Monday, November 03, 2014

Sick Day

photo by crazedshop via photobucket

One of the most hopeless feelings is being in a foreign country when sick or ailing—of which I've become somewhat of an expert at, both while in China and traveling in neighboring countries. Among one of my worst such experiences was when I was traveling alone in Vietnam several years ago. I had just touched down in Ho Chi Min City when my left arm stopped working. I still don't know what had happened. One day I was fine and the next I could not lift it in any direction (which made changing and putting my hair up near impossible). Luckily, I was blessed with two very helpful roommates at the hostel I was staying at, who, to this day, I can still recall in great detail. Sylvia, German, aided me in styling my hair and getting dressed. A young American guy, Armen, practiced reiki on me in a last ditch effort to ease my pain. It worked. Or maybe my desperation to believe it could work worked. After three days of torture, I finally got use of my left arm back.

As hard as it is when aches and illness render me incapacitated, it's even worse when it happens to your kid. Luckily, William has been a healthy baby so far. Ping, of course, has gone through her fair share of issues. Today, another stomachache has struck. My mind swings from one extreme to the other: Is she faking it to get out of school? Maybe she has an appendicitis? What should I do? I still don't know the protocol. Ming or his mom always save the day, but this morning Ming is at work. I talk to Ming's mom about it on the phone.

“Just see what happens,” she says.

“See what happens. . . ?”

“Just give her blah blah blah chew tablet,” she assures me.

“What was that?” I ask, looking at our box full of medicines and realizing I don't recognize nearly half the Chinese characters on almost all the boxes.

“Just give her blah blah blah chew tablet,” she repeats.

“You're going to have to tell her. I don't know what any of this stuff is,” I admit reluctantly.

I hand Ping the phone and she grabs some antacids out of the box. I feel like Ping's described level of stomach pain requires something with a little more kick, but I have no idea what to suggest. Nor do I know how to call her in sick from school. Or what kind of food Chinese people think appropriate for giving a child with a tummy ache. In other words, I feel completely useless.

No matter. Grandma will soon be swooping in, arriving at our home like Superwoman. But what if no one was around to save us?

What about you, have you ever been sick while away from home or while living in a foreign country? How did you deal with it?


Anonymous said...

If grandma was not around you could just take her to the hospital. Chinese people go to the hospital for a simple cold!

That thing about your arm sounds weird. It didn't happen ever again? I had something similar when I was working in Shanghai, I was stading the whole time and one day my big toe started being very painful. I had problems to walk. I went to the expensive international hospital my company told me and an Australian doctor looked at my toe (without even touching it), and said it could be anything, from gout to some mortal illnes, or maybe it wasn't anything at all. So he gave me painkillers and billed me 800 RMB. I should have studied medicine...

rosieinbj said...


I loathe going to the hospital in China! I don't understand why people go there for simple things like colds and headaches because it's such an aggravating situation that it is bound to make a person feeling bad feel even worse!

I never had the arm thing happen again and that was over six years ago. It was scary and I wasn't sure what a doctor could even do about it so I didn't go. Luckily the reiki "worked."

megkm said...

I have had my share after 7 years here, but I agree that in China - getting sick is a team event. That team can be family or coworkers or even your ayi, but if have never successfully managed anything complicated on my own!

rosieinbj said...

You really HAVE TO have someone with you, especially for a hospital stay. I couldn't imagine trying to go through anything worse than the flu without the help of someone! In the US, it'd be a different story, I think.