Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Our New Normal: When it Comes to Illness...

A stubborn upper respiratory bug is making the rounds through our family these days.  Stew and I managed to weather it with the help of OTC meds we brought along with us from the States.  We wiped those supplies out, which meant making a foray out to a Japanese drug store.  We knew we wouldn't find our favorite remedy here (12-hour Sudafed), but we did find Contac capsules, along with a lesser-strength ibuprofen, so we figured we'd be okay.

Jenna contracted the virus and after a couple days of fever, she developed a full-blown sinus infection.  Great....time now to find a local clinic.  We had no idea where to begin our search, but thankfully we have local friends who have offered to help in times of need.  

We decided to preempt our scheduled Japanese lesson in favor of pressing our tutor into humanitarian service.  When Harada Sensei (Teacher Harada) arrived, we informed him that Jenna needed a doctor, and could he help us find one?  With his help, we found an ear/nose/throat clinic a short walk from our house.  We were thankful to have Teacher Harada with us so that he could translate.  In a little over an hour's time, Jenna had been registered, examined, x-rayed, diagnosed (yes, it was a sinus infection), and prescribed an antibiotic.  We were amazed by the speed and efficiency of this walk-in clinic.  We went to a nearby pharmacy and after 20 additional minutes, we were heading home with prescription in hand.

This experience proved a welcome contrast to the self-diagnosing/self-medicating that defined our way of managing illness on Mainland China.  There, we would stock our home pharmacy by way of trips out of country once or twice a year, bringing back what we hoped would be the medication we'd require over the next several months.   This time, it was a relief to take Jenna to a clinic for what amounted to a Western-style doctor's appointment.

Heather fell ill within days after Jenna, except that the virus went straight to her lungs, resulting in bronchitis.   To our dismay, the clinic that Jenna visited was closed today, so we trekked around the neighborhood in search of another that was open.  We found one about a half-mile down the road, and took Heather in to register and receive an exam.

Heather's experience was completely different.  Instead of an interview, brief exam and x-rays, Heather endured thoroughly invasive examination and treatment.  The doctor (who spoke some English, thankfully) examined Heather's throat with a camera-tipped probe, examined her nose in like manner, and then....THEN....he took an aspirating tube to the back of Heather's throat, causing her to gag.  After that, he used the aspirating tube up her nose, to her wide-eyed astonishment.  I reached for Heather's hand, which she gripped tightly until the doctor was finished "cleaning out."  Finally, she was fitted with one face mask and then a second, to receive nebulizer treatments.  

Whereas Jenna came home with one 10-day course of antibiotics, Heather came home with 10 separate medications:  cough suppressants, broncho-dilators, antihistamine, gargling powder, antibiotics, throat lozenges, and a nasal spray.  Whew!  All of these meds are in fairly small quantities and will be used up within 5 days, but it does seem weird to watch an 11 year-old swallow a handful of pills, twice a day.

In sum, within days we witnessed two perfectly legitimate ear/nose/throat evaluations, but also two entirely different treatment procedures.  Time will tell which child recovers the fastest from her respective illness.....

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