Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How a cold can cost $100

Just go to the emergency room on a national holiday for a sore throat. In my defense, it's a really bad sore throat. I haven't been able to talk for two days or sleep, because the pain kept me up. Really. I know I sound like an unbelievable wuss, but there you have it. I got up today (a holiday, mind you) at 5:00AM in case I could get more comfortable on the couch. As it turns out, my throat accompanied me to the couch, so at 8:00 I went in search of a doctor. A mere 90 minutes later, I was peeing into a paper cup (I'm in Korea- national health care- how else could an emergency room visit with tests and an IV and a truckload of drugs cost $100?). I love Korea. It always makes me smile. Even when I'm sick. Today I got a couple of smiles.
1. The obligatory "but you're going to get screwed". Koreans love to tell you when someone else is going to rip you off. Every time I lock myself out of my apartment, I get that from the guard before he calls a locksmith for me. Like I'll just sleep in the corridor rather than get screwed. I'm old enough to know what happens when someone's got you over a barrel, it's the same in every country.
Today, I got it trying to see the doctor. Mind you, I had no voice. The nurse observes that I cannot speak and tells me it will be expensive to see a doctor. I am at a hospital! I know it will be expensive, yet have already made peace with it.
2. The paper cup for my urine sample, which I took to the public bathroom and carried back with no lid and gave to the nurse who wasn't wearing gloves.
3. The (very young) nurse that screamed (!!!) when she overshot the vein putting in an IV. I must say the look on her face helped me overcome the discomfort of having a needle shoved in too far.
4. Of course,the $100 bill. Coming from the US, such a bill from an emergency room is like an impossible dream. I think that's what they charge per square of toilet paper back home. Certainly it would not have covered the pee cup.

So that's about all on the home front at the moment. I've been fighting this summer flu for a week or so, while still teaching 37 hours a day with 12 more hours of prep/ correcting at home. Next week is the last week with that schedule, so I may not have to throw myself of a tall building. We shall see...

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