Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sharing Hospital Joy and...

I've got to take a break and write it true, like it is. I'm propped up in bed, listening to Cold War Kids. I've been hooked on them since 2009, and no matter where I go in life, they always take me back to one memory, one specific moment in time:

 I'm sitting in the bathtub in my apartment on Robb St., in Lakewood. Air filled with steam, windows covered in snow, the light yellow and low. A ball of water begins to form on the silver faucet. I watch the steam curl around it and then gather together in one corner; gravity calls the water to form there, in that spot. Then the small drop of water sags off the faucet, hesitating closer to the world below and then shrinking back toward the steam that formed it. Suddenly it drops, slowly into the tub, landing with a soft thunk on the surface of millions of other drops of water.  That one drop of water is the only sound in the room for several minutes, so it seems to echo forever, filling space and time.

"'Corinna, what's the time?"' my sister's voice echos from the speaker on my cell phone, breaking the silence. I've placed her on the toilet, next to the tub. In this way, I can imagine I'm not quite so alone, and she is there with me. She's reading to me, over the phone, "'I'm Corin I told you... are you blind? There's no Corinna here!'" I sink further into the water and the steam, and imagine myself, like that little drop, just shrinking back before a giant plunge.

Going to the hospital is normal here. The Chinese don't just go to a doctor's office when they have a cold, they go to the hospital and get an I.V. needled into their hand-- then its nothing but a drip, drip, drip. I've been sick for about a week now, and inside of this week I've been to three different hospitals. The most recent diagnosis is an infection in my pharynx (or larynx, don't judge, these words sounds strangely similar with a Chinese accent), causing swelling in the lymph nodes in my neck.

Hospitals look like airport waiting rooms. Rows of metal chairs that are all linked up next to each other. The walls are white. Maybe they look more like a prison. All the nurses wear matching little outfits that are white with pink or green trim. They look like they stepped right out of a 1950's sitcom. There is something very stiff and distant about hospital waiting rooms-- I don't care what country you are in, noone steps inside a hospital and smiles and says, "oh yeah, I missed this place!"

How much more distant and cold is the experience when you can't communicate well enough to actually articulate to someone what the problem is? How much more frustrating is to try and explain to someone who half understands English, in order for them to half explain to someone who does not understand any English? Now add into the mix being tired, and sore, exhausted from days of miscommunication and medicine for ailments you don't have.

Don't get me wrong, I don't blame anyone but myself for the fact that I can't speak the language. However, trying to tell the doctor, in a hospital in China, that your throat and mouth are swollen, is like playing the telephone game with a group of children. One of them starts with a simple sentence, and by the time that sentence gets to the other end of the line, it is no longer related to the topic we started with. This might explain why the first doctor sent me home with medicine for diarrhea after I told her that my throat had lumps in it.

China is an up and down, just like any home, and today is dark.

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