How my visit to a Chi­nese hos­pi­tal be­came a Tin­der date

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Cindy Lee The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

Not be­ing the health­i­est kid, I’ve been to the hos­pi­tal count­less times through­out my life. How­ever, my fre­quent doc­tor vis­its sud­denly stopped after I ar­rived in China. This wasn’t be­cause I be­came health­ier but sim­ply be­cause I didn’t know how. Not only do I not speak much Chi­nese, but Shang­hai’s gi­gan­tic pub­lic hos­pi­tals, which are usu­ally swarm­ing with thou­sands of pa­tients wait­ing for hours on end, seemed too daunt­ing.

How­ever, this win­ter was dif­fer­ent. Symp­toms of what I thought were an or­di­nary cold wors­ened as the weeks went by. I be­gan to feel ap­pre­hen­sive that this could turn into some­thing se­ri­ous. Sure, it would have been more con­ve­nient (al­beit ridicu­lously ex­pen­sive) to just pop into a for­eign-man­aged pri­vate clinic. How­ever, as a stu­dent, I had to opt for the cheap­est al­ter­na­tive, which meant go­ing pub­lic.

My de­ter­mi­na­tion wa­vered with the ques­tion ‘how can I com­mu­ni­cate with the doc­tor?’ My lim­ited lan­guage abil­ity thus forced me to find some­one to go with. A col­league hap­pily agreed to ac­com­pany me, but the catch was that I’d have to wait an­other five days un­til her day off.

Then, the most un­ex­pected of of­fers – some ran­dom Chi­nese guy I met on dat­ing app Tin­der dur­ing a pre­vi­ous search – wound up be­ing my knight in shin­ing ar­mor.

There be­gan our first date, en route to the hos­pi­tal, in com­plete awk­ward si­lence. Thanks to an English-Chi­nese dic­tio­nary app, we pre­vi­ously were able to com­mu­ni­cate freely on WeChat. But in re­al­ity my poor Pu­tonghua and his lim­ited English pre­vented us from car­ry­ing on any type of con­ver­sa­tion.

We ar­rived at a hos­pi­tal in Pudong on a Tues­day morn­ing, which I naively ex­pected to be less busy than, say, a week­end. But nope, the wait­ing room was pure chaos. Un­like my home coun­try Canada, where you see a physi­cian first then they di­rect you to a spe­cial­ist, here in China it’s up to the pa­tient to self­di­ag­nose them­selves to the re­cep­tion­ist and specif­i­cally ask for the type of spe­cial­ist you want to see. But first, we had to go to the cashier to pay for the doc­tor I had not even seen yet. What?

When I got to the cashier, a mid­dle-aged woman an­grily yelled at me to “make a card first.” Grab­bing my sleeve, Tin­der guy es­corted me to the reg­is­tra­tion desk where I filled out forms about my­self. Then we re­peated the whole process of lin­ing up to pay. Again, grabbed by my sleeve, I was dragged to a spe­cial­ist just to have to wait in line again.

When I fi­nally saw an ac­tual doc­tor, she just shook her head and “tsked” at me for com­ing to the wrong depart­ment. She inat­ten­tively pre­scribed some med­i­ca­tion, prob­a­bly just to get me out of her lit­tle room. I, again, had to go back to the cashier to pay for this med­i­ca­tion, and then had to go to the other side of the build­ing to pick it up from an af­fil­i­ated phar­macy.

For each spe­cial­ist I was in­cor­rectly sent to through­out the morn­ing (there were sev­eral), I had to phys­i­cally jos­tle my way into the doc­tor’s of­fice past a dozen other pa­tients at­tempt­ing to queue-jump my num­ber. Even while be­ing ex­am­ined, I was shocked that any­one could just walk in and watch. Pri­vacy clearly doesn’t ex­ist here.

Ex­hausted, I couldn’t wait un­til the day was over. But when I looked at my watch, it was only 11:30 am. Just my luck, this is when all the doc­tors and all the nurses and all the phar­ma­cists and all the re­cep­tion­ists go to lunch fol­lowed by a nap. De­servedly; they work tire­lessly and have to deal with thou­sands of sickly peo­ple ev­ery day. But for me and poor Tin­der guy, this meant sit­ting around the hos­pi­tal un­til 1 pm.

That doc­tor seemed rather frus­trated by the lan­guage bar­rier de­spite Tin­der guy trans­lat­ing for us; she in­dif­fer­ently dashed off some pre­scrip­tions. After four hours at the hos­pi­tal, that 5-minute con­sul­ta­tion was thank­fully the last. Not sur­pris­ingly, I felt like my hos­pi­tal visit made me even sicker, what with all the cough­ing, sneez­ing, wheez­ing, hack­ing, puk­ing pa­tients all around me.

I still don’t know what kind of pills I took or what caused my sick­ness in the first place, but thanks to Tin­der guy I got my meds and re­cov­ered soon after. Alas, that would be our last date – I don’t think it’s very fun for lo­cals to have to baby-sit sick for­eign­ers, es­pe­cially ones they can’t even com­mu­ni­cate well with – but dang if it wasn’t a mem­o­rable one.

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