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Infirm in Seoul (Update 1) by Matt on March 31, 2009

Well my Tuesday meeting with the doctor was a little anticlimactic.  More poking and prodding.  A failed attempt to drain more blood from the knee capsule (apparently the remaining blood is clotted).  Another costly cast.  A bungled attempt to x-ray it again.  An MRI scheduled for Thursday, to determine the extent of tissue damage, and a consultation next Tuesday.  So I guess I’ll have to wait for answers.  DSC02805

In the meantime, I got crutches to hobble around and my new cast lets me wear a shoe.  While I am mobile, I’m unbelievably slow, especially climbing and descending stairs.  My room is 4 floors from the street; the kitchen is 2 floors from my room.  I’m also skeptical that my crutches will fully support my weight for a long time – I am a little heavier than the average Korean.

The English support was definitely better but not enough that I felt completely comfortable.  It’s starting to approach that threshold between amusement and alarm.  I know these posts are long, so here’s a dialogue version of how today went down…

Me: Hi hospital, I’m sure glad you’re located at the top of a huge hill, now could you tell me where to go?

Hospital: *point* *point* *point* *point*

Me: Awesome…but I thought you were supposed to speak at least some English…

Doctor appears: Hello, I speak medical English.  Your knee has much effusion on medial side, we need to aspirate.  Remove splint.

Me: Does that mean my knee is swollen and you’re going to stick that needle into me again?

Doctor: Um…sure…*sticks needle into my knee, digs around, removes * Oops, looks like the blood is clotted and we can’t aspirate.

Me: That sounds kinda serious…will it go away naturally?

Doctor: What?

Me: Will the blood go away?  Be drained?  Get flushed out?  Is it dangerous?

Doctor: What?

Me: Will it heal naturally?

Doctor: Um…sure…here talk to my English-speaking nurse who will schedule an MRI to determine tissue rupture and medial structure.

Nurse: Nice to meet you.

Matt: Nice to meet you too.  So we’ll schedule an MRI to see how damaged my knee is?

Nurse: What?

Matt: Um…ok…I’ll follow you…

Nurse: MRI on Thursday, 9:30am – now let’s get another X-ray

X-ray people: Ok now bend your leg in this position

Matt: Um…I have a hard cast on and I can’t bend my leg

X-ray people and Nurse: * talk a lot in Korean *

X-ray people: Ok, all done, you can go *smile*

Matt: Um…ok…wait was that X-ray important?  Should I just take the cast off so we can get it done?

Nurse: Doctor said MRI more important and we skip X-ray since you already splint.

* opposite of confidence *

Matt: Ok, I’ll see you Thursday…wait, wasn’t the doctor supposed to give me some medication for swelling…er, “effusion?”

Nurse: Hmmm, they never told me.  Let me see and email you

No email has arrived

Despite the many miscommunications, I understood a fair amount of what they were trying to say, and I think I’ll be able to have someone that can serve as a translator on Tuesday morning.  The English-speaking support that was promised was better than on Sunday but not quite what I hoped for.  However, if I want to transfer to an international clinic, I need to get all of my medical records myself (which I suppose is theoretically possible, especially if I become fluent in Korean in the next couple days), and even then, they’ll probably repeat all the x-rays and MRI’s (which I’ll pay for again).  So for better or worse, I think I’m stuck with Korean University Hospital for now.

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There are 9 comments for this post.

  1. Fr. Carl Schlichte on March 31, 2009 8:22 am

    Better than a friend of my parents who got hit by a car in Italy. When it became clear that she didn’t speak Italian, they just yelled to her, very slowly, in Italian. Seriously, hope you’re feeling better soon.

  2. jenna on March 31, 2009 1:30 pm

    Hope you’re feeling better, but spare us the suspense–how’d you dislocate your knee in the first place?!

  3. Matt on April 1, 2009 12:44 am

    That, my friend, is an excellent point. The worst emotion I’ve encountered so far is apathy, not anger, so I will count my blessings. Those blessings include not getting hit by a car. I sincerely hope her story ended well!

  4. LynJ on April 1, 2009 9:14 am

    Matt–so sorry to hear about the knee! Sounds scary. Why do you need to speak Korean to get all your medical records? Can’t they make copies and give them to you? And also of the MRI, etc.? Might be worth a trip or a call (if that can be done…er…in English!) to the international clinic. My guess is that they’re familiar with this sort of situtation and may be able to help! Take care.

  5. Jeannie on April 1, 2009 11:28 am

    Wow Matt, you are certainly having some adventures in Korea! Not what you were planning I’m sure. I hope your knee starts feeling better soon. Love following you guys.

  6. Matt on April 5, 2009 7:46 am

    Hey Jenna, thanks for the note!
    Unfortunately, the story will have to wait. It’s not for suspense – even at this point, I’ve already pushed that limit anyway. Let’s just say that there are reasons I don’t want a slightly embellished story of my kneecap dislocation floating around…yet =)
    But they will eventually!

  7. Matt on April 5, 2009 7:52 am

    Hey Jeannie and Lyn – what a pleasure to hear from you! I actually did call the international clinic, and they hesitantly advised me to stick with Korea University…it was a strange conversation, and my sense was that they were fully booked with patients and didn’t want another one. I trust Korean University hospital’s service…at least in outpatient services.
    But luckily, it ended up as a moot point, and physical therapy is, well, physical enough that the language barrier shouldn’t be a problem.
    Thanks for the well-wishes =)

  8. Rob on August 16, 2009 6:56 am

    I hope you do come back.

  9. ash on May 14, 2010 4:20 pm

    I know this sucks, but this just hits so close to home after living in Korea for two years. Put a Konglish accent on everything and they will be much more likely to understand or try to understand you. Good luck!

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