Thursday, July 25, 2013

My trip to a Japanese hospital...

... fortunately, I was not the one admitted to the hospital. That lucky person was Rodney's friend and fellow 30-something Marine with a case of the shingles across his face. For the sake of his privacy, I will call him Bob (not his real name.) Because the shingles rash was so close to Bob's eye, all medical personnel involved, both American and Japanese, thought it would be best of he was in a hospital that had an opthamologist, and the closest hospital with said specialty doctor was about an hour away from base by public transportation. Aside from an every-other-day visit from an opthomologist, Bob also got eye drops twice a day and an IV full of meds three times a day. Fun stuff. But, like I said he was the lucky person, not me, and for that I am thankful. I am not sure a Japanese hospital would be very mentally soothing for a non-Japanese speaking American. Especially one who is type-A like me and must know what is going on at all times. Bob is a little more low-key and laid back than I am, so I think he will exit the hospital on Friday with his sanity in tact. But I am not sure if I would be so lucky.

First of all, like I said, the hospital is a 10-minute drive, then 30-minute train ride, then 10-minute walk from the base. I am not sure what that would be by car from Iwakuni, because after our lovely alternator incident, we are a little leery of taking our vehicles out of Iwakuni proper. So, we drove to the Iwakuni train station, hopped on the train, and then walked from the 8th train stop toward Hiroshima to the JA Hiroshima General Hospital. This is not an easy trek, so I don't think Bob had too many American visitors in his week of captivity, er, week-long hospital stay. In fact, Rodney and I may have been the only ones, but I have not been able to confirm that. So, it is a lonely place to try and get better.

Second, the outside aesthetics could use some work. Nothing says "Come feel better here" like a boxy, beige building:

Here is Rodney modeling the sign out front for us:

And the entrance to the hospital:

Once inside, it was much like the hospitals I have been to in the States, plenty of beige linoleum and waiting room chairs. And bottles of hand sanitizer... made by Johnson & Johnson.This is the view as you enter the hospital:

Bob was on the sixth floor, so we took the elevator up. A Japanese lady riding with us talked on her cell phone the entire way up. We were amazed that she kept her cell phone connection. I lose mine in the one floor I go up to my apartment. Maybe the hospital's elevators are cell phone-friendly so that medical personnel can stay in contact with other medical personnel. Or maybe the walls aren't as thick as my bunker-esque home. Your guess is as good as mine. Now, moving on....

Once we got to the sixth floor, there was what Americans would call a nurses' station as you got off the elevator. I don't know what the Japanese would call it, but I wouldn't have been able to understand it anyway, since it would be in Japanese. The nurse sitting there looked at us but made no effort to stop us. We weren't sure what time visiting hours were, but it was about 6 p.m. Bob said he had seen visitors as late as 8 p.m., so we figured we were safe. We just kept walking and I snapped this picture for those who might be curious about Japanese nurses' stations:

Bob's room was very close to the nurses' station, so we did not have to walk far. He had three roommates curtained off from him, but his curtain was wide open. He liked checking out what was going on. To the left of his bed was a computer. Everyone gets a computer, but they are not for the patients' use. The envelope is a prescription envelope, mostly written in Japanese, except for some basic instructions in English, so he doesn't accidentally overdose himself, I'm guess. He set out chocolates with a note that says "Please take one." He had not yet been able to convince anyone to take one, though. The remnants of his Japanese-style supper were also there when we arrived.

A closer look at the prescription bag... hopefully there is not any private info one there. I would have no idea since it is in Japanese... Bob did give me permission to get a photo of it, though.

Bob's view from his bed, in to the room he shared with three older Japanese men:

Bob had already moved rooms once in the four days between when he was admitted and when we saw him. He had a window view before and requested sunglasses brought in. But that request was cancelled once he got in to this room. When they moved him to this new room, they also moved his bed, his nightstand and his computer with him. I asked Bob if he got to take it all home since it appeared it was now his. He wasn't sure.

I never like to visit someone in the hospital empty-handed, so Rodney and I brought him reading material and snacks. Some of the snacks I picked out went along with the shingles theme... Pocky, because shingles is related to chicken pox, Snickers because that's what people do when they see a rash on your face, and Kisses to make the boo-boos better. I tried to find Dots to complete the theme, but, alas, none could be found. Fortunately, Bob also has a sense of humor, which, I am sure, helped him get through the past week.

So, being the inquisitive blogger that I am, I asked Bob a lot of questions about his hospital stay. He does think he is getting good care, yes, he is bored and going a little stir-crazy, and many of the members of his medical team speak decent English (but, of course, they apologize for how bad their English is... his attitude is a lot like mine - their English is a heck of a lot better than our Japanese!). Some odd (compared with American hospitals) things are:

1) You bring your own bath and hand towels, as well as your own pajamas. There are no hospital gowns. Unfortunately, no one told Bob he had to bring is own towels when he packed up for this little adventure, so he had to buy some at Lawsons, the drug/gift store in the lobby. Fortunately, he had the where-with-all to bring plenty of yen to the hospital with him. As well as his phone, computer, hard drive with hundreds of books and movies, and all of the required power cords. He did not have internet access (except for the 3G on his phone) but he did have four electrical plugs by the head of his hospital bed. He could have a movie marathon with no problem.

2) The pillows sound like bean-bag chairs. They are fluffed up with tiny plastic balls filled with air (see photo below). I guess for easy sanitation. But I am not sure they would be comfortable to sleep in. And like everything else in Japan, they are about half the size of an standard American pillow. And he only got one of them.

3) The air conditioning was on, thank goodness, but it is quite humid here in Japan right now. So, there was a lot of condensation collecting around the vent in Bob's room... and dripping on Bob's legs, since his bed was the one underneath it. This seemed to be standard, the medical personnel did not appear concerned, Bob said. Rodney took his handkerchief and wiped the vent as best he could to give Bob a bit of a reprieve from the odd water torture.

And last, but not least, here is a look at Bob's bed, without Bob in it:

That thing that looks like a pillow at the foot of his bed are actually his sheets folded up. The space doesn't look too foreign, but definitely not as swanky as the two maternity rooms I have been in in the States. I would be curious to see a Japanese maternity room... and to know if you have to share it with three other pregnant women and their babies. Could you imagine too many American women putting up with that?

And kudos to Bob for being such a good sport during his recovery. And thanks for letting me document your experience...

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