Friday, April 9, 2010

Skip Down the Chocolate River

The air here does not agree with me, and it has made me a liar. Yes, the air here (three parts nitrogen, two parts oxygen, and one part cigarette smoke) has made a perjurer of me. I wrote that I was officially not sick, and now that is false. After a week of feeling a tightness in my chest, I went to the doc, and I have some sort of upper respiratory infection. There's a rumor that the pharmaceutical companies pay doctors to overprescribe, but regardless of whether or not that's true, I have a heap of pills to take with every meal. I have my doubts to their efficacy because this stubborn nugget of ow-ness on the left side of my chest has stayed intact, and it's been tough getting through ultimate practices, but yesterday a strange thing happened. We had practice, a break, and then a league game. I hurt through practice, but at league I felt significantly better. Where could the change have come from? I've sourced it back to the ramen I ate during the break. But of course! The medicinal qualities of msg!

Healthcare here is super cheap. Through the co-payment system (there's a max co-payment ceiling of 3mil won over a 6mos period), my x-ray and the doctor's fee was less than $30, and my mountain of pills was less than $5. I pay about $50 a month for my national health insurance (a percentage of my wage that is matched by my employer). Since 1988, Korea has had universal health insurance coverage made possible by contributions from the insured and government subsidy.

(oops... now almost a week after I started this draft...)

My attempts at online self-diagnosis with symptoms like 'chest pain' and 'difficulty breathing deeply' kept leading to serious warnings to seek medical attention and to me freaking out, so, even as someone generally reluctant to go to doctors, I made an appointment at an international clinic. For some reason when I made the appointment they failed to tell me that it was on the English-speaking doctor's weekly day off, so when I showed up, I was shown to a Geriatrics doctor with limited English skills, which was rather beside the point of my visit to the international clinic (as opposed to my neighborhood doc), the mad dash from school, and the $11 cab ride. Nevertheless, a game of charades and an x-ray later, I had my prescription. If I were writing some kind of parallel Neverland/Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory story, I would fashion the doctor as a human pez dispenser in a lab coat. The ailing girl would point to parts of her body and make faces, and then the pez dispenser would tilt his skull back and from his dislocated jaws he would produce a a pastel-blue brick of medicine. The girl would take the brick with both hands and put it in her little backpack, secure in the idea of forthcoming health, and skip down the chocolate river.
I don't know why this occurred to me, but there you are.

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