Big Changes

Announcement: I’m going home June 28th!  Huzzah!  Here’s why, with the disclaimer that if medical stuff squicks you out, you shouldn’t keep reading: 

I realized while I was strapped to an operating table that I needed to go home tout de suite.  Tuesday the 5th I went to see the urologist as usual. For the past 3 weeks he had been ordering a urinalysis test, asking me about my medicine and symptoms (in a mix of direct very bad English and via my translating manager), smacking me in the back and asking if it hurt, then sending me on my way with a new appointment and prescription.  But that Tuesday was different.  The pain was worsening, the infection wasn’t going away, and he announced I should have a stent placed in my kidney.  He could do it that afternoon.

Although the prospect of surgery (he said it was not a surgery, but a “procedure”) in a foreign country is a big one, I agreed knowing that when I had a stent before, it didn’t bother me very much and had helped with the massive kidney infection I had developed my freshman year of college.  Last time I had one it was placed under general anesthesia.  Unfortunately, this time it was under local anesthesia, which made me very nervous.  I went to work and taught until 3:40.  I was in a hospital gown at 4.  That’s Korea for you.

That’s an x-ray (not of me) showing what a stent is.  The top hook is in my kidney, they bottom in my bladder.  It helps to drain your kidney past a ureter blockage, like a stone or my UPJ obstruction.   image credit: http://bui.ac.uk

So I got some kind of injection in my backside, my manager explained to me she couldn’t come into the OR but she would wait for me outside, and that my legs were to be in stirrups.  This would take about an hour.  I was still being a trooper as they pushed me away in my wheelchair, but as soon as I saw the operating room, panic set in.

A few of the people in the room made attempts to speak to me but I just said “Hanggungmal chogum-ppakke mot haeyo” (“I understand a little Korean”) and everyone just gave up after my blank looks.  Even my manager had a tough time translating medical stuff to me and she’s a Korean woman fluent in English.  This was a challenge way beyond my grasp.

Anyone that tells you that all medical professionals have a basic understanding of English is lying.  I know it seems to say that on all the websites about traveling and working here, but it’s simply not true.  There are doctors, nurses, surgeons, etc who speak great English (some of my friends have had lovely experiences with them), but it’s not everyone and I don’t understand why people keep spreading the idea that it’s the standard.

At this point I was starting to get really panicked.  It had started to feel like I was an animal instead of a human.  They just took off my pants, strapped my arms and legs to the table, put up a curtain and started doing things to the lower half of my body, which I could not see.  They even tried to cover my head with a towel at one point which I shook off by turning my head side to side since no one would pay attention when I said NO and my arms were strapped to the table.  One person said, “to clean your body”  and they started rubbing a freezing cold iodine soaked sponge all over my thighs, stomach, and genitals.  There was no warning that they were going to put the sponge inside me or even worse, that they would squirt antiseptic all over me.  You do not know how much that burned.  Tears just started rolling down my face.  I’m not using the term lightly when I tell you this all felt like a medical rape.

The actual surg.. procedure was horrible.  The anesthesia was not very effective and I could feel the cytoscope inside my body, up to my ribs.  It was very painful and the doctor was so frustrated by my cries of pain he started shouting BE PATIENT at me.  My feelings were just raw fear and panic.  I said to myself, “I’m going home,” and told my manager afterwards how scared I was, how much  it hurt, how ashamed I was to be naked and on display like that, and most importantly, I was never going through that again.  I was too emotionally distressed to ask many questions so I left with almost no instructions and went through an excruciating 24 hours of intense burning pain and had to go back to the doctor on Thursday for pain and nausea.  He switched my medication because of the awful side effects and I stayed home from work Thursday and Friday.

I don’t think my manager was very surprised when I resigned from my job on the 7th.  It’s a month early and luckily, I had a friend in need of a job for that exact time period so it won’t be too taxing on the school.

I just completed my first full week back at work.  It was exhausting and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through Friday, my longest day.  I cried when I told my kindergarten class I’ve had since I got here I was leaving (their tears and faces just made me really emotional!) but other than that, I can’t wait.

It’s time to go home.

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2 thoughts on “Big Changes

  1. Oh, my poor, poor niece! I have tears right now reading your blog. I am SO sorry for what you went through. Traveling abroad can be an incredible experience, but not when you are need medical help, as you obviously pointed out. I can’t wait to see you very soon. We have missed you.

    • I have missed you, too! Can’t believe I’ll be home in just two weeks. So exciting although there is some sadness this adventure has been cut a little short. Will be happy to see a US doctor! I’m so grateful to my friends and manager who have been helpful during my illness but just speaking directly to the doctor will be so nice.

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