Sunday, March 7, 2010

Becky Catches a Cold

February 10, 2008

I have a cold.

Not just any cold. A nasty, persistent cold. A chameleon of a cold.

The symptoms began two weeks ago on Friday—that is February 1st. I had started to feel tired at work. My throat began to hurt. By the time night fell, I was shivering and moaning with a fever. Fire streaked down my throat. I decided to spend all Saturday at rest, hoping it would go away. It didn’t.

On Sunday, I decided to put my health insurance to the test. I had Rachelle drive me. It turned out to be quite an adventure. The first two hospitals we found were closed for the weekend. We went in search of the third one, Ikeda Hospital, following signs in kanji, or Chinese lettering.

After finding a hospital that was open, I filled out my forms and waited. Now, you’ve all been to an HMO before, right; you know the procedure: you fill out a form, you wait for thirty minutes, the doctor calls you in, you wait for another thirty minutes, the doctor diagnoses you, you wait for another thirty minutes, you get your prescription and pay, then you wait for an hour to get the medicine.

So, I filled out the form and gave it to the receptionist. Five minutes later, the doctor called me in. He looked at my throat and said they’d put something on it in the next room. I walked into the next room and they put something on my throat, a red substance that made my throat feel a little numb and tingly. Then he wrote a prescription. We went to the pharmacist and, in about 20 minutes, got the medicine. The whole process took less than an hour. Co-pay was about the same as in America: 1000 yen ($10) for visit, 1000 yen ($10) for medicine.

I thought to myself, wow, this is great. If only the American system could be this fast.

But then the days went by, and I noticed that the medicine wasn’t astoundingly effective. I’ve had my share of sore throats and ear infections and usually after I take medicine from the doctor for a day, it goes away. In fact, I usually stop taking the medicine before it runs out, because I no longer feel pain. Not so this time.

I faithfully took my medicine, three times a day, for three days. By the beginning of the 4th day, my throat no longer hurt. Unfortunately, my cold had morphed into other symptoms. In the course of the week my ears have hurt, my throat has been dry, I’ve been congested, I’ve had a piercing headache, I’ve lost my voice, and I’ve had a cough. And guess what? It’s been over a week and my cold still hasn’t completely gone away.

I began to think, rather belatedly, you know, the doctor could have checked my ears or taken my temperature, too. All he did was check my throat. But I did complain that I had a cold, as well as a throat ache. So why didn’t he check for other symptoms and prescribe something stronger?

Dealing with a cold while in a foreign country is not fun. There’s no medicine that I recognize: no Tylenol, Advil, Sudafed (it’s illegal), Nyquil, or anything else. The medicine is Japanese. There’s not even chicken noodle soup. So I’ve been getting recommendations from Japanese people. They recommend daikon (radish) soaked in honey, sleeping with the medical masks on, and certain types of medicine. I’ve chosen some of their suggestions. I’ve also stocked up on throat drops and orange juice.

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