Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sadie's first trip to a Korean hospital

Settle in, folks, this is a long story.

Sadie was diagnosed with a mild case of hip dysplasia before we left Australia. We were told we could put her in a brace then and have her checked by an orthopedist when we got to Korea, but had we been staying in Australia they would have left her out of the brace and then checked back in 6 weeks to see if it had improved on its own. Well, after about a week of watching my baby be miserable and not sleeping in the brace, I ixnayed the thing until we could follow up with an ortho in Korea. ...I'm a great mom.

To make myself feel better about that executive decision, we made an appointment sooner than 6 weeks to meet with an orthopedist. So with a baby strapped to me, a taxi waiting outside, and the address to our new apartment written in Korean so I could navigate myself back home, Sadie and I set out to the city to the "foreigners' hospital."

Sadie LOVED the taxi ride! She kept looking out both windows as if to say, "Ma! Are you seeing this!?"

I assumed it was called the "foreigners' hospital" by the school nurse who made the appointment because it was staffed by people who spoke foreigner.


This is what greets you when you walk into the main entrance of this general hospital. You can't see it very clearly in this photo, but the lit up signs above the desk say "payment," "registration," and "information for foreigners only." Hey, that's me! The school nurse had said that I had to pay at registration before going to my appointment, so I thought maybe I could get more information at the foreigners only desk.

That was not the case. The foreigners only desk was being used for everyone and the man behind the desk was currently being chewed out by a very angry and very old Korean man. That red number next to him, I came to figure out, was the number of the ticket he was currently helping. Like a deli counter. I got my number and when I was called to the counter the lady (who did not speak English) typed my ID number into the system and wrote "No. 1 room" on a piece of paper and handed it to me as she pointed down that hallway you see in the left of the photo. I go to room number one? What happens when I get there? Where is room number one?

After much aimless wandering and frequent stopping to let people coo at my daughter (Koreans LOVE my baby!), I found a room that had a number 1 next to it and in English it said, "Orthopedic Surgery." (Americans: "surgery" is being used here in the British sense. It is not a room where orthopedic operations took place, but instead a room where orthopedic medicine is practiced)

Tricky thing was, two doors down was ANOTHER room number one. And in front of these rooms was another waiting room with more payment and reception desks. After much observation and use of my google translate app, I think I figured out how it works.

I was supposed to have gone to the orthopedic waiting room, taken a number, paid for my appointment, and then put the receipt into the little pocket on the door of the orthopedic surgery.

This was not the orthopedic surgery, but you see that green pocket next to the door? That's what I'm talking about. All of the exam rooms were like this. 
The receipt, I'm assuming, said my name and what services I was after and served as my place in line for the doctor. Occasionally a hand would appear from Door No. 1, like a medical Once-ler, and pull the receipt from the door and disappear.

A few seconds later a cheery nurse would come out and say what I presumed was, "Next waiting please!" and someone would get up and follow her into the room. Thing is I don't know how anyone knew who was the next waiting because I was watching and the person who I thought was next waiting was not the person who would get up! So then, I thought, maybe she's calling people's names, but it sounded like she was saying the same thing every time...I need to learn Korean.

Anyway, I waited, a nurse came out and said something, when no one reacted she looked up and saw the one white lady in the room and said, "Sadie?" haha! Process of elimination!

We go in to the exam room and a man who does not look a day over 20 points to Sadie and says in broken English, "What's wrong with you?"

I thought, "Well she's not going to tell you..."

Eventually a doctor who spoke English moseys in and translates for us. I hand over the disk that has the ultrasound images from Australia and they all hunched over the computer and declared together that in fact Sadie does not have hip dysplasia.

H'oh boy. I hated to dispute their medical knowledge, but I had the orthopedist in Australia show me very clearly where the dysplasia was on the images so that I could know what to look for when we checked for improvement in Korea. They saw how uncomfortable I was with their declaration and offered to do another ultrasound today to double check.

"You come back at 12..." the young doctor said. At this point it was like 11:30, so I said, "In thirty minutes?"



"Forty two."

I thought, "well that's oddly precise..." while the older gentleman was also trying to make sense of what the younger doctor was saying.

"Two," the young chap persevered as he pointed to the clock on the wall. Now I just have no idea what's going on.

What we eventually figured out he was trying to tell me was that I needed to go to the ultrasound department of the hospital at 2:40 that afternoon, get Sadie's ultrasound, and then come back to the orthopedic department so they could look at the images.

...That's more than 4 hours...what am I supposed to do with an infant for four hours while I wait for our next appointment?

Like any good American, I went to Starbucks. In all honesty it was the first coffee shop I found after wandering out of the hospital. I was hoping to get some wifi to tell Tyler what was going on, but there was no wifi to be had, so I settled in a comfy chair with my mocha and my sleeping baby and people watched.

After returning to the hospital I found the ultrasound department and a really friendly nurse poked her head out of an exam room and said, "Come here." It made me laugh how she demanded my presence with such a friendly smile on her face. She then said, "You talk Korean?" to which I gave my most apologetic expression and said, "No, I'm sorry!"

She disappeared back into the exam room and, I assume, asked the sonographer if he spoke English. I assume he said yes because the rest of the exam was conducted by him in flawless English. He took one look at Sadie and said, "She's a baby!"

...yep. "I've never done an ultrasound on someone so young before."

I thought to myself, "Well I've never done an ultrasound on anyone before, so you win!"

He explained that there is one sonographer who was trained to do an ultrasound on an infant but she was on maternity leave until the end of September. I think he wanted me to say, "Oh well. I'll come back in a few weeks then, bye!" but when I just smiled and said, "Oh, that's interesting," he took the hint and gave it a try.

...a half hearted try, but a try nonetheless. He declared his efforts a failure and said, "We'll call you to make an appointment after my colleague comes back."

I can try to call me, but I don't have a SIM card yet and I don't speak Korean...

So after all of that, I still don't have an answer as to whether my daughter's hip dysplasia has improved, but I learned a LOT about how to hospital in Korean! I gave the doctor the phone number for the school nurse and they arranged another appointment for Sadie this week.

Of course, lots more happened that day and I learned a LOT about Korean culture in my four hours of people watching at Starbucks, but you'll just have to wait for those stories.

Vicariously yours,

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