Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sick in Korea

Being sick is never fun. This is especially true when you get sick in a country with a language different from your own. It's also rather rough in a country that doesn't appreciate the healing powers of Campbell's soup. Last Tuesday was graduation at Daesung Elementary and the last day of school for me (well, deskwarming not included). I attended the very odd graduation ceremony where the kids were clad in jeans and hoodies (instead of the compulsory Sunday best I'm accustomed to) and the ceremony feature a strangely risque dance performed by the graduating class. (The dance also included a couple boys decked out in pigtails and rouge.) Following the "much to do about nothing" (as my Mom says) graduation, the 6th grade teachers and I headed out for a celebratory end-of-the-year lunch at The Outback Steakhouse (their choice, not mine).

Earlier that morning, I felt those initial pangs of sickness and messaged my friend Shannon that I must fight this! So I thought I was doing fine until we went to Outback and faced an hour wait. So what was the solution? Play ping pong! I am a terrible ping pong player (I forgot that ping pong balls were invented for a sport other than beer pong) but decided to play with the teachers anyhow. As I started to get the hang of the game, I felt much better and thought I'd finally bested this sickness. So we sat down for a meal of spicy beef quesadillas, baby back ribs, and kimchi fried rice (I don't know why Outback serves this), I made sure I did not participate in the usual sharing-everything-including-soup habit so common in Korea to ensure no one else got what I was coming down with. As I munched on the delicious free bread and piece or two of quesadilla it hit me like a ton of bricks - I was officially sick. After lunch, I bowed out of the rest of the evening with the teachers and caught a cab home. I drank a bunch of orange juice, in hopes the vitamin C surge would stave off the sickness getting worse.

I put myself straight to bed and, after a restless night of hold and cold flashes, awoke in severe pain with the most swollen tonsils I've seen. I forced myself to wake up some, throw on clothes, and mope down the road to a taxi to Dongsan Hospital. Dongsan Hospital has an international clinic with an excellent English-speaking staff. (Phone numbers for the clinic are available through the previous link.) They help you around the hospital, showing patients how to pay and navigate the hospital. So I saw an ENT Weds/Thurs/Fri and was prescribed a bunch of pills and 3 IVs - one for hydration (this one took 5 hours!!!) and 2 for antibiotics.

Many days of rest and pills made me feel a lot better. The efficiency of the Dongsan clinic was impressive - it is, after all, a well known university hospital. I've visited other small clinics (where the English was rather sparse) and was sent off with more pills than I knew what to do with. These treatments never made me feel any better. However, though the consultation fees are more expensive at Dongsan, if you have a real problem I suggest visiting the clinic. Don't keep settling for mediocre treatments if you are sick, make sure you treat yourself well and get the care you need. The Suk doctors can cure you! Plus, if you're employed through EPIK you can enjoy the benefits of your medical insurance (you know, that deduction they take out of your paycheck every month?).

And, although a week too late, I did find Campbell's chicken noodle soup at Homeplus! Stay well everyone!


  1. this brings up a painful experience for me.

    I went to the clinic at E-Mart to check out my bronchitus, he said he heard nothing wrong (though I assure you it was bad). A week later I went to a real doctor's clinic, and it turned out I had bronchitus, tonsilitus, and pneumonia. Being home sick in a different country is scary. There's no way we know if the medicine will work, and if things get worse, there's no one around to notice.

    But you braved it like a little soldier! (pat on the back)

  2. I love your blog! I hope everything is going well for you! I have many friends from Korea and its cool hearing your experiences. How long will you be there? Good luck with everything and stay safe!
    Love, Cousin Banks