Don’t Get Sick/Injured in Japan
I broke my right collarbone. I don’t want to get into how this happened, I’ll just say that biking off the road and into a rice field may not be the best way to get from Point A to Point B in Japan. Even more unfortunate than the actual injury was that this meant I’d have to make yet another trip to a Japanese doctor. Japanese health care has pioneered new and innovative ways to suck and I’ve made it a point not to go unless, at the very least, a major bone was broken.
My first winter in Japan, there was a very bad flu going around. As any schoolteacher knows, kids are like virus magnets and us poor teachers end up getting caught in their web of snot. So we had a lot of kids dropping and I too caught the flu. Instead of going to the doctor however, I went to work. Az’s Workforce Tip #24 – if you don’t want your co-workers to question your use of sick leave, or to have them not even count it at all, just go into work looking really horrible and really contagious. (“Good morning! *cough*cough*hack* Oh sorry, got a little phlegm on you there…”) They won’t be able to send you home fast enough. I was actually doing okay in the morning. The school nurse took my temperature, which was 37.5 C, which is apparently not that bad. But I got much worse in the afternoon, so the principal sent me home to go to the doctor.
I went and at reception they asked me my temperature. I told them 37.5, but that was taken in the morning while I was still somewhat human. They sat me down without taking my temperature again. I saw the doctor, who spoke English (many docs in Japan do), and he immediately recognized me. “Oh, I know you! You’re the English teacher in the Ghetto School! Ah yes, that school has many sick students with the flu. We’ve had so many students come through with the flu, it seems to be VERY contagious this year. But your fever is only 37.5, so I think you have a cold.”
Note that he never actually examined me, just read the notes that front reception took. And they didn’t even examine me either. So I got *cold* medicine … which *of course* didn’t work. Imagine that. I went back a week later feeling just as sick as before. I saw the same doctor, and as he took his chair he said “Ah yes. I thought you had the flu.”
THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU GIVE ME FLU MEDICINE IN THE FIRST PLACE?!
I decided then that doctors in Japan were useless and so far I haven’t been proved wrong. Aside from the Octopus Incident, I’ve seen and heard about plenty of other sucky Japanese doctors, including one of my friends who went to a hospital in Japan, and they told her she was fine. Not satisfied with that assessment, she went to see her doctors back home, who found she had a life-threatening tumor and had to have surgery immediately. Yeah.
Unfortunately, a broken collarbone is something you kind of have to see the doctor for. I went with my Principal, Vice Principal, and my supervisor from the board of education. The doctor took an x-ray and confirmed what the horrible, debilitating pain in my shoulder was already telling me – yep, I broke it. My supervisor laughs. “It’s because you’re too heavy. You really ought to go on a diet.”
Apparently, really skinny people just hit the ground and bounce. By this theory, supermodels should be invincible and Kate Moss should be damn near indestructible.
The doctor explains that I’ll have to wear a brace for the next 6-8 weeks to keep my shoulder immobile while it heals. I have to wear it all the time, only taking it off for showers. It’s not something I can put on or take off by myself so I’ll need help. My supervisor chimes in again. “I can help you with the brace, but I can’t help you with the showering.” Thanks, I didn’t ask.
The doctor prescribes some painkillers for me. The first set of medicine is no problem. It’s in the second set where I start to not understand some of the Japanese used. I tell everyone this, and the doctor thinks of a new way to describe it. There was one word I did manage to catch – “ass”. Turns out, this is medicine you have to administer … anally.
“I definitely can’t help you with that.” My supervisor says. I definitely didn’t ask.
I ask if there’s another medicine that I can swallow and, you know, not have to shove up my ass. The doctor says that this is the strongest painkiller they have. WTF is up with that anyway? At one point somewhere, there were the Japanese chemists in the lab, going “Ok, now, this is the strongest painkiller we can make, I know! Let’s have the patient take it by shoving it up their ass!” And people don’t believe me when I talk about Japan’s ass fetish. Anyway, the doctor prescribes the ass-medicine to me anyway and tells me I don’t have to take it unless I’m in extreme pain. I don’t think I’d take it even if I was dying and it was the only thing that could save my life. It’s not just a mental roadblock either, with my right arm in traction I can’t even reach back there. Well, at least I know if worse came to worse, all I’d really need to do is bend over in an ichinensei hallway and they’d happily do it for me. “Hey kids, mind helping out your teacher?” *bends over* ” Sweet! 1000 Years of Medicare!” *poke*
You will never hear me complain about American hospitals, ever again.
I went to the pharmacist to get my medicine. As he was giving the explanation on how to take them, as he gave the explanation on the ass-medicine *ahem* he apparently read the horrified look on my face (I’m just glad I have enough of my sanity left to have a horrified look on my face) and said “I guess it’s only Japan that has this kind of medicine, huh?” I decided to be diplomatic, and just said “Well, America might have it too … although it would be very, very, VERY rare.” I thought it best not to point out how me breaking a shoulder bone somehow translates into me sticking pills up my ass in Japan.
And for the record, I never took that medicine.