Thursday, April 8, 2010

A visit to my NINTH hospital here in Japan!

Guess who takes the cake for most hospitals visited in Japan out of my neighborhood??? ME!!!! I have been to 9 now, thanks to Owen. Last night, we were making a yummy dessert, so I let the kids stay up a bit late in honor of it and that's when things went wrong. Two of the kids were pillow fighting and next thing, I hear BANG and Owen is rushing towards me with blood spurting out of his forehead. I called my neighbor who was a nurse before moving to Japan. She came over and confirmed that stitches were needed.

Why is 9 pm a bad time to get injured?

1) Everyday there is a different on call hospital for surgeries, adults, children
2) I don't know how to get to the 30 different hospitals
3) Are they open this late?
4) The doctors and nurses might not speak English
5) You might not have enough money in your wallet to pay cash for the visit
6) Your husband's cell phone doesn't ring or isn't in his pocket, why does he even have it?
7) Your husband doesn't have his own phone/voicemail at work and his coworkers don't take messages
8) You might not be able to find someone willing to come over and watch all the other kids.
9) The ER doctors here are not Emergency doctors like in the US, but they are whoever is oncall
10) You can't call a japanese friend to help translate
11) Most importantly, even in the daylight, let alone the dark, it is hard to tell which building is the hospital, they are not clearly labelled like in the US

I could go on and on. So, I went to the main hospital here in Kobe, which I knew had a 24 hr emergency room. I had called our property manager at 9 and he phoned the hospital to let them know we were on our way, which he is getting a batch of brownies for that. I get to the hospital (after driving by twice because I was not sure it was the hospital because it looked like any other building and had no clear sign saying hospital or H, or the green and white plus symbol you see here a lot). I pulled in after the third drive by and it was the right place. The emergency room had only 3 people outside and was eerily quiet.

By the way, if you don't know, the hospitals here haven't been renovated or redecorated since they were built and yes, they believe in reduce, reuse, recycle because all the beds in the emergency rooms and clinics I've been in have sheets, towels, and pillows on the, no paper or plastic covering, and I'm almost 100% sure it's not changed between every patient. That's not the worst, the worst is the nasty looking thermometer that they hand to every patient to take their own temperature (please tell me they all do underarm and not undertongue). Then I didn't see the nurse clean it after we used it, ewww!

While we were waiting, one emergency came in on a stretcher, a boy with a cut head with a lot of blood. The funny thing was the ambulances rarely use their sirens and everything here is quiet in general, so you didn't even know an emergency was arriving, this was so much calmer than the US emergency rooms I've been in. The ambulance drivers wore a pale blue jumpsuit uniform, but I had to chuckle because they are made of papertowel type fabric, I wish I had my camera with me.

We only waited fifteen minutes and were called back to the non-english speaking doctor. The annoying thing was some guy at some point behind the desk had to help the nurse ask me questions and he spoke good english, why wasn't he in the room with us? The doctor kept telling me stuff in japanese, clearly he didn't see the blank expression on my face or think that I understood NOTHING he was saying to me. Finally after my third time of askign him (in my limited japanese) to speak more slowly and repeat himself, did he use english to say "since he has not vomited or had a seizure, he doesn't need a CT scan of his head", well buddy, why didn't you just say so 20 minutes ago??? I was shaking my head because I thought he was saying since he might move around a lot when we give the stitches because he's so young, we are going to put him under and one of the side effects when he wakes up might be vomitting. Holy lost in translation! So, why didn't he just try to keep using English? Because I have heard they are embarrassed or too insecure to use it, well I could care less if he used 2 word sentences, I wanted to be able to get Owen fixed.

Finally, he brings in all the stuff to stitch up Owen, and he just lay it all on the bed next to Owen, not on a tray, clearly this guy isn't a pediatrician or a stitcher. There was no one else to help us hold Owen down while he got the anesthetic. I got nervous he was going to whack all the equipment onto the floor. Finally, another guy walked by and came in to help hold him (okay at age 3, it took 5 adults to hold Nathaniel down). Needless to say, the anesthetic didn't take and when the first stitch went in, he could feel it, I almost fainted, he was screaming and squirming, it was AWFUL! More anesthetic was needed and then he got 2 more stitches, both of which he could feel some of. I felt so bad that he had to go through that because I couldn't communicate with the doctor to ask for me people to help hold him down and that it was after 9 and we couldn't just see a plastic surgeon.

So, the doctor tells me to come back tomorrow (which was today) to see a plastic surgeon. I wanted to anyways because the stitches were far apart and long. They are holding the skin together nicely, but have a look for yourself, I think there are smaller needles that could have been used or thinner thread or closer stitches to help prevent this little boy from gaining a big scar on his forehead.

Here he is after coming home last night:

Here is it up close:

Here he is this afternoon, proof that this kid is super tough and a little old cut isn't going to ruin his day:

We went back to the hospital today to see the plastic surgeon, and there was A LOT of traffic. We were getting of at an exit with 2 lanes, the left lane went to other highways and we needed to be in it. The right lane went to a parking area, and at the end of the ramp, we could have cut off people in the left lane and gotten back in, if we were rude and drove down the right lane. But, since I am the foreigner here, I try to do things right and follow the rules. I decided there was no need to rush since walk ins were until 1 and it was 11:15 at the time. Well, at 11:48 when I was told walk-ins were only welcome until 11:48, I wasn't so Mrs. Nice Foreigner (gaijin) anymore. So, we didn't get to see the plastic surgeon because of those three minutes, seriously, I wanted to SCREAM. We did however get to go back to the ER and see another non-english speaking, non-plastic surgeon doctor, who changed the band-aid and said, "oh it looks clean, no infection". Okay, what about the scarring? He said come back Monday or Tuesday before 11:45 to see the plastic surgeon, but the skin will be healing by then!

Then, I had to go out and wait to pay. Oh no, I had to wait to get a red envelope with some papers in it to take up to the second floor, I wasn't sure if I was going to pay or going to the plastic surgeon, a glimmer of hope flickered by. We get out of the elevator to counter central, there were six big huge counters, three on each sides of the floor and then one huge one in the middle, the counters all had names of stuff on them, so I was looking for emergency, figuring I had to go there to pay. I round the corner and there is the mother of counters, with about 12 people working at it, on one end, it said "kusuri" which means pharmacy and the other "referral writing" and next to that, information. I go to information, they tell me that I need to wait in line for the people at 5-9. I get next to this red ribbon indicating a line forms her and wait til a girl calls me over to get the envelope. She tells me to sit and wait again for my name to be called by 1-4. This was the hard part, all the people had microphones and were calling name of 3 or 4 people at a time to line up and make their payments. I had to listen very carefully, how crazy is it that one of the hardest parts of the day was listening for my name. Why did I have to go to three different people to have to pay? I guess it must have to do with keeping people employed (or annoyed).

And finally, here is another reason why we were three minutes late, but how could I resist? Sorry, this was taken with my cell phone:

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