a good job of subsiding all of my symptoms besides the cough. Logically, two days later I bought cough medicine (a large vial for about $5). Again, progress, but not recovery.

Night sweats and nearly total loss of appetite became daily routines. I missed work on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Knowing that I only teach classes in the mornings on Thursdays and desperate to get out of bed, I went to work despite still not feeling too well. I got through the day, but it was a bad idea. By Friday, I was in such bad shape that I knew I had to stop procrastinating. I contacted other foreign teachers in my neighborhood and they all highly endorsed a local English-speaking Taiwanese doctor, who just so happened to have his office within a one-minute walk from my school. I contacted him and had an appointment within an hour.

After spending just twenty minutes at his clinic, I had been diagnosed with both the flu and bronchitis. He prescribed a laundry list of medications to help me overcome my symptoms and encouraged me to message him as necessary. He clearly understood my medical condition and the medicinal restrictions that come with it and overall spoke perfectly clear English. Like any good doctor, he had me laughing through our entire meeting. Best of all, the cost for the visit and the medications combined? $21. Three days later, I’ve completely beaten the flu and bronchitis, all thanks to my new favorite doctor.

Foreign doctors are your friends

Should you ever find yourself in a situation similar to mine, don’t hesitate to get proper medical assistance. Wherever you may be in the world, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a reliable doctor you can communicate with. Regardless of what the expenses may be, the cost of getting proper treatment and taking care of your health is much more valuable. Lastly, remember: if you’re a teacher of young students, those students tend to carry a lot of germs. If you have 750 students like me, or even just 15 students, wash your hands all the time!

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SDE International - Shenzhen

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About the Author:

Brendan O'Shea
Brendan O'Shea is an EFL teacher, freelance writer, and wannabe world traveler living in Shenzhen, China. Between exploring new destinations, Brendan enjoys reading, playing chess, and following sports. Follow his teaching and traveling journey on Twitter and Instagram, or read up on his experiences on his personal blog: Teach and Travels!
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