Friday, December 30, 2011

Random Thoughts: Encounter With the Japanese Medical System (Part 3)

(continued from parts 1 and 2)

The third day (second day after surgery) was one that I knew would be the hardest. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. And paced the lounge for about a half hour. Considering how small it was, I'm surprised I didn't wear a groove into the floor. At least I was going to get solid food this time, though the doctor said breakfast at that hospital was “only bread”. Only bread sounded like ambrosia to me at that time. I also started taking copious notes in my little blue notebook so I could remember everything in detail and took pictures of various areas. It may seem silly, but I did want to remember it all, not merely as an experience in Japan, but a life experience in general.

The scene of my crime, the communal shower. Note the clip board hanging on the door where I foolishly recorded my crime for all to see. 

My sleep deprivation was accumulating and I knew I was going to feel quite a bit better by Thursday, though not particularly good. In fact, it was very boring and I had a hard time being patient remaining there past this point. I decided that I'd kill some time by taking a shower in the communal shower room. Since the nurse who showed me around when I checked in went out of her way to point it out and tell me to write my name on a sheet so they'd know what time I took one, I figured that I could just take one when I wanted. So, I did, though I was very careful not to get my bandages wet.

Several hours after coming back to the room, a nurse noticed my moistened hair and said, “oh, you washed”, and I said, “I took a shower” (in English). Her English wasn't great, so her response was, “No shower!” I said, “I already took a shower”. To this she made an “X” with her fingers and more emphatically said, “No shower!” I said, “Okay, no shower.” Triumphant, she departed in satisfaction. Though the hospital is well-known for its English-speaking staff, particularly the doctors, not every nurse was very good with it (though they tried and I always respond in whatever language I'm addressed in). Mind you, the burden was on me to deal with them in their language, but some things, like the fact that I'd taken a shower when I wasn't supposed to, weren't worth trying to explain because it would have only made matters worse. In this case, my life was made easier by not clarifying in Japanese, and it's not like I could undo the illegal shower anyway. 

When the doctor came by to change the dressing on my incision and remove the hated drainage bottle, I tried hard to hold my chin up as high as humanly possible, but they still managed to attach it too high on my neck. I had to tear it off at the top and re-position it if I didn't want to develop a cervical spinal problem. I also asked the doctor if I could just go home then, and he said the hospital didn't allow people to leave in the afternoon. Harrumph. I would have paid for the next day if they would just have allowed me to escape right then and there, but no dice. They got to spend another night finding out how often I went to the toilet and taking my blood pressure and temperature again and again. I got to spend another night not sleeping, and this one was even worse than before.

A little Christmas decoration hung above the room number. The colored circles indicated which areas were occupied. Note that visitors sometimes roamed the halls trying to find patients because there was no way of knowing who was where from outside. I don't know if this is usual everywhere or was just the way it was at this hospital. 

Two people were added and left our ward in less than a day, much to my surprise. I envied them both their quick escape. I figured they must have received simpler procedures, but I had no way of knowing. During my husband's visit on this day, I suggested we hang out in the lounge. This was because it wasn't about 85 degrees there like it was in my room, and it would leave my suffering ward-mate in peace. Also, I no longer needed to lie in bed all of the time so the courtesy to both my husband, who hates super hot places, and the poor woman on the other side of the room, wasn't costing me any pain or added fatigue. I left a note on my pillow telling them where I was and we talked, got stared at by other visitors in the lounge waiting with cell phones from the hospital in hand, and played Monopoly on his iPad until the doctor showed up and asked me to head back to the room to deal with my bandages.

You may think I'm exaggerating about the heat, but it was extremely warm. The beds came equipped only with heavy comforters and no light sheets so I had to sleep uncovered most of the time. This caused some consternation for the nurses, who would try to cover me up when they saw the squished up bundle of pinkness at the bottom of my bed and I'd have to say, “chotto atsui” (a little hot) to get them to leave me alone. Of course, I should have said “totemo atsui” (very hot), but I feared they'd try and offer me ice again for a fever.

Later Thursday evening, a nurse with almost zero ability to communicate with me and something strange and complex to tell me came in. The only thing I could figure out without difficulty was that she wanted to know if I wanted breakfast Friday morning because I was supposed to leave. I figured that, though I was supposed to bust out at 10:00, I didn't trust that it'd all work as planned. I didn't want to sit around with low blood sugar to couple with my frustrated escape attempt if that was the case so I said 'yes' to breakfast. The other half of the communication was more puzzling.

This nurse was also talking to me about tomorrow being a holiday and the bill, but it didn't make sense to me. My husband and I had already gone down to the reception area during his visit to iron out how much we were likely to have to pay because you can't leave the hospital in Japan until you actually pony up the dough. I'm not sure what they'd do if you couldn't pay, but visions of holding someone hostage with an inserted catheter to torture them into encouraging their relatives to pay the ransom so they can escape came to mind. We also asked if they'd take a credit card so we wouldn't have to worry about the cash. They told us that, because it was a holiday (the winter solstice, Dec. 23), we couldn't use a credit card, but it'd likely cost 120,000 yen (about $1,543 U.S.) that we should pay in cash.   (We went back a few days later and settled up - it was 103,000 yen ($1,324 U.S.), which is pretty reasonable.)

Since we'd already ironed out the whole pay thing, what the nurse was trying to say made no sense. It was at this point that my ward-mate's English skills were fully revealed as she volunteered to be a bridge between my crappy Japanese and the nurse's crappy English. The nurse was saying we couldn't pay at all on Friday because of the holiday and would have to sign a promissory note saying we'd pay next Monday when the office was open. Since we'd already discussed this and been told something else, I found this eleventh hour rush to confuse me on a matter we'd already covered very irritating. If we couldn't pay, why didn't the front desk tell us when we asked about paying? In the end, it turned out to be one of those “different rules for gaijin (foreigners)” situations. Japanese could sign a note, but foreigners had to pay a deposit which was a ballpark figure of the cost for which they'd receive a receipt and then come back and settle up properly on Monday.

Through this exchange facilitated by my ward-mate, I learned also that she was told about this situation because she, too, was leaving on Friday. Given her continued poor condition, she stood there with an I.V. still attached to her and holding her lower abdomen as she translated, I was shocked to hear she was being released. I was whizzing about the hospital and pacing the halls trying to fill my time. It was happening with great sleep deprivation and soreness in my throat and pain in my neck, but I was definitely okay to finish recuperating at home whereas she appeared to need the full Borg treatment so she wouldn't have to get up out of bed. She told me that there were two kinds of doctors and one type was “rough” (her word choice) and gave patients the boot as rapidly as possible and then there were ones like mine who were cautious and kept you there, perhaps longer than necessary. I felt incredibly bad for her and wished our doctors inclinations had been swapped for both of our sake, though not our actual doctors. I liked my doctor and thought he took good care of me. 

Upon hearing this, I thought about some of the things I've read by other foreigners who have been in hospitals in Japan and my gall bladder removal experience and how it never jived with what they said. Many foreigners say that Japanese hospitals keep you in for a long time to ensure that you are very well before you go, and because of that I wondered how I convinced them to admit me, operate, and release me in the span of about 8 hours when I was in the hospital 20 years ago. I don't remember fighting too hard, though I may have made a strong request. It turns out that you can't generalize from one experience. Some doctors will kick you out and some will hold you. It's not a universal experience or rule in this country that you'll stay in for a long time.

I have heard, however, that it is a contrast to American care in which people are booted out as rapidly as possible all of the time because insurance companies don't want to pay for any but the shortest stay. Even my doctor mentioned the fact that care in the U.S. is handled as one overall package price covered by the insurance company so that the hospital has an incentive to get you out to reduce their costs and keep as much profit as possible. In Japan, it's really in the doctor's hands because you're going to pay by the day anyway so the hospital doesn't care either way.

That final night, a new person was admitted after 11:00 p.m. so there was noise and there were lights to keep us up again. What was more, the new person didn't seem to care about how her actions bothered other patients and she crinkled plastic bags, loudly crunched on snacks, and opened and closed dresser drawers for about a half hour after arriving. Though that doesn't sound too late in the evening for normal folks, we were awakened between 6:00-7:00 a.m. Around midnight, a nurse with a flashlight strode over to my area, opened my curtain and looked in and said, “You're not asleep”. If I had been, she would have woke me up again. I've heard this is something that the sisterhood of nurses worldwide shares as they all like to sneak around with a flashlight and awaken any patients who may have accidentally fallen asleep. I'm sure it's something they learn in nursing school regardless of their country of origin.

The view from my room on my last sleep-deprived morning in the hospital.

The next morning, the nurses woke us at 6:40 a.m., though a malfunctioning monitor had roused me at 6:00. I'm not sure I have ever been quite as exhausted as I was after my 4 days in the hospital and I was dying to get out of there and go home where I could actually rest. I had my final meal, a slice of bread, strawberry jam, a small cube of cheese, vegetarian minestrone soup (very tasty), fresh pineapple, and whole milk, and then counted the minutes until I could call my husband to wake him and have him come and bust me out of there.

I packed my bag and got checked a last time. Apparently my blood pressure and temperature, which was often a degree or two high for their tastes was a cause for concern most days, didn't qualify me for delayed release. I kept getting asked (ridiculously) if I wanted ice for this marginal condition. Incidentally, foreign bodies are usually a degree higher than Japanese ones. That's why we're always too hot and they're acting like a snake in the Arctic when we're both in the same room. I may have been on the warm side, but it was because I'm not Japanese and I was pacing like a caged animal every 15 minutes. When the clock struck 10:00, I figured that, when the doctor said I could leave “after 10:00” that that meant I could actually leave after 10:00. It would seem it's not so simple to escape a hospital.

Neither my husband nor I recall having so much trouble getting out of the hospital 20 years ago after my gall bladder surgery, but this time it seemed that many people had to be satisfied before we could leave. A pharmacist came up and gave me “pain medication”, which my husband felt I should have and I believed didn't matter since I only had one pain killer directly after surgery. However, he just wanted to be careful on my behalf so I said I'd take it. I was given two blister packs with 10 tablets each and said, “They're samples, so you have to take two and they're just like Tylenol (yes, she actually said “Tylenol” even though I don't think it's sold in Japan).” Thank goodness they had a pharmacist deliver them because you wouldn't want some nurse or lackey dealing with such powerful drugs.

As part of the departure sequence, I had already filled out a survey in which I praised my doctor, the nurses, and the food (it was pretty good after the liquid stuff was out of the way), but mentioned that it was noisy and hard to sleep, but I knew it might not be something they could help. I had also signed a couple or documents that the doctor had also signed which I thought were releases. I bid my ward-mate goodbye and thanked her for her help and my husband and I happily bid the room adieu. However, when my husband and I went to actually leave, a nurse stopped us in the hallway.

The nurse wouldn't or couldn't explain what the deal was, but she got very upset that my husband was carrying my bag and insisted, more frantically as we resisted, that both the bag and I return to my room and remain there while he go off and do something else. She really didn't want him to take the bag, as if it was as much a ward of the hospital as me (though it was spared the catheterization, lucky bag). He went down and paid the deposit and got a receipt with a note saying we'd settle up for real next Monday. He returned to the room and we thought it might be over, but we were told to keep waiting. I put another note about heading to the lounge on my bed and we headed where it was comfortably cooler. A nurse intercepted us and brought two more pieces of paper. One was the appointment to have the staples removed from my now Frankenstein's monster neck next Tuesday and the other was another “bye-bye” document of some ilk. After that, with unconcealed relief, we fled the premises.

I have been told since that this sort of inability to go based on red tape is hardly confined to Japan. Who knew hospitals worldwide were the inspiration for the song “Hotel California.” In America, I've been told it is also difficult to get out due to their need to conduct things “just so”. I can understand the need to dot all the “i's” and cross all of the “t's”, but it'd be nice if people had all of their ducks in a row for people who are being released and if they explained the situation more clearly.

Rather than tell me to just go sit in my room with my bag and my husband could go take care of things elsewhere, they could have said, “There are more documents to sign”, but they just got weird and said, “Go sit down like a good girl”. This is very Japanese. They expect people to passively wait to be told when, where, how, how long, and in what manner to do things and to not complain about it, especially when the authority is a doctor or hospital. The idea that I would push to leave because I wanted to leave rather than lie in my bed until they were good and ready to deal with me in their own sweet time simply doesn't occur to them. After all, that's what my ward-mate was doing. She was just lying there, unpacked and lying back in bed watching television when I bid her farewell and told her I hoped she'd recover soon. Clearly, she was in the know about the way things were going to work and figured there was no use trying to break out before the warden issued a proper release.

I've been here in Japan for a long time and adapted to a lot of things, but I will never be okay with lying in a hospital bed far past the time to leave when I should have left a day earlier while people lollygag about deciding they're ready to get their finger out and bring me a few papers. Of course, I guess this would be par for my course as a “bad patient”. I ate solid food when I wasn't supposed to. I showered when I wasn't supposed to. And, in the end, I left before I was supposed to. While I'm all for reasonable cultural adjustment, I'm okay with being a bad girl sometimes if it means I get to put as much distance as possible between me and peeing through a tube again.

Final (very important) notes:

Though I exaggerate for comic effect at times, and express some genuine feeling regarding how little sleep I got and the discomfort at being hooked to machines, it would be irresponsible of me not to conclude by making it clear that I feel that I was very well-cared for. The truth is that receiving any medical care is never pleasant, especially when you're undergoing something as serious and invasive as surgery. It will never be a walk in the park or enjoyable. The best one can hope for is that it is as comfortable as possible given the circumstances and that one is treated well in the process.

Regarding this particular  hospital, the nurses were polite, kind, friendly, and well-meaning. My surgeon/doctor was excellent and I feel fortunate to have had him handle my case. Doctors often receive gifts from former patients, and now I know why they send them for years after successful treatment. I sort of want to do that, too, but I know from talking to doctors and their wives that they get so much of that crap already that they don't want anymore. Still, my gratitude is such that the impulse to send gifts is there just as a way to say, "thank you."

I have no doubt whatsoever that the quality of medical care I received at this hospital was as good or better than that which I would have received back home. I would go there for treatment again in a heartbeat and I feel nothing but respect and warmth for the people who helped me. If you are a foreigner and live in an area close to Ogikubo in Tokyo, I would not hesitate to recommend treatment at the Adventist Hospital. They really are great (as are the dentists at the dental clinic). I've also been told that they are one of the few hospitals in Tokyo at which women can opt to use drugs to kill pain during childbirth (I cannot confirm this as I've never had a baby nor do I plan to, but if you're planning on having a baby, it's worth thinking about). 

About comments:

I'm going to allow comments after this last part, but please read the message at the beginning of part 1 before you comment. Keep in mind the reasons that I generally don't allow comments if you don't want to waste your time writing something and find that the comment is rejected.


  1. That was exceedingly interesting. Thanks for writing. It makes me wish I'd taken notes when I ended up in the hospital in the UK earlier this year. Although in most ways it was the same as in the US, the little differences fascinated me (as they did in your story). Of course, the biggest difference was that it was completely free.

  2. Hi, Dennis, and thanks for reading and commenting. I didn't know that medical care was completely free in the U.K. In Japan, you pay 30%, and the Japanese government is struggling to allow even that small an amount as they aging population is increasing the number of people receiving service and the low birthrate is shrinking the taxpayer base. My guess is that they may have no choice but to increase the taxpayer copay in the future. I think this is unfortunate, but "doable" since medical care is generally cheap in Japan (at least for now).

    It is the little differences that make living abroad fascinating, and one of the reasons I have this blog. It's all about the little things!

    Best wishes, and happy new year to you. :-)

  3. I should clarify that a hospital stay in the UK isn't always free... even though I spent the better part of two days in the hospital, I was never formally admitted... had I been, I would've been responsible for some of the cost.

    Although I doubt it would have cost $22,600, which was the amount my insurance was charged for the two-night hospital stay after I returned to the US.

    Keep writing! I enjoy reading it every day.

  4. My experiences with Japanese hospitals (in Kobe) have been strictly as an out patient, for employment-required full medicals and various minor ailments. For one emergency room visit, I too had to over-pay upon leaving and return the following Monday to determine the correct amount. I had assumed this was just because it was a weekend.

    With regard to communicating with medical staff, I attended local hospitals rather than the major private hospital frequented by most foreigners in Kobe and found little difficulty. (they were surprised to see me, however) Most of the doctors I dealt with were able to use simple words in Japanese or English to communicate with me. Often the admissions desk found a young staff member with decent English to accompany me to the right department. I also took along an electronic dictionary and bilingual list of medical terms which helped when we got stuck. All this was fine when you're not actually all that sick, but I'd have gone to the English-speaking hospital for serious procedures. Unfortunately my nearest - Kobe Kaisei Byoin - requires you to register before a visit.

    Hope you don't mind but I'd just like to highlight Living In Kobe, a book that I've recently helped update, which has some info about hospitals and clinics in the Kobe-Osaka area. Specifics are localised for Kobe but quite a bit is applicable around Japan.

  5. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your experiences. I really appreciate it as well as the link you mentioned. I don't mind including it at all!

    Your post reminded me that perhaps I should have noted in this piece that the hospital was not a private, gaijin-friendly place but a regular Japanese hospital. I figured that the fact that they take Japanese health insurance would make it clear that it wasn't one of those specialized hospitals (the gaijin-friendly places do not take Japanese medical insurance, but only private insurance). I should update and include this just to make it clear.

    This hospital is a regular Japanese one that just happens to have a lot of English speaking doctors because it is a Christian hospital which funds the training of doctors abroad via the Seventh Day Adventists. That makes it an even rarer commodity for foreigners who aren't living in the gajin ghettos or as expats funded by companies (like myself).

    Happy new year and my best wishes to you!

  6. I had an intestinal bisection in January 2002 here in the US. It was hell. Like you, I did not sleep because my room mate snored, which sounded like a bull dozer; the nurses could hear her when our room's door was closed. Since I was 18, I was not allowed to move to a room with someone closer to my age either. The hospital happened to be rather full at the time, so there was no open rooms. I was sleep deprived for 8 nights.

  7. Thank you for this, which I found fascinating. I am impressed that you are able to write so well and so vividly so soon after the experience.

    And a Happy New Year to you and your husband!

  8. I spent 3 years living in Japan, only one of which was "on the economy". As the wife of a military officer, my experiences have often differed greatly from yours. Yet, I still wanted to say that I read your blog daily, love your observations (right on the mark), and will greatly miss it when you've completed. Thank you for taking the time to post, for bearing the criticisms of your honesty, and I hope the rest of your recovery (and time in Japan) goes smoothly. All the best.

  9. This was a fascinating and very human tale, and I'm only sad that you had to suffer for your art. I compared my last hospital surgery to yours and found some differences and some similarities. I enjoyed the leg compression machinery, although it keeps one tethered to the bed, along with all of the other contraptions. The cost difference is astounding! To be fair, one reason besides cost that US hospitals want you out of there quickly is the high rate of secondary infections that patients pick up during their stays. A lot of the surfaces are teeming with nasty germs, places like your bed rails, drawer handles, furniture, handrails...Plus I think they know you can't really rest there, which is #1 in recovery.

    Wishing you good health and happy blogging in 2012.

  10. As a recent cancer survivor and a hospital "regular" over the past year, so much of your account rings true for me as well. As a UK citizen, I am endlessly grateful for the NHS. I dread to think how much 3 months (in total) of hospital inpatient treatment with the Japan system would have cost in my case! I often had trouble with malfunctioning monitors and reached a point of knowing how to "drive" the darn things (i.e. shut them up!). That's a key example of how I was never a model patient...The leg massage you get post op was actually a big plus. Mine was actually built into the bed and made for a strange but quite relaxing experience! I also always have trouble "breaking out" of the hospital at the end of my stays (usually I plan to leave first thing in the morning and then it turns out we have to see x doctor, y doctor, wait for drugs to come out the pharmacy, blood counts to come goes on). I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your amazing blog! I've been reading both this and Snack Reviews for years now and I will miss them when they come to an end. Thank you!

  11. KimbaChan: I have such empathy for you - 8 nights of it sounds pretty unbearable and an intestinal bisection was almost certainly more painful than my surgery (anything in the gut is very, very bad, I've heard).

    Wally: Thanks, Wally! I wrote it quickly so I wouldn't forget anything!

    Jessica: Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words! I really appreciate it. I know that people who live here with (or in) the military face very different challenges (and prejudices), and it's no picnic no matter where you live because there are adjustments for everyone.

    Geoviki: I probably would have preferred U.S. style (getting out fast), but the truth is that my turnaround with gall bladder surgery (in and out on the same day, and in Japan) taught me a lesson. I think that staying in for at least one night probably would have been better for me. I felt that I recovered much more slowly for having left so quickly, and endured more pain for a longer period of time. I was aware of the germ situation and that hospitals, hard as they try to be clean, are much more dangerous for infections because of the traffic in and out (and the number of sick people). It was something I was pretty aware of during my stay, especially since I shared a toilet with quite a few people. It is a valid point about the increased chance of infection in the hospital, and one worth keeping in mind.

    cohenster: Thank you for reading both of my blogs and your kind words! I'm sorry that you have had more and harder experiences in hospitals than me though! You've lived through most people's greatest fear (cancer). Currently, one of my friends is a thyroid cancer survivor (she was very keen to "compare notes" with me, but it was a bit hard for me to regard it so lightly) and another is dying (she has days to live as of this posting) of another form of cancer (genetically brought on, a rare form of some sort of intestinal cancer). It's a very hard disease to live with, and even harder to die with.

    A lot of Americans criticize the British NHS because they see some extreme cases of care rationing (delayed heart surgery for smokers, for example) and use it as an excuse not to have socialized medicine, but I'm with you on this. I think it is very, very important that sick people be able to be treated regardless of ability to pay. I wish we had a similar system.

    Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting!

  12. Thanks for your experience Orchid64! This is an interesting experience and comparing it to care in US hospitals. Luckily, I've never had surgery except for wisdom teeth removal. The only time I've been in hospital was for a broken arm and then it was mostly a drug-induced hallucination (I was 12 at the time, and my parents were claiming I was so hilarious they wanted to record it).

    Anyway, thanks for sharing again and I do hope that you feel better!

  13. glad your ok. your blog has brought me alot of information and education!

  14. Dear Orchid64, I just wanted to say I was completely engrossed in this special entry and thank you for allowing comments.

    While I have a lot of emergency room and clinic experiences here, I have never actually been admitted nor have had any type of surgery, so unfortunately I can't offer any comparison banter. (I could offer a few opinions and stories based on mental health care and the lack there of, but I don't want to take up too much space here).

    One thing that struck a chord with me is your mentioning of the high temperature in your room. This is one thing that really bothers me here. I don't understand why hospitals and clinics (and trains and restaurants!) are sauna-level hot. I can only assume it is for the elderly and all the other people who complain of "hie-sho" (chronic chilliness).

    I digress as usual. Thank you for sharing your experience and I am glad you were treated well at the Adventist hospital.

    I look forward to future entries.
    Take care and Happy New Year!

  15. I enjoy reading your observations about Japan and have learned a lot of interesting little facts from them that make living in Japan that much more interesting!
    15 years ago I had thyroid surgery to remove a goiter and was violently sick for 2 days from the general anesthesia. That reaction is not uncommon and may be another explanation for the post-op liquid diet.

  16. Your tale sounded so much like what my husband has gone through in US hospitals. He's been admitted on 3 different occasions. So I guess nurses and hospitals are the same all over! Especially interesting how the nurses act the exact same way.

  17. Hi! My name is Emelie and I'm from Sweden (so you know if my english is bad..)
    This is the first time i visit your blog and I read all three posts and thought it was very interesting! I'm going to study in Tokyo in mars and I've been wondering about what it would be like if I was in some kind of accident or in the need of medical care.
    In sweden health care is free up until you're 18 and after that a lot is covered by the tax we pay. Last spring my boyfriend had to do an Cecum(?) operation and he payed like 15dollar (100 swedish kr) for the examination and 15dollar for the stay one night at the hospital. He could've stayed one more night if he wanted, but he went to be home with the family.
    From what I've read now above and in the comments you get the same medical care in Japan, Us and Sweden but the difference is how much time we get? And how we pay?
    Do you think that it will be even harder for me to communicate at hospitals since my first language is swedish? Not english or japanese?
    I will continue reading your blog :)

    // Emelie from sweden

  18. I enjoyed reading this because I've also had surgery and a hospital stay in Japan and it's interesting to compare. In my case, I'd been in an accident and had to have surgery on my badly broken hand, so the whole thing was a lot more rushed. But, aside from the fact that I had to wait till the next day because it was a Sunday afternoon, it wasn't that bad.

    I was admitted to a normal Japanese hospital in an area with a small foreign population, so they weren't really sure how to deal with me, but tried really hard. It was local anesthetic only and I was still slightly hysterical, but the nurses went out of their way to distract me and keep me calm through the two and a half hour ordeal. And my doctor was a woman who spoke a little English, which was nice. They were all amazingly patient and kind.

    The worst of it, actually, was the second surgery, which arguably should have been easier. In round one, they put two plates in, and in round two they took them out. But for round two they really, really didn't want to keep me in the hospital after, so they anesthetized my hand from the wrist, but not completely, and wouldn't give me any drugs. So the surgery itself was uncomfortable and then, when they took the band off my bicep to let the blood flow back into my forearm, it was pins and needles times a million.

    But it was easily affordable, the follow-up care was borderline obsessive, my doctor was fantastic, and my hand came out okay. Honestly, I'm pretty critical of the Japanese medical system, after some questionable encounters. However, looking back on that whole mess, I don't have much to complain about. It could have been a lot worse. Credit where credit is due, you know?

  19. I'm really impressed by your even-headedness and observations. I always am, but this series in particular made me go "Wow!", in particular in conjunction with your writing abilities. Thank you for sharing your rather personal journey into a foreign medical system with us.

    As a light sleeper who becomes ill without enough Z's, the idea of staying overnight in a hospital, be it American or elsewhere, is mildly terrifying!

  20. (No blogger account, commented with AIM account. My name comes up in the preview as a series of numbers and letters. Nice.)

    I was surprised by the open comments on this one, but since I have no deep thoughts on the Japanese medical system, I would like to take a moment to thank you for this blog. I've only been a reader for a few months now, but I've read all of your archives, and let me say I love your blog. I'm friends with many people who have unwavering love for the Japanese but are only so inclined in their love of them to do so for surface or trivial reasons (ex: "Anime is great! Japan is awesome! Pocky! Yay!"). This being so, I find your short, informative posts from an unbiased point of view very refreshing. I look forward to your regular postings, but this lengthier series was also very interesting, especially to an American who has never been admitted to a hospital at all. I also find it pretty humorous that you have much better and much more eloquent English than nearly every other native English speaker I know.

    Thank you very much for your blog. I hope your neck wound heals soon.


  21. Thank you for sharing your story. Quite inspiring reading it was. Currently I'm having some troubles with my thyroid and maybe will have to took surgery treatment as well. Now it'll be much easier to make further decisions. Alas, we hardly can hope for having medical service of the similar level here :)

    Your blogs are one of my favorites. Take care!

    Greets from Russia ^_<


Comments are moderated and will not show up immediately. If you want to make sure that your comment survives moderation, be respectful. Pretend you're giving feedback to your boss and would like a raise when you're speaking. Comments that reflect anger or a bad attitude on the part of the poster will not be posted. I strongly recommend reading the posts "What This Blog Is and Is Not" and "Why There Were No Comments" (in the sidebar under "FYI") before commenting.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.