RECOLLECTIONS EN ROUTE: MY FIRST KOREAN DOCTOR’S VISIT

The only way to accurately describe my first experience visiting a Korean clinic is by using the word dramatic

Let’s start from the beginning: I woke up Monday morning with a sore throat, and a bit congested. The day before I had been absolutely peachy, strolling along Suseong Lake with Lucy and Gena {post coming soon}, shopping downtown, and I went to bed at a decent hour.

Initially I wondered whether this was from the air pollution. The past weekend had been noticeably bad in terms of air quality. I went to school and immediately my co-workers could hear from my groggy voice that I had come down with something.

I explained it was most likely a common cold and that I should be good to go by the weekend, as long as I got to bed early and kept up with my fluids. I must say, I was warned before arriving in Korea that Koreans tend to be a bit dramatic when it comes to getting sick. For a culture with such an amazing work ethic {these people would work with half a limb falling off}, they tend to treat any sickness as if it were the worst case scenario. It’s an all of nothing kind of thing.

As soon as she heard of my symptoms, one of my co-workers made me an ‘herbal tea’ of sorts, which honestly tasted like peach marmalade and was delicious and soothing. Later in the afternoon, I was taken to the nurses office {again, we are only talking sniffles and a froggy throat}. Here I was presented with some kind of herbal powder, and another herbal “tea” {though this had the consistency of cough syrup and tasted like cinnamon}.  I was instructed to drink one bottle of tea now and then other before I go to bed, both alongside the powder.

I went home that night and fell asleep around 9:30 PM {quite early for me these days}. I woke up feeling worse. I started to feel guilty because I didn’t want my co-workers to think their pampering had not paid off. I showed up to the office sounding hoarse and constantly reaching for tissues.

As I mentioned before, it is quite common to go to work in Korea under any circumstance, even when feeling miserable. They take their work ethic very seriously. That being said, I could sense the panic in both of my co-teacher’s eyes. Both of my CT’s continued to ask me throughout the morning if I was feeling any better, and even offered to make me chicken noodle soup {seriously the people here are beyond incredible}.

The truth was, I wasn’t feeling better. In fact, I was losing energy with every hour. But still…. it was a common cold. I didn’t have a fever, my muscles didn’t ache. We have all been through the cycle and I knew it was only a matter of time before it would pass.

My CT’s had a different opinion altogether about the matter.

First, I was released from having to plan any lessons that day. Secondly, my CT’s took me to the Vice Principal to tell her it was necessary I see a doctor. You can imagine how awkward this was for me seeing as I have worked under much worse circumstances. But I went with it {as you do in Korea}.

With two hours left in the work day, one of my CT’s insisted we leave and go to the closest clinic. I didn’t have the energy to argue with her, though my bed would have been completely satisfactory to me at this point. We left and made our way to the clinic around the corner from my apartment.

Upon walking in we removed our shoes and entered my basic information on a small post-it sized form. I was the only person there. Within minutes ‘LAY-EE-CHELLE’ was called over the loudspeaker. We went in to see the doctor who spoke with my CT in Korean. Before I knew what was happening, I was placed on a chair and small silver tools had been stuck straight up my nostril. I had two different nasal sprays and a suction tool up my nose. After that, I was lead to a small room where yet another contraption was stuck up my nostrils, this time with more of a steaming effect to drain my sinuses {sorry for the TMI}.

I re-entered the doctor’s office and was told I would be receiving an injection. “For a cold?!” {like I said, dramaaaa}. This is where I put my foot down and refused shots. I have never been big on pumping medicine into my body, unless absolutely necessary. I’m one of those people that never gets flu shots {and coincidentally never gets the flu — knock on wood}. This was translated for me and I was out the door ready to pay for my visit.

I felt like I was truly given a great service that afternoon, even for a silly cold. When it came time to cough up {no pun intended} the payment, my total came to 4,500 won which can be converted to… wait for it… $4.50 USD. YES. My entire visit cost under five bucks. I was honestly in shock.

But let’s be real, this wasn’t the end of my journey.

After the clinic, my CT took me to the pharmacy {apparently the doctor had prescribed me some meds}. The pharmacist handed me 9 packets of pills with 6 pills in each pack. I was instructed to take 6 pills, 3 times a day, for 3 days. “WHAAAAAAT?!” Again, I was a bit confused. I had a cold. With the amount of pills I received, you would think I was fighting off pneumonia. When it came time to pay for my prescription, again I almost fell over in a state of shock. My total came to $3.30 USD.

So although rather unnecessary, my entire trip to the doctor cost me less than $10 USD! And I can’t complain about that.

At that point I profusely thanked my CT to which she responded, “Those pills are very strong, and will make you very sleepy. Good luck.”

Overall, I am unbelievably grateful to have people here that truly care about my well-being. Drama aside, the Korean health system was the easiest one I have ever come in contact with. I will most definitely be back! At this point I’m not really sure I have a choice…

 

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