Friday, August 07, 2009

Doctor visit

I am hanging in there with my bad back. Thank you for asking BrendaLou. I don't like to dwell on aches and pains but I thought a post on Japanese clinics might be of interest so bear with me today.

I rarely have to go to the doctors. Over the years I've always been in good health so my visits are few and far between. But yesterday I decided to go to the doctor. First thing to decide is which doctor to go to... We have orthopedists and chiropractors. There are acupuncturists and Chinese pressure point doctors as well as bone setters. I don't really understand the differences so just figuring out where to go is such a pain that I'd rather just wait things out.

Bone setters often deal with dislocations and sport injuries. I've taken Takumi and Leiya to bone setters before with fair results. I've never been to a chiropractor in Japan. I've never been to an acupuncturist either but I have some American friends who swear by them! Unfortunately they recommend someone in a different prefecture so that was out and I wasn't adventuresome enough to try some place with a billboard on the street yesterday. Instead I went to a local orthopedist.

Doctors in Japan usually have their own small clinic/hospitals. They can be quite well equipped and well staffed but not particularly private. When I arrived at 8:15 in the morning there were already about 15 people waiting on benches in the waiting room. (And I'd chosen this doctor because Tetsu said he'd heard there was less waiting there then other clinics!) Most hospitals don't have an appointment system. You just come and sign in and wait your turn. Sometimes you can wait for most of the morning! Yesterday most of the people in the waiting room were older people.

"Where were you yesterday?" "My goodness, you are late this morning aren't you?" "I really don't want to get put on the machine today. That is painful!"

It sounded like going to this doctor was a regular event for these people and a couple of ladies were giving each other neck massages right there in the waiting room. I think most of them went directly to the physical therapy room because they didn't seem interested in seeing the doctor at all.

This hospital is private and fairly new, so it seemed fresh and clean and very pleasant. (Some of the older hospitals are dark and drab and slightly grimy...) There was the usual entrance hall where patients take their shoes off and change into hospital slippers; the usual benches facing a large TV attached to a wall. I read a book until I was called into the corridor in front of the examining room. One room (one doctor) with a short curtain dividing the doctor from the waiting patients (about 6 of us lined up on another bench). As each of us got called in, the rest of us could listen to the doctor's questions and watch the slippers under the curtain as the patient stood or climbed on the examining table etc.

My turn came and I put my handbag and book in a laundry basket and then sat in front of the doctor on a stool as he asked me questions and recorded my answers in his computer. I don't think he looked at me once! Nor I him... It was more interesting to see what he found important to type into his computer. I was asked to stand and bend over and lean back and then he did a little maneuvering of my legs on the examining table and finally I was sent back out to the corridor to wait a turn in the x-ray room.

I guess x-rays are x-rays in any country, and pretty soon I was back in the corridor. Finally another two minute chat with the doctor (I made it a point to look at him and ask a couple questions of my own!) who said my x-rays were fine so he was sending me home with pain killers and plasters.

"Please come back in ten days if you don't feel better."

So what do I think of Japanese hospitals? I miss the friendliness of the nurses and the doctor. In Japan everyone is very businesslike and professional. Conversely, the doctor isn't as absolute and doesn't instill quite as much confidence as the American doctors I've seen. The conversation goes,

"Well, I can't be sure but I don't think..." "Why don't you just wait..." "It might be..."

The hospitals are modern and (recently) try to be decorated pleasantly but not particularly comfortable. The doctor seems hurried (well, he has to be when there are now thirty people in his waiting room, he is the only doctor and it is still only 9:00 in the morning!) but not uncaring. I guess I feel sorry for the poor doctor when I have minimal complaints and there are probably others that need him more so I try to get out as quickly as possible.

For 5 minutes of the doctor's time, two x-rays, and two weeks of pain killers and plasters I paid the equivalent to $24. Social insurance pays the other 60%. I'd say that's a bargain! That is the good thing about health care in Japan. Everyone can afford it!

So I'm home and fine as all things go.

Tetsu is doing all the housework. The cats don't like the smell of the plasters. (Do we even HAVE these in the States? They are staples in Japanese doctors arsenals.) Choco is going without her long afternoon walks again. I am feeling guilty for not doing anything and just eating and watching TV. (I'm also trying to put on binding in a horizontal position. Not too successful!)

Back to my TV. Sorry if I don't go blog visiting again for a while. My back doesn't like my computer chair!

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