I am happy to report that I have received my walking papers from the Horinouchi Hospital of Saitama, Japan, after a week-long course of repeated sticking, poking, prodding and meds. The final tally came to 34030 yen, about $375 at today’s exchange rate.
That included six visits to the emergency room, the initial assessment, six IV-drip treatments of antibiotics, six rounds of blood testing, a bed for an hour or two per day, and at least a couple of hours aggregate of face time with the doctor. I am for the most part as good as new, or at least as good as I was before the event that predicated my encounter with Japanese healthcare, a bite or sting from some poisonous and vindictive insect, causing my knee to swell several centimeters beyond its usual (not inconsiderable) girth.
The hospital experience was, by turns, mildly traumatic and oddly humorous. On the third or fourth day of my treatment, there was no bed available, so they had to take my blood while I was seated. The nurse, clearly quite experienced, nonetheless had trouble finding a vein for the procedure. She tapped several spots on my arm, finally settling on someplace close to the wrist, then inserted the needle. But not into a vein, apparently. “Gomen nasai,” she said, Japanese for “I’m sorry,” trying again. No luck this time either. Nor the next, by which time she was becoming a bit flustered. By now I was feeling a touch light-headed. It wasn’t that it hurt particularly, it was just the psychological reaction to the repeated sticking. I thought there was a chance I would pass out, so I excused myself (in English) and made for the nearest sofa. She was mortified, but with the help of my trusty translator, I was able to convey to her that it wasn’t her fault, simply that I have a weak stomach when it comes to the sight of blood, particularly my own. They found a bed for me, after which a vein cooperated quite nicely, and once again I was hooked up to the IV, good to go.
I had a book to read, Nevada Barr’s latest, Burn (her best book in ages, by the way; see my review later this summer in BookPage); I carried it in a cloth bag I had borrowed, a bag with Snoopy the beagle pictured on the side. The girl at the counter where I paid the bill saw the Snoopy bag, and laughed and said “Kawaii!”, Japanese for “cute.” I wanted to tell her that it belonged to my friend, and so I pointed at the bag and said “watakushi no tomodachi…” (“my friend…”, hoping that she would realize that the bag belonged to someone with a greater tolerance for cutesiness than I). She looked confused for a moment, then smiled and said “Snoopy wa anata no tomodachi desu ka?” (“Snoopy is your friend?”) I couldn’t begin to figure out how to fix that, given my severely limited repertoire of Japanese, so I said “Hai. Ichiban inu desu.” (“Yes, he is the number one dog!”) I made a “thumbs up” gesture. She and her co-worker got a huge kick out of that.
If I have any complaint at all, albeit a minor one, it is this: Japanese hospital bandages feature the stickiest adhesive known to man, a hair-ripping, skin-stretching bonding agent that makes Superglue seem positively Teflon-like by comparison. After the first removal, I was sorely tempted to let subsequent bandages simply erode away naturally.
Nobody wants to go to the hospital, or at least, nobody wants to need to go to the hospital. That said, I cannot imagine a more pleasant place to be in hospitalized than in Horinouchi Hospital, Saitama, Japan. Nice staff, spotless rooms, reasonable cost. And they fixed me up; one can hardly ask for more.