Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's Up [My Nose], Doc?

My sweet haul.
Ok, so here's a little background.  This past June, I was have a lot of weird symptoms I've never had before.  Every night for 2 weeks or so, I'd have all the symptoms of a fever (muscle aches, shivering, headache, etc.), but no elevated temperature.  During the day I'd feel fine, but with just a little headache.  I finally got my butt to the doctor and he told me it was a sinus infection.  I didn't believe him at first because I didn't have a runny nose or was sneezing or anything, but it turned out he was right and the antibiotics kicked it out.

So now, for the past week or so, I've had a return of these symptoms, with the addition of a runny nose and a sore throat.  Yikes.  The last thing I need at a new job is to get too sick to come into work.  I wanted to see a doctor, but I had been dragging my feet on registering for the national health insurance because I thought it was going to be a huge ordeal.  How wrong I was.  It took 15 minutes, tops, and I got my very own card and everything.  Compare this to the 45 minutes it took just to change a small detail (my room number) on my address with the bank.....  ANYWAYS, I finally got my card, so I was ready to see a doctor.  But how could I find one?!?!?

Well, that's where this amazing website comes in.  ひまわり (himawari, meaning "sunflower") is this awesome website provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government that lets you look up a doctor near you.  It breaks it down by specialty first and you can even see how much English fluency they have.  So, I searched for an ENT, and found the one closest to me who was fluent in English.  I then called to make an appointment, but they said I didn't have to and that I just could walk in with my insurance card and it'd be fine.  So, I put on my heavy coat to brave the cold, and made the 25 minute trek to the clinic.

When I got there, I knew I was in for a different doctor's visit experience than what I was used to.  I entered the clinic, and there was a "genkan", or the traditional Japanese entry way where you are supposed to take off your shoes and change into slippers.  I tried to find the biggest pair (they still weren't big enough), and made my way to the reception counter.  The waiting area was so charming.  It was like a Ghibli movie in that it was a fusion of a cute rustic European cottage with that Japanese flair to it.  I talked to the nurse, she took my card, and she filled out the paperwork for me (SCORE!).  She then opened the door to the doctor's room and told me to come in.

The doctors room was just as "rustic" as the waiting room.  The nurse told me to put my things into this small wicker basket.  I approached the doctor, who was this little Japanese woman who had to be in her late 50's or early 60's.  She told me to sit in the doctor's chair, which is basically like a dentist's chair.  I wish they had these in the US, because it's much more comfortable than sitting on a stupid bed/desk thing they have in their doctor's offices.  She then asked me what the problem was..... in Japanese.  I was hoping she was going to just speak to me in English, but we ended up switching between the two, with Japanese being the primary form of communication.  I told I thought I had a sinus infection and that my throat was sore.

Then came the....."different" part.  She took this long instrument that looked like the metal tubes the dentist uses to spray water in your mouth.  Except she put it in my nose and sprayed some sort of mist in it.  It was fine.  A little unexpected, but fine.  I guessed it was maybe just to disinfect/decongest my nose.  Then she took these 4 little sticks that looked like what you put in those diffuser air freshener things and dipped them into a little blue glass vial.  She then proceed to stick them up my nose.  Not just the inside my nose, but like INTO my sinus cavity, each time she saying "Sorry!" in Japanese.  I tightly shut my eyes throughout the process (to avoid seeing the long thing that was in my sinus cavity).  She then took a metal rod, and shoved that into my sinus cavity.  I didn't feel anything "spray" into it.  It just felt like she was just shoving it in (for what reason, I do not know).  I was waiting for spurts of blood to come gushing out of my nose from the pain that I was feeling, but luckily, it didn't happen (the only blood I saw was when I blew my nose afterwards....).  She then took and EVEN BIGGER rod.  I was praying she was going to put that in my throat.  I saw absolutely no way how that thing was going to fit in my nose.  But, she managed to do it.  And I winced and winced and winced.
I couldn't find a real picture of the instrument, but this pic definitely sums it up perfectly.

Finally, my nose was finished with it's torture regiment.  But then we had one last unpleasantry to get to.  She took a giant cotton swab and dunked it into some mysterious liquid.  She then took a big metal tongue depressor thing, and shoved the cotton swab to the back of my throat and held it there for a good 5 seconds.  I gagged a bit, and she took it out.  *WHEW* We can all breath a collective sigh of relief now that my torture was over and you don't have to read any more gross stuff.

She then told me she was going to write me some prescriptions.  While she was doing that, the nurse had me go to this big console machine.  I guess it was a nebulizer.  They hooked up this long tube to it that had two prongs for each nostril.  I then had to breath from it for a set period of time.  After that was finished, I payed my 1,400 yen and was given directions to the pharmacy.  There, I received the above pictured medicine.  He then explained to me how to take it.  THAT IS ONLY A 4 DAY SUPPLY.  So yeah......  That's my first doctor's visit in Japan.  Pretty memorable, no?

Does anybody else have any interesting/funny doctor stories to share????

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