Thursday, April 5, 2012


Last night I had to take a friend to the hospital. We thought she had appendicitis, which thankfully she did not. But I learned a lot about emergencies in Korea.

We didn't have a working phone number for a taxi company, so we just went outside and luckily found one quickly. Poor girl was walking around with the worst stomachache waiting for a car. We went to the closest hospital, and the doors were locked. So I pounded on them for a while and when no one came we found a side entrance. We used our limited Korean and lots of gestures to tell them what was wrong. They kind of examined her, and then told us they couldn't do anything about it because they're only an orthopedic hospital. I've always known they used the word "hospital" very loosely...every time I'm sick one of my coteachers asks if I've been to the hospital. But now I'm pretty sure that word just means clininc.

So we got in another taxi and went to a real hospital. First of all, let me say that the people behind all those patient privacy acts in America would have a FIELD DAY in this place! It was a giant room with tons of beds, and they all had curtains around them but they were never closed. I watched somebody get an EKG, I watched an old dude get a chest examination, I saw strangers x-rays and my friend's x-rays too. Everybody was all up in everybody else's business.

I was looking at all the paperwork, because it was there for anybody to see, and most of it was in English. I don't understand the logic behind that. I'm sure all the doctors and nurses are required to know English, but I bet a lot of the patients don't. And at the same time, they had a hard time communicating things with us. So strange.

This experience was the kick in the pants I needed to put more effort into learning Korean. Luckily the doctors and nurses all spoke a little English, but what if they hadn't? Sometimes charades just aren't good enough. We used the Korean we could, and that was mildly helpful, but I don't want to have to hope that someone will speak enough English to help me if something like this ever happens again.

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