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A Letter From China
The Doctor Pays a Home Call
A Quantum Leap for Western Healthcare.....

Visit by the Doctor - 2nd January 2011

New Years Day had gone well, with another visit to Siu Ying’s parental village for whatever. This turned out to be the village celebration of the western New Year. Whilst this is not inherently a Chinese festival, it is a Public Holiday throughout China; if mainly because it is a good excuse to have a day or two away from work. Otherwise, Chinese Holiday’s stretch into a void, beginning with National Golden Week at the start of October, until Chinese New Year, which is probably around the beginning of February (Lunar Date). Traditionally they would celebrate the shortest day, or Winter Solstice; but as in the west, this festival is largely ignored in modern times; on both sides of the world.

Therefore, a day’s public holiday for New Years Day fits very well with the Chinese government, and lets the populace enjoy a holiday that is not structured according to governmental or Taoist principles = it is simply a day off!

The night before Siu Ying had taken me ‘shopping’, something she knows I hate intensely. We went walking and she took me into a shop that miraculously had a pair of size 44, 23, or 11 (Whichever is your preference) men’s shoes for sale. Whilst not really my personal design favourite, they fitted perfectly and the cost was very reasonable. My wife told me that I looked, ‘very sexy and casual’ wearing them, so who am I to argue? Yessir!

She then lulled me into a couple of hours of ‘Girls shopping’, where Nonni fell in love with a bright yellow rocking horse – which I ended up buying for her + her milk powder (Imported from Hong Kong), and another large bag of disposable nappies (Because they are on serious offer these days). We also take in the local carousel (Pictured right) which Nonni loves greatly, before finding the Toisan version of ‘Computer City’.

My personal rodent has been quite unwell for a long time, with the cursor moving under its own design, and apart from being hard to navigate with, the wheel had also worn out. I had looked for replacements local to our home, but they only had the very minimal designs, meaning 2 buttons and a wheel, and that was it! My last has 14 functions, which is a considerable difference!

Toisan Computer City occupies the second floor of somewhere quite near “Fu’t c’llam muen”, and perhaps has 20 dedicated computer booths all told. This is a far cry from Foshan with its 2, 000, but maybe fine for my present needs. We hit the first likely one, as I am in no mood to visit them all today. I explain what I want in mime and Bah’t Wah = local Cantonese, not Toisanwah. The guy gets’ it immediately and heads off to another shop, returning a minute later with a mouse. It is basic, but has 4 buttons, plus a clickable wheel. Maybe ok? I try some cordless versions which are mainly for show and far too expensive, before returning to the one from the other shop. The ergo dynamics will take some adjustment, but it is fine and has a hard wired connection with both round and USB connections. My past experiences with wireless rodents have always left me despondent and wishing they worked properly, all the time! The price is Y60, and I take it as an interim device, and will buy a proper and fully functioning one next time I am in Foshan. By the way: it may not have all the functionality I desire; but what it does do, it does extremely well!

Purchase concluded we are headed for MacDonald’s, and end up in KFC instead. Asi es la vida!

This reminds me of one of the funniest jokes I know, but perhaps a very few can understand it at all:
Question? “Why is a mouse when it spins?”… Answer: … “Because one leg is shorter than each other”.
Quantum Physics + a little alcohol for research purposes only, will explain that perfectly. It will spin clockwise in the southern hemisphere by the way : -)

However, quickly moving-on…

Today [2nd January 2001] finds me bonding with my brand new Mouse. She is a fine beast and works extremely well. I put her through her paces and ask my wife is she want’s a go, which she refuses - giving me a curious look as she departs my office with Nonni.

I proceed to get into my work, noticing slowly that my left foot hurts a little bit. This is nothing, and is probably related to me wearing my new shoes in the house, because it is so darned cold here right now. However, I do not think this is the cause, as they are size 11 in Chinese, meaning there is a lot of room inside. However, with writing my book foremost in my subconscious, I spent the day doing site-wide link checks, and find quite a few errors! 98% are technical, and related to me using a local computer vs being live on-line. But it also shows I got it wrong sometimes, so this fills my day. I also remake a new link to Beyond HK Concert 2005 site wide, as YouKu have changed the new link again = durrrh!

Meanwhile my left foot hurts so much that I don’t fancy cooking anything much; so I raid the fridge and make: pork meat sandwiches with cheese slices and Dijon mustard with small berries in it, ‘Miracle Whip’ [No Hellman’s left], some streaks of puke-green and totally virulent Wasabi.

I actually plan to write an aside soon as a guide to making Wasabi, as only the Japanese could ever have invented something so mind-bogglingly horrendous and addictive – Cummon ‘Banzai’, ‘Endurance’ holds nothing on this stuff, once you are addicted!

The next day I cannot walk properly, and it gets a lot worse as the day progresses.

I have to admit to myself that I have a problem I do not understand right now, and which doesn’t make any sense at all. The slightest hint of pressure on anything concerning my left foot brings waves of pain, which sometimes reduce me to tears. I caution with the knowledge that all things come to pass, as I research stupid things like: Sceptic arthritis, Gaot, and other maladies on the internet – none of which are remotely related to the pain I am now so conscious of, and I have to stop working.

I go to bed, but the pressure of bedclothes makes any form of sleep impossible. Were it summer I would be fine, but it is very cold here nowadays; as the icy fingers of Jack Frost invade every nook and cranny. Tears form in my eyes as I try to find any place or position in this bed that is at least uncomfortable, but nothing is forthcoming. Sleep of course is totally impossible.

Siu Ying comes to my rescue, having made a bowl of freshly chopped and crushed ginger root, into which she has tipped a gallon of boiling water. It has to rest for a while, as I hobble out to the living room, and the pain is excruciating. She bends to massage my foot, to which I immediately react, as the very slightest pressure makes things worse. My foot is red and she says the red is not leaving as it should do. I soak for 15 minutes in the fluid, and then she applies some unction to my foot; neither of which I think did anything constructive. Thank you My Wife for at least trying = love.

The problem is that the joints of my metatarsals nearest the ankle are inflamed, and my foot has swollen to twice its normal size as a result. It feels like there is a golf ball inside my foot which is growing! That night sees the supposed infection spread into the ankle joint of my left foot, and I simply cannot walk any more. I take to sitting on the floor and ‘rowing’ my body across to where I need to be. Again I try sleeping, as I am dog-tired; but give up after a few hours of intense pain. This is becoming a serious problem!

I crawl to the computer and discover it is Monday = the easy jig-saw and not much else to do. I can’t concentrate properly, so doing any real work is totally out of the question. What to do? I play stupid cards and pass the time, knowing with time something will change, as it always does…

Around 5 am I have not used my foot for maybe 6 hours, and it is numb. This is good. I try standing with putting a little weight upon it, and soon discover my mistake. Back to the cards and online newspapers, and I am drifting asleep at my desk sometimes.

Finally the numbness in my foot appears to have overwhelmed the pain, so I row myself to bed with the injured appendage cushioned in my right ankle. I do manage to sleep this time, but have my left foot out side the bed and in a very precise position. It is freezing cold outside the covers, so I erect a wind break and comfort zone for it also using a spare quilt and a large food cover.

The next day arrives all too soon, and I am first awake of course. However, I have managed 6 hours of fitful sleep this time, so it is a great improvement – that is until I try and get out of bed. The searing pain returns as soon as the slightest pressure is applied to my foot in any way, so I scoot across to a chair left by the Landlady. It is a replica of a normal 5-wheeled office chair found in any office, except it doesn’t do anything and is far to low, probably designed with dwarves in mind. When sat upon, the wheels won’t go round properly due to a technical hitch which occurs when any weight is placed upon the wheel supports = they bend and become stuck underneath the carrier housing. However, I can manually adjust them so that some of the wheels can turn in approximately the right direction : -)

This turns out to be the best way I have of getting around, apart from asking for a pair of crutches to be delivered; and they should not be necessary in truth either. So it is time to sort the trouble.

There is one small problem, in that it has finally dawned on me that to get rid of this malady I will have to go to a hospital. That stated, I cannot even walk the ten yards of so to reach the toilet as required in my current state, so this cannot happen. Siu Ying is busy this day, on the mobile and then out to visit friends. I am not stupid and we know each other very well, therefore it is no surprise when she returns home at 11.30 (morning) and informs me her friend’s husband has the same problem, and all I need is an injection. Then she sees that I literally cannot even stand properly, so goes into ‘Phase two’ and leaves immediately.

She bounces in 40 minutes later and says the Doctor is coming and she may need some money from the bank. I reluctantly hand over my ATM card, doubting I will ever see any of the cash, but who’s to argue under current circumstances? However, I do direct her to use the most reliable local bank, which coincidentally only issues Y1, 000 per time (I leave out the repeatedly bit). She leaves in order to extract extra funds from my UK Banker’s, as we have absolutely no idea how much this will cost, and are still used to Foshan charges.

15 minutes later I hear her arrive back home and in conversation with a ‘Gentleman’.

The Doctor has arrived already and is straight into his diagnosis! He is professionally dressed in western attire, and is carrying with him: a blood monitor in leather case, a stethoscope, a Doctor’s case, and a carrier bag full of assorted medicines. He is a native Toisanwah speaker who qualified in Mandarin, and speaks excellent Cantonese. I never expected him to speak English, but he remembers a few phrases from his long-distant college days. I like him immediately.

First looks at my foot and then checks my blood pressure by wrapping the thingymagig around my right arm (Western Doctor’s always use the left arm, or hadn’t you noticed?), and then inserts the stethoscope near my elbow joint. He places three fingers on my wrist pulse points and counts, whilst carrying on a conversation with my wife at the same time. My grasp of counting in Toisanwah is still a little basic, but I think I have 138 over 90.

He then asks a few questions, including if I have had any head problems = dizziness, light-headedness, etc. I reply ‘No’ three times, as he keeps coming back to this point. A couple of other questions are asked once only, and then he administers an injection to my lower back, which should really be regarded as the higher rump of my left buttock. This is done by simply pulling my jeans down a bit, and not removing them. He then gets out of the carrier bag three lots of pills. I follow enough to know: 1 each time, 3 each time, and four each time; but I miss the daily frequency bit. He then opens them and administers the first dosage to me, whilst Siu Ying rushes for a glass of water (Something I do not need, but take anyway to appear normal)..

And that is it. He spends 10 minutes with us, and charges us a total of Y100 RMB = £10. Fantastic! This includes a Y40 call-out fee, and Y60 for his diagnosis and medicines.

When I compare this to modern UK medical services, I have to wonder? This is totally excellent!

Two hours later I can walk around in discomfort, but sleep properly for the first time in days. The next morning I am fully recovered and left wondering what it was all about? Well, I have a blood problem for sure, which I think is partly due to a small cold that settled in my lungs, and simply did not go away for about a month.

Over the next few days and a few tries (Discussions with my wife), I have worked out that my red blood cell count is too high, but I am a smoker so this is to be expected. His advice is that I need to exercise a little more, and that is basically it. I also feel he is correct, and have altered my lifestyle accordingly.

In Foshan this service may have cost twice as much, and in Guangzhou, Beijing or Shanghai even more. But the sole purpose of this missive is to tell Expat’s living in China about what is readily available, if they know it exists and how to ask.

However, my ulterior point is to query why these same services I grew up with in the Staffordshire and Irish countryside of my youth are no longer available, at least to those who do not have the wealth to afford a resident personal Doctor of their own?

If it is of the slightest interest to anyone, then I would probably now choose Chinese healthcare in preference to that now administered in UK, but that would be the personal opinion and experiences of somebody who is not a rich person of course.

In general, modern Chinese medical practices combine both Western and Traditional Chinese techniques as the norm in modern Canton, and the result is something that works for ordinary people, efficiently, instantly, and is cost-effective.

So I wonder; when is your next appointment with a Western Healthcare provider scheduled for, in order to get an appointment for a consultation?

Mine took a mere 25 minutes from initial request to discharge, as a house call; and I was administered an injection … and given the required medicines also. That is excellent service in any part of this world. Thankyou ‘Yee San’, the local name for any qualified Doctor.

So I am left with the consideration that as modern UK considers overhauling the National Health Service (Or whatever they call it nowadays), and the USA tries to bring in something founded on private commercialism; could they even envisage offering the highest standards of the service I received in China today?

I wish a Happy and Healthy New Year to you all;
Because if you are not healthy then you will not be happy either, and undoubtedly suffer the consequences of inept medical care service providers (Even if you are rich).

I’ll leave you with the reminder of 25 minutes from first telephone call, through home treatment, to discharge….. 

This work including text and associated photographs is Copyright of Jonno Morris (Unless stated otherwise), and may be reproduced for personal and private use under Collective Commons 3 Licence. An email would be appreciated in such circumstances, as would a reference.

You are not allowed to use this information to make money from my work - regardless of how fancy or well paid your lawyers may be.

Some artistic licence has been used arbitrarily in some of these Letters, and whilst most facts are in essence correct, some personal and literary interpretation may have been employed to greater or lesser degrees.
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