15 September 2011

73 Hours in a Japanese Hospital: Part 1

Saturday, 10 September, I got up at 8:00a for work, as I usually do. My abdomen felt a little cramped, but I didn't think anything of it. I ate breakfast as usual, showered as usual, and went to teach my classes as usual. The irritation persisted throughout the day, and I thought maybe I slept funny. When I got home we went out to celebrate a friend's birthday and the irritation persisted throughout the night at about the same level. Neither of us thought much of it; we joked that maybe I had appendicitis.

At 4:30a Sunday morning (11 September), I woke up in a little bit of pain for the first time. It dawned on me that maybe I should feel around my abdomen to see if the pain was localized. And it was -- above my appendix. I got up to use the washroom and then laid back down in bed and felt around again. Yup, right above the appendix. I turned to Aimee and asked, "Are you awake?"

"Ugh," she groaned.

"I think I'm sick."

Some more poking by me and some groggy getting dressed by Aimee preceded our walk downstairs to the convenience store to find out where the closest hospital was. Just down the street, luckily. Rather, luckily if it was open.

We walked through the doors of the hospital and the place was dark. No lights. No noise. No people. We poked around and I called out once for someone behind the counter (the counter that had a bank of computers with their screens on. I knew I wasn't too far gone because I still raged about wasted energy.), but no one was around. On our way back out a patient came out of the elevator and he explained to us that the hospital wouldn't be open today because it was Sunday. This floored us. In Canada hospitals are open all day, every day (although apparently emergency care [24 hour hospitals] is a thing from 1950 onward). Furthermore, you have to call first in Japan; you can't just show up.

We went home and checked Google for hospitals in Nagoya that were open on Sunday and found a couple. We called one and they were closing in 15 minutes (so if I showed up with my guts in my hands...?). We called the second one and they were open, so we jumped in a cab before they could send me and my primed appendix elsewhere.

Once we finally got inside the hospital, things became normal. They smell as sterile as any North American hospital; they're bureaucratic; the tests are as routine; one of the doctors even spoke English. One important difference, though, was the wait time: nonexistent! We walked in the door, I handed them my card, and within 10 minutes I was being examined by two doctors and three nurses. I was in the examination room by around 6:30a and by 7:30 I had had bloodwork and a CT scan. By 7:35 we were waiting for a surgeon to consult with the other two doctors (and when a cute Japanese woman walked by I said to Aimee, "I bet that's my doctor," to which she rolled her eyes) and by 7:40 I was diagnosed with acute appendicitis.

The English speaking doctor asked if there was any Japanese person we could call to have them help translate, because some of the vocabulary is pretty technical, so I went through my phone and called everyone I knew. However, since we were all out late with most of them the night before, no one answered their phones. I finally got a hold of one of the three people who work in personnel at our company, but none of them were able to come before 9:00, which is when the doctors wanted to operate. "Do your best," I said to the English speaking doctor.

There's not a lot to know about appendectomies, surprisingly; they're pretty routine. He drew a map of my large intestine, appendix, and blockage, and explained what they would do. He told me the possible complications and the recovery times, and introduced me to my doctor: the cute Japanese woman who walked by earlier.

Mike: 1 Aimee: 0

73 Hours in a Japanese Hospital: Part 2
73 Hours in a Japanese Hospital: Part 3
73 Hours in a Japanese Hospital: Part 4 


  1. OMG. Thank god for cute little japanese surgeons.. Sorry Aimee :)

  2. Cute little Japanese surgeons are the best kind. :)