Thursday, March 15, 2012

Medical Scavenger Hunt

I love how Adam makes almost everything a game. He's very much like a kid still, in many ways, and this is one of them. Many people say that his enjoyment of middle school teaching is directly related to this fact. Of course, Adam can make a game out of his physical examination.

Willow and I just got home from a very interesting outing. I changed her diaper, nursed her (finally!), and she promptly fell asleep for her nap. I think that we are both tired. I'm laying on my bed, typing this, while our house helper is working on dishes, laundry, and mopping. I have such a privileged life-style! We left the house in a complete disaster this morning, because we were running behind schedule. It's a great feeling to re-enter your home with the mess tamed, and everything getting cleaned...without lifting a finger yourself. I'm spoiled.

At 4 o'clock in the morning, Willow woke up for her 'middle of the night' snack. What made this night different from other nights was that after she ate, instead of falling back to sleep, she decided to play! Adam and I were both tired, and neither one of us was interested in entertaining Willow. So, I kept trying to get her to sleep. The lights were off, no talking allowed. Finally, she fell asleep again. At 6 o'clock in the morning, Adam got a call from someone he usually shares a van ride with in the morning--their van was late. Adam said that was ok with him since he wasn't going into school early that morning. In fact, he would be going in late. Today was the day we had to get our Chinese physical examinations.

We both fell back asleep, and at 7:30, I woke up in a panic. We had to be out the door by 7:55! I jumped in the shower, Adam woke Willow up to change and dress her. Adam and I finished getting ready, packed our bags, tried to feed Willow breakfast, bundled up, and headed out the door with our passports. I'm amazed that we were not the last people on the bus!

Now that our school is officially licensed, we have a few more formalities to adhere by. One of which is physical examinations. The foreign staff was separated into three groups that would be getting their exams on three different days. We were among the first to go, so everything that was about to happen was new and unexpected. I just have to write about this (for memory's sake) because I think that my readers will find this interesting.

When we arrived at the hospital (that seems to be used exclusively for giving foreigners physicals for the students or workers permits), it was a building on the corner of a street that I had passed several times before on our way to the orphanage. I had never been over there that early in the morning, however, and was interested to see a long line of carts set up on the street outside the building. Vendors were selling everything from fruit, vegetables, chunks of raw meat, and even a goat head. Where we live in the city, we often miss out on sights like this--we don't have any morning or night markets near our complex.

The first thing we had to do was register. Each of the foreign staff had to go up to a counter and present their passport and another 2"x 2" picture. We had to stand in front of a web cam and get another picture taken that was printed onto our forms. On the forms had our basic and relevant information about ourselves, and we had to sign a few places promising that if we didn't answer truthfully there would be consequences. I thought it was a little over-kill that we had to have a passport, a 2" x 2" picture, AND a picture on our form.

Then we went down a hall way where there was a large metal sliding door. It was automated, and made a very loud beeping when it opened and closed. First the guys went in to get their chest x-rays. Then the women. I was a little nervous because they were making a big deal about the fact that I nurse Willow. They wanted to know how old Willow was (like that makes a difference in breast milk?)--it made me nervous too, and I wonder what the affects of x-rays are on breast milk. All of us women were ushered behind a curtain where we had to strip and put on a flimsy blue cover up. Then we took turns getting our x-rays. The doctor-man stamped our papers and sent us out.

After that, we went upstairs where we had to get our blood drawn. The room where this was done was divided by a counter and glass. We took turns sitting on a stool and putting our arms on the counter in front of us. The nurses sat on the other side of the counter, with all their supplies, and took our blood. It felt and looked very much like an assembly line. The nurses' gloves were the plastic kind that food service people wear, not the latex medical gloves that I"m used to seeing. I felt more like a sandwich than a person. I also tried to convince the nurse that she would have better luck getting the blood out of my wrist/hand because no one can ever draw blood from my elbow without a lot of trouble. She told me that the blood in my hand isn't good. She strapped on her tourniquet extremely tight and started beating my arm. Still no vein. So she just dug around until she found some blood. Instead of alcohol wipes, they used some yellowish antiseptic. Instead of a band-aid, she gave me a q-tip. She gave me a plastic tube, and a small plastic cup (about 1 ounce).

This leads up to our next step, which I was dreading. We took turns using the only squatty-potty that was in working order. It was a messy squatty potty too. There was no where to set my cup or plastic test tube. I got into position, filled my ounce cup, and then poured some of the urine in the test tube very carefully. The bathroom was dark (I don't think there was a light), and dirty. There was no toilet paper, in true Chinese fashion, and no soap or paper towels by the sink. Thankfully, we had brought our own tissue paper, and our friend shared some of her hand sanitizer. I set the test tube of pee (ick!) in the tray that was provided in the hall way. Once everyone had finished this less than desirable task, we headed over the other side of the building. Here, we had several exams to complete:
  • Eye exam
  • Weight/height/blood pressure exam
  • Medical history/heart/squatting exam
  • EKG/Sonogram exam
Through all these exams, I kept wondering what the point was? Did they want to make sure that we were healthy? Were they looking for a reason to send us back? If they are so concerned about health and hygiene, why don't they clean the bathroom? Why does it matter if you are color blind? Each exam was held in a different room, and each doctor checked all of our pictures before jotting down information. At each place, we received another red stamp. China loves stamping things, especially in red.

I forgot how poor my vision is without glasses. I don't think I did very well on the eye room. Of course, the only thing she checked was if we could read a chart on the wall, and if we could see identify animals in those crazy-multi-colored-dot pictures. I kept think, "why do I have to do this?"

Then, we had our weight and height checked by a digital machine. I don't really trust it, but it did tell me that I am the same weight I was 6 years ago when I graduated from high school. I would like to think that that is the truth (in which case, I'm 15 pounds lighter than I was pre-baby). Whether it's true or not, this is the official record now. :)

The sonogram and EKG were extremely fast. So very, very quick. I don't know what they were checking for, but being thorough was not a concern. The EKG was strange because they put some liquid on my wrists and ankles (water, maybe?) and then these metal clamps. It felt very industrial, or commercial.

When I was asked all of the medical history questions (probably about five), they mostly wanted to know if I had any sexually transmitted diseases. They had Adam look at a chart so that he could show them what an ACL was (because he had to report his knee operation). She listened to my heart, and then had me squat. I don't know what squatting proves, but I've never had to do that in a physical before.

Adam was eager to get all the red stamps on each of the room numbers on his form. It was like he was collecting stamps to get a prize--he was acting like it was a scavenger hung. Probably unintentionally too. Adam is just like that, and it makes me laugh.

At each station, being sanitary was not a huge priority. Room could probably be cleaned, and sometimes the equipment or furniture was a bit dilapidated. They didn't use tissue paper on exam beds, you just lay down where everyone else has been laying. They didn't always wear cloves. They weren't interested in conversation (not that I could reply)--it was very much of an assembly line, no-nonsense, get-in-line event. It bothered me that the lady who drew my blood didn't change her gloves at all, and that instead of changing the kleenex that had been under the arm of the last person, she just placed another tissue on top. My arm was literally on a pile of tissues.

I will give the whole process one thing though: it was very efficient. In America, we would have sat in a waiting room, filling out paper work. We would have been admitted into an exam room where a nurse would have taken our history, blood pressure, urine sample, weight, and anything else. Then we would have waited to see a doctor, who would have checked a few more things, and carried out conversation about our health. He would have answered questions, given advice, perhaps recommended a specialist. Then we would have to go back to the reception desk to pay. If we had done this whole process with our group, it probably would have taken several hours. But in this assembly line way of doing things, our group of seven people had had our blood and urine tested, x-rays, EKG, sonograms, eye tests, medical histories taken, weight/height and blood pressures recorded---all within an hour and a half. Very quick! Was it the cleanest process? Was it the most personal or thorough? Probably not. But was that the point? I don't think so. I'm just glad it is OVER.


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