Socialized Medicine, My Experiences – Pt 1
Posted by Jeff Condon on October 24, 2009
Well the laptop has a virus now so I’m flat out of working computers. This means no climate blogging today but no problem, I can still use notepad in safe mode and I’ve promised a story about my experience with China health care. This is a little story about my experience with socialized medicine China style. Since our glorious leader chairman Pelosi and Obama are recommending full marxist style medicine, I want people to understand how what they are proposing works. I’m not claiming that single payer would do this immediately but destroying what IS the finest health care system in the world (despite what European, Asian, and US Leftist news says) in favor of socialized medicine is something every American, and European (Asia is lost) should consider carefully.
A few years ago, at the tender young age of 38, I had just gotten off a 12ish hour flight from Chicago to Bejing exhausted as always from not sleeping, I needed a connecting flight to Schenzhen which is adjacent to HongKong in the South – like a 4 1/2 hour flight. It hurts even writing about this story.
While waiting for the connecting flight in Bejing, my back started to hurt. I don’t have back problems but thought I must have pulled something – it was a 12 hour flight after all. I stretched, twisted walked but nothing would stop the pain. It wasn’t terrible but the constantness of it was irritating. By the time the plane was boarding my back really hurt but what could I do, I didn’t know anyone in Bejing and thought I would just ride it out.
The 747 took off about 45 minutes later and the pain had increased even further. Oddly, I was getting nauseous and my skin was clammy from the pain. Another 10 minutes later, I was explaining to a ridiculously beautiful flight attendent who spoke little English that I didn’t feel well and the pain was becoming unbearable. I’ll leave some of the more gruesome and embarrassing detail out here but suffice it to say that in 45 minutes they had cleared an entire 5 seat row out on the 100% packed full 747, I’ve got no idea what happened to the people. I was stretched out drenched in sweat rolling on the seats in pain which had grown so bad everything I had eaten since I was12 left my body from every orifice I own.
They had a Chinese doc on the plane who spoke no English but communicated through a translator who thought he could speak English. He was wrong! After some time a few words and hand signals got through and I learned that Doc thought I was in possession of my first kidney stone. I din’t know if he was right but it seemed reasonable. They decided I was in no danger so they weren’t going to land the plane, I did my best Clint Eastwood impression and tried to be tough. Of course I ended up with my face buried in the butt crack of the seats groaning and whimpering in pain periodically stopping to search for ever more food to eject from the deepest pit of my stomach.
People were very nice to me but I didn’t really care. It was embarrassing and miserable to an extreme which is impossible to describe. I didn’t know how long the flight was supposed to be so I kept asking and kept receiving the same answers – we’re almost there. I would ask – what does that mean? Oh a half hour or 45 minutes. Well after well over 2 hours of this I finally yelled at the American guy across the aisle to stop lying to me and tell me how soon the fucking plane was going to land. That shook him out of his moronic mode and I got a good answer – another hour and a half or two.
He wasn’t mad b/c he was trying to be nice and probably hoping he wouldn’t watch some guy die or something. I was hoping I would by then. He began asking me all kinds of questions like, what do you do,and why are you going to China. It was an obvious attempt to keep my mind off my imminent death, but better than being lied to.
After a while, the ridiculously gorgeous flight attendant (China’s got that right) came by and started mopping my forehead and neck with a hot towel. When she left, I lifted my head while stretched out on 5 seats of the packed plane and to the guy across the aisle deadpanned – - – “I do this on all the long flights for the attention.” He laughed so hard it made me laugh.
It was the only humor I remember on that flight. Tears, old lunches, sweat and pain took up the rest of the time.
When the plane finally landed, it seemed like they had lied again. It was at least a 27 hour flight. No question. The pilot probably had a refueling tanker come by to keep it up for the extra time. You think I’m kidding!
Anyway, I watched the causeway come to the side of the plane. The plane door opened and it was time to get off but….. not yet.
You see, in China, everything is a negotiation. Food, drinks, where to go, how to get there, everything requires a long discussion. You have to see it to believe me. After landing, the flight attendents were talking with what appeared to be a paramedic at the OPEN plane door. It was an in country flight Bejing-Shenzhen so no border crossing was required. Why they were yammering, I’ll never know. I stood up and started walking toward the door. A passenger stuck his arm out and blocked my path by grabbing the back of the seat preventing me from getting from my personal five seat 747 row into the plane aisle. He was trying to be helpful but like most Chinese men, I had 6 inches of height on him so I grabbed his wrist and wrenched it from the seat and told him – ‘Thanks but I don’t need that kind of help’. He has no idea to this day what I said.
I walked to the door, where I had a view of the rest of the passengers who were staring and wondering what happened. I mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ and asked the flight attendant why I couldn’t leave the plane yet. Normally when the doors open people are lined up to the back of the plane but everyone was sitting.
The girl told me to wait and just kept talking with the paramedic and the Chinese doc had joined in. I was standing and miserable and had already but I patiently waited several minutes longer. The ambulance on the tarmac was visible below, lights on and the causeway door had been left open to the stairs. The engines had spun down mostly so I made a decision and walked past the endlessly yammering Chinese people who were talking about me while ignoring the obvious fact that it was time to get off the friggin plane. I went through the crows to the stairs completely ignored by the paramedic and proceeded downward shakily from the experience. I was halfway down the stairs before my rescuers decided to rush after me.
One guy grabbed at my elbows to help or something but they were behind me and gave up after a moment. I walked to the ambulance in extreme pain and pulled at the handles. The damn doors had been locked – Why is a good question! Is someone going to steal the ambulance next to a 747 in the middle of an airport tarmac? I couldn’t get in and the doc from the plane and the ambulance drivers were yacking again about something. “I need to go to the hospital, I’ve waited long enough!” I said. I got madder and said it again but it was clear they didn’t understand. Eventually they understood my yelling, pointing and yanking at the handle of the ambulance and opened the fucking door. Sorry for the language but remembering pisses me off. I pulled myself into the ambulance and laid on the bed. It was incredibly bare inside. No equipment whatsoever, dim lights and very dirty.
After 5 minutes of rolling back and forth on the narrow gurney, the ambulance wasn’t moving yet. I got mad enough to start yelling again to get moving. They stopped yammering about whatever they felt was so important and got in. After the ambulance started rolling, the paramedic pulled out the cheapest sphygmomanometer, I’ve ever seen and proceeded to try and work the thing on my arm. After 3 tries he gave up, unable to take my blood pressure with the wal-mart style piece of junk.
After several minutes of begging, I found out there were no fluids for IV’s or pain medicine in the ambulance. NOTHING! The doc explained it with his 3 words of English as he generously rode with me to the hospital. I was horribly dehydrated from the low pressure on the plane and constant expulsion of every fluid in my body from every possible orifice.
The ambulance ride was amazingly long. Another 45 minutes of rolling in pain. The driver didn’t use the lights and was in no hurry whatsoever. I asked and even yelled several times while waiting at traffic lights to go through and drive faster. In China, people run lights all the time – this was just before the automated cameras took over enforcement but the ambulance driver was having none of it. Now I know it was impatient of me but I’d been suffering from the worst pain in my life for 6 hours straight now and had enough.
When I got to the hospital, I didn’t wait to be carried from the Ambulance b/c they all started yammering again behind the vehicle leaving me alone inside – ignored again! I got up while in extreme pain and walked from the ambulance myself past the idiots to the sign that seemed to indicate the emergency room. This time the idiots caught up quickly.
The state hospital in this 8 million person city was dimly lit and the halls were dark and EMPTY! There was noone at what appeared to be the check in window at 9 pm. Finally my rescuers actually led me down one hallway and I found myself face to face with about 20 sick Chinese people all waiting outside the single lit room in the deeply shadowed hall. I remember one man holding his finger which looked broken patiently waiting. There was 1 doctor for all these people and three nurses. They sat me on a bare grey wood plank bench in the hallway which was obviously what passed for the waiting room but I couldn’t sit. I walked around moaning trying to find a comfortable position. The nurses grabbed my arm and sat me on the bench again. Ten minutes later it became clear that I was expected to wait for these 20 people to be seen by the doc. Well I laid down on the bench which after a few more minutes seemed to upset the nurses. They would pull me up to a sitting position and say some non-english stuff and I would lay down again. I’ve got no idea why it was so important not to lay down but it happened several times.
The doc from the plane had hung around and was periodically injecting himself into the endless negotiations between nurses and what I now understood to be the emergency room doc. The doc stayed seated at his desk and I don’t recall him ever leaving the chair. After 30 minutes he had showed very little concern for rushing along. Really, every single thing is a negotiation in China and he spent his entire time yammering back and fort with the three nurses who would periodically leave to do something.
Finally, they brought out a gurney for me well ahead of the other patients. A nurse had pushed it from the little treatment room telling me to lie down. There were only two beds in the little room with the doc and both had been empty. The pain and suffering of the last 6 or 7 hours was indescribable but when I saw the sheet, it was covered, I mean covered with what were obviously blood scabs, with a huge 2 foot yellow stain which appeared to be wet puss (not piss) in the middle. The nurse tried to force me by pushing onto the bed, the pain was still excruciating.
Being of the human race (despite what Tamino will tell you}, I resisted her efforts to place me in that amount of filth. I was in enough pain that I tried to brush the scabs onto the floor with my hands so I could lay on the 8 inches next to the puss – kidney stones suck. The scabs were too numerous though (hundreds of particles) and the nurse pushed my hand down and took the bed away. I laid back on the grey painted wood bench.
Two minutes later they pulled me up again the other gurney from the little room had arrived. It had a smaller 1 foot yellow stain on the sheet which appeared dry but was NOT clean. No problem I decided. It’s hard to explain how bad it hurt.
They pushed me into the E room only 30 feet from the fancy split/splintered wooden bench I’d spent the last half hour on. I proceeded to watch the doc talk for another 5 minutes while I was rolling and moaning in pain. My patients was lost again, I started hollering for some pain medicine.
I reached into my pocket and grabbed my wallet, pulled out all the money in it and held it out in my clenched fist. ‘Don’t you people have anything? I’ve wated long enough, give me something for the fucking pain. Please!!’
Finally the e-room doc looked up from his little shit desk and said something the nurse who went to a nearly empty 3 foot wide wooden, glass windowed cabinet straight from the 40′s and found a syringe (it was the only cabinet in the room). Normally I hate shots but this time I would have pulled it from her hand and jammed it in myself. She tugged at my belt and I responded by yanking my pants down to my knees on the gurney in the crowded little room with dozens of men and women in room and others staring through the open door in the hall looking in at the only white guy they had seen that week.
It did nothing!
Now I understand that it was either water or a particular medication given to stop spasms of the ureter which is often highly effective in stopping pain from kidney stones. However, as I have learned, in some cases it is not effective at all. At the time all I knew was that I was still dry vomiting (from pain) into an empty and completely unneccesary bucket after having worked very hard to clear my body of any form of liquid for the past 7 hours. Do you think I’m exaggerating??
After 20 minutes of some of the worst pain yet, I was clutching the $400 again in an extended fist and yelled at the doc – who spoke ZERO English. The doc from the plane was still around and he told the other guy something which resulted in yet another negotiation.
Eventually the nurse came with another VERY SPECIAL syringe. Five minutes later, I was on my stomach with a distant unimportant ache in my abdomen hugging the disgusting stained gurney face down because the vertigo was so powerful I was afraid I would fall off the sideless gurney. The pain was bearable and I was happy. I fell asleep/passed out for what I believe was a few minutes.
The medicine from the first shot dries your mouth out. I mean to the point where your tongue couldn’t wet an envelope – drier than anyone who hasn’t experienced it could imagine. So dry that you could lick desert sand and get moisture. But it’s worse than that because after 7 hours of violent expellation – you get thirsty. Just a little.
My business contact in Shenzhen had arrived and I asked for some water, the doc from the plane explained something to my contact who allegedly speaks English something in Chinese. Now I say allegedly because you have to understand my buisiness associate speaks 12 English words with an accent of a degree such that of several American friends who’ve met him, I’m the only person I know who understands him. It was still better than the doc’s English and he translated to me that the medicine dries your mouth out – you’re not thirsty!
I wasn’t in pain anymore but was horribly dehydrated from… well …. everything coming out of every orifice a person has for SEVEN HOURS in LOW pressure!! So I explained that I understood that the medicine makes your mouth dry but I was ACTUALLY thirsty. This is far to complex a thought to express having only 12 common words between us to work with. I kept trying anyway. After 15 minutes of every kind of negotiation and argument TO GET WATER! from these people, I finally convinced them that I might actually BE thirsty. Jackasses.
The nurse promptly (yeah right) – brought me a glass of water. Well not a glass really, actually it was a sub-dixie cup, less than 2 ounces and made from ultra thin paper. I grabbed the sides eagerly and lifted but promptly scalded my fingers as the water was boiling hot! Truly boiling hot!
Ya..see, in China they need to boil all the water before drinking because they don’t have modern processing plants and distribution, even in Schenzhen which by appearance is in many ways more modern than Chicago.
Well I didn’t drop the scalding hot cup of transparent liquid hope – oh no, I’d worked too hard to get it. Instead I grabbed the rim with my other hand crushing but not dropping the beautiful clear liquid. I spent 20 seconds sipping down my boiling water with a shaky (actully burned) but fortunately partially numb hand gripping the top rim of the ONE-ish oz cup. I’ve had bigger shots. Of course it did nothing so I began asking for more which didn’t come.
Eventually I started motioning my finger into my arm vein begging for an IV which I definitely needed saying the Chinese word for please. The ceaseless yammering of negotiation between the doc and other patients sitting at the desk in front of him shifted to me again. More yammering ensued and eventually the nurse opened the little cabinet again and pulled out a bag of IV fluids.
Now, normally a blind nurse could hit my veins with a crossbow across the room. Oddly TO THEM she found it difficult to find my probably crusty dry dehydrated veins. She was sticking me over and over, I even helped tighten the turniquit and it finally worked.
The plane doc finally decided to leave and said goodby – I think. I took a moment to thank him now that my head was clearer from the pain but far too dizzy to walk.
I was pulled off the bed then and IV in hand. The nurse just handed it to me and sent me to another room about a quarter mile away through what turned out to be a huge empty dark hospital where they wanted me to pee out the stone.
Of course there was no Fucking fluid in my body so it wasn’t going to work but I’ll never forget walking with the Chinese contractor down the dark halls no medical personnel around, holding my own IV bag over my head so dizzy from drugs it was hard to walk. At one point I spent 15 minutes sitting by myself in a deserted large hallway holding my own nearly finished IV bag all alone in China while the contractor tried to figure out where I was supposed to go. They don’t have drinking fountains in China. After a while, he returned and took me to attempt to pee in a bathroom unsuccessfully several times apparently at the encouragement of the hospital doc who was nowhere around to disagree with.
The pain came back and I went downstairs again. They gave me another happy shot and put me in a room with 7 other patients in the otherwise empty building who were to a person very old and very alone. Old 1940 dirty beds were the preferred means of furnishing. Several of the men had IV’s running into their arms and a 13 inch TV in the corner blaring state news to them – there were no electronics monitoring anyone here.
After a while a different doc came by and spoke a few words of English. I asked about getting the stone out of me. The doc said they had a machine for breaking stones – being my first experience I didn’t know the term for extracorporeal lithotripsy.
I said hell yes, enough pain. The second shot they had given me wasn’t as good as the first.
They took me down a very long dark hall to another dark room. When they turned on the lights I saw a bed with a U shaped channel in it and a robotic machine crudely cut from plates of aluminum with a latex diaphram tied crudely with a piece of wire on the top of a 6 inch cylinder. It was the business end of a homemade acoustic lithotripsy machine- China style. Honestly, it looked like it was made in a farmers machine shop in the US.
It didn’t matter, enthusiastically I hopped on ready to go. I didn’t have a clue the violence the machine contained within and didn’t care. The pain was just too much. There was a girl there who was a doctor and younger than me was messing with the ultrasound and obviously had little confidence in what she was doing. She said my stone was very small and the ultrasound of the machine couldn’t see it. Looking back now, I was very fortunate that the machine couldn’t resolve my “little” stone because she didn’t try to use it.
Two hours later, I was leaving the hospital. I asked for a pain perscription just in case it got bad again and was taken to a window where someone took a blood sample from my finger tip. – I don’t know why!
They then sold me some pills and gave me my bill for the night– $56.00. They took the money before putting the pills in my hand, not bad for communists eh?
The stone had settled down and the pain went away almost completely. I slept well in my $120/night 5 star hotel, did my business the next day and requested to go to a pharmacy to get some serious meds before I got on the next plane. I wasn’t going to do the trapped in a plane thing again! Can you believe there were no meds on the plane!
The story isn’t over yet though but I’m tired. Part 2, I spent with a different vendor who’s well connected politically, very wealthy and his wife is a famous neurosurgen in China.