Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Brown liquid to cure my cold

I've had cold symptoms for well over three weeks now, no doubt affected in nature, and likely intensified, by extremely dry air laced with pollution and dirt. It started with the hoarsest throat I can remember, where I had to explain over the phone three times before anyone believed who I was. Since then it's moved around regularly, confusing me into thinking I was nearly cured. Yesterday, the cough was back, and my nose was running. It was time to consult a professional.

There's a clinic on campus, just around the corner from where I live, which had always looked kind of mysterious. So today, I finally had my chance to walk into the simple, dark entryway and wait in line to register. Once at the front and having briefly described my problem, I was given a ticket for 'internal medicine' and a blank slip for the visit’s prescriptions. I was also charged 1.5 yuan visit fee, about 20 cents. I was confused about where to go, and in the not-so-helpful manner that often characterizes Chinese customer service, was pointed in a vague direction but didn't know whether to stand in the corner indicated and wait for something or continue down the hall to the left. I stopped for a minute at the edge of the room and then pleaded with someone in line to be more specific about where to go. Finally finding several doors not far away marked 'internal medicine,' I waited outside because someone was already being seen, but was motioned to come in. Conditioned to the privacy and confidentiality of medical visits in the US, it was a bit uncomfortable to share my walk-in appointment with another person. We were talking with separate doctors, but side by side. I wasn't too surprised because I'd already gone through the medical tests upon arrival in China which involved drawing blood and other procedures in a similarly open setting, but still was a bit taken aback. My cold complaints were nothing difficult to talk about, fortunately.

The doctor asked a few questions relating to my symptoms and what medicine I'd already taken, and took a listen to my breathing. I took the now filled out prescription slip to the in-house pharmacy, where they wrote down how much I owed, returned to the first window to pay, returned to the pharmacy to pick up my meds, and to the doctor so she could tell me how to take them. At least I started to understand why everyone seemed to think I should know where to go - I know the place well now too.

I got home to inspect my yield. I had antibiotic pills, unidentifiable (to me) pills, and tubes of brown liquid. I was fine with the pills. The brown liquid, in its little vials you could poke a hole in the cap of to insert a straw, provided, were cute. The taste however is nasty, and straw is so skinny you can't gulp it down and get it done with. However, I am hopeful that treating a Chinese cold with Chinese drugs will be effective, more effective than my attempts at using donations from Korea, Singapore, and Krygysztan.

So it’s not Chinese medicine I saw today, but something of a Chinese approach, and it was not bad. The clinic was about business and efficiency, with no time wasted filling out forms (a simple question about whether I was allergic to anything before prescribing). I'm not sure if I was treated a bit differently being foreign - I didn't even have to show I was a student, and others seemed to have a little booklet that maybe was a health record or record of their visits to the clinic. It was affordable (I think even to Chinese, 1.5 for the visit and 30 for all the meds I got is not too expensive?). Interestingly, the doctors were women, and those working in the pharmacy were men.

Though I’m tired of being sick, it’s nothing serious and I am pleased to have gotten to go to the doctor. Though I registered in England, I never had the occasion to go. I went once in France, where I was amazed at the quantity and variety of medicines prescribed for what also was just a lingering cold, including a nasal spray. I think we must purposely avoid uncomfortable distribution methods in the US.

So I'm crossing my fingers this will kick my cold back out on the street. Then I won’t have an excuse not to go to the gym anymore.

1 comment:

Dusty said...

Your experiences in Lanzhou and at the university sound amazing. I will be starting classes at Lanzhou University at the beginning of March and your blogs have gave me a taste of what to expect. Thanks so much.