As I look back on my more than 3 years in Korea now, I can say that I’ve now “been to the hospital” more than a few times. Let’s see if I can recount them all, by cause and subsequent event:
1) My right, middle finger nail – attempting to stop a fast-closing classroom door, I was too late, the door closed on my nail, and it immediately went black and developed a hateful pulse of its own. The next day, after a sleepless night of throbbing pain, I had the pleasure of visiting a clinic where the doctor rummaged around in his desk drawer for a paper clip, heated it – held with tongs over a Bunsen burner – and then plunged it into my nail to release a baby fountain of blood before squeezing the shite out of my finger nail with cotton-covered tongs in an attempt to get more blood out. Weeks later, when it fell-off, I gifted the blackened nail (with a tiny paper-clip-sized hole in it) to one of my students. It was fun.
2) Some bones that I can’t name in my left hand – reacting to the blind rage that came from being disrespected by a colleague for the last time, I decided to punch a door frame, and subsequently shattered some bones that I can’t name in my left hand. A visit to a larger hospital revealed that I had two choices: a) use a temporary and removable cast for 2 months and recover at 85% ($300), or b) Have pins inserted into my hand with a more permanent cast for three months at the cost of roughly $3,000 dollars and heal at 95%. As I was going to Thailand in just over two weeks, I chose option a) and the cast was off in the water in under a month. Look at my hand today and tell me if it has healed at 85 or 95 percent.
3) My right thumb ligaments – while playing soccer with my students at lunch, one student decided to throw a hip-check at me, which jammed my thumb into my hip and apparently did some seriously nasty damage. Each day, for about a week, I had to go to a clinic nearby my school for some “treatment”, which involved ice-packs, heat packs, and then funky little electrodes being attached to either side of my thumb and going off rhythmically in an attempt to shock the tissue back to life. It was mostly comfortable, though it got painful toward the end of each daily treatment.
4) My big toe nail on my right foot. To read more about this one, click here, here, and here.
5) Unknown swollen ankle and foot condition – this is where I find myself today: admitted to a hospital for an extended stay for the first time in a foreign country. After two weeks of hobbling-around town trying my best to be a good partner teacher and run a successful and energetic winter English camp, I gave-up halfway through the final week when a fairly nasty fever took-over on Tuesday night and I knew there was no way I would be able to help lead a group of 21 students an hour away on a subway to a field trip to COEX Aquarium – then back. The hobbling I did there the two previous weeks was catching-up with me. The following night, something possessed me to send photos of my lower left leg to my sister, who happens to work in cardiology at the Alberta Children’s Hospital back home in Calgary, Canada. She was immediately concerned, showed the photos to her doctors at work, and in viewing them in consideration with the described symptoms determined that it was very likely that I have either Cellulitis (Microsoft tells me I’m spelling that wrongly) and/or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which basically means infected and swollen muscle and deep skin tissue and blot clots in major arteries in the leg.
When reading the fine print, I saw that there is a chance (however small – 3%, I believe) that the latter can actually be fatal – a blood clot dislodging from the leg can lead to the heart or lungs and then I would be a family footnote at the age of 35 – an age I’ve only been able to “enjoy” for less than a week now. I took my sister’s long-distance advice and went directly to emergency at the closest hospital – my rabbit by my side – and the next day I checked-in for proper blood and ultrasound tests. As you can see, the Gout I’d been going on about, wasn’t really Gout at all – I love all the misdiagnosis that led-up to this. More on that later…