Hospitalized in Japan

Hiya, friends,

While I assure you that Mind Toot #2 is written and on it’s way, I want to address the most current happenings (A) while they are fresh in my mind and (B) because uploading the pictures to Mind Toot #2 is going to take forever and a half and this is easier at the moment because I have all of two pictures to share with you.

As you can tell by the title of this post, yes, I had me a little hospital stay in Japan. After months of phantom pains/illnesses, something very much real happened to my poor gaijin body!

So…what happened, you ask?

Oooohhhhh I shall tell you what happened.

On the late evening of one Tuesday, March 21st 2017, around 11 pm or so, I began to have some of the most excruciating stomach pains of my life. At the time, I thought I knew the cause–in attempt to be able to allow myself to experience Japanese cuisine to the fullest, I ate a small piece of meat. Le gasp! Naturally, seeing that I never eat meat, I assumed that this started wreaking havoc on my digestive system.

Then I threw up. A lot. I mean a lot a lot. Like nine or ten times. With each time providing little to no relief. After a while I tried to force myself to keep throwing up, because sick logic dictated that if keep throwing up, eventually I will feel better.

That was not the case. Eventually I threw up all that there was to throw up and ended up just dry heaving.

Then I tried everything else. I tried camping out in a sad huddle on my tiny bathroom floor in case I needed to puke my guts out again. I tried a heat pack. I tried an ice pack. I tried contorting myself into every position imaginable trying to find just an ounce of relief. I found one very bizarre position that ever so slightly alleviated the pain and managed to doze off. When I woke up, I thought a couple of hours had passed. When I glanced at the clock, however, I was rudely informed that only 20 minutes had passed.

20 MINUTES??? THAT’S ALL??? NO FREAKING WAY!!!!!!! Were the only thoughts ringing throughout my head.

It was about one or two in the morning at this point, and I desperately tried to contort myself into some more weird positions. I tried drinking ginger tea. With permission from my neighbor I broke into his apartment to steal some of his Tums. Threw all that up, too. At approximately 3 a.m. Japan time, I texted my wonderful mommy (Hi, Mom!) for Dr. Mom’s medical consultation, and due to my severe pain, she suggested I go to the hospital. So I gathered my crap and left.

I live between two hospitals. I usually go to the one down the hill because I already have an info card with them and it’s easier. But in my agony I wasn’t sure if I could make it down the very steep hill, so I instead went in the other direction down the less steep hill. Upon arrival, I couldn’t figure out how to get in because the doors were locked, lights off, and I couldn’t find an emergency entrance. So I ended up backtracking and walking another fifteen minutes or so to the other hospital. In hindsight, I really should’ve called an ambulance in case I passed out or something but….eh. It worked out.

Upon arriving that hospital #2, I also couldn’t figure out how to get in. I found an ambulance entrance that had no other signs. Couldn’t see a doorbell. Sat down on the curb and cried for a few minutes while I texted my mom again. Then I called the hospital. Had to call twice because the first time the guy didn’t really understand what I wanted. The second time, I just plainly said in Japanese, “I am sorry, I am a foreigner. MY JAPANESE IS NOT GOOD. MY STOMACH REALLY, REALLY HURTS! I AM OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW. YES, RIGHT NOW. PLEASE OPEN THE DOOR.”

Thank God this actually worked, as a guy came, opened the door, let me in, gave me paperwork and then ended up filling it out for me because I was in too much pain to fill it out myself plus I couldn’t read most of it.

Thankfully nobody else was actually at the emergency room in that moment either and they were immediately able to do a CT scan on my stomach.

Not thankfully the nurses (two of them) literally took over an hour to find a vein that was good enough for an IV, and after many painful attempts and much yelling of “PLEASE STOP IT HURTS.” on my end, they FINALLY found one in my left hand. Then they had a very large needle attached to a very large syringe that I had to make them explain to me because they were about to jam it into my shoulder without telling me what it was. It was pain medicine. It didn’t help.

After about another hour or so of waiting and the nurses probably thinking I was crazy from all the rolling around I was doing on my bed, the doctor, Takeuchi-sensei, brought me to a consultation room, showed me the CT scan pictures, and (in English, thankfully) informed me that no, my stomachache was not from eating meat, but was from the presence of gallstones in my gallbladder!

Gallstones! Freaking gallstones!

I am only 24 years old! I am too young for this crap!

 

He also informed me that my spleen, for whatever reason, was slightly enlarged, and I proceeded to tell him that I had family history of this since my mom had had her gallbladder out when I was a kid.

He then told me that I needed to be hospitalized for a few days because I might need surgery but he wasn’t sure yet.

UGHghghhghUghhghghghgghghghghghghggh is really the only thing I was thinking at that point due to my annoyance at this diagnosis, lack of sleep, and pain.

It was approximately 7 a.m. at this point, and they took me upstairs to bring me to a room. First they brought me to a room with lots of SUPER old people (I mean looked like they were dead old), and maybe the obviously uncomfortable look on my face made them change my room, but they came back about five minutes later and moved me to a slightly smaller room with only two other occupants, who while also old, didn’t look catatonic like the other people did.

I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to call on my cell phone, so I ended up emailing two of the English teachers at my school, and thank God one of them found my email. I apparently managed to doze off for at least a little while, and at 8:20 a.m., one of the teachers and my vice principal came to see what was going on. They spoke with the doctor, explained everything to my poor confused self, and I gave them my key to get some stuff from my house for me. Thankfully my house has a combination lock on the mailbox so I can just leave the key there and anyone who needs to get in can just enter the code and grab the key, so I had them leave they key since my friend Ryoko (thank you Ryoko!!) also needed to break in there to feed my hamster for me.

They left, I went back to sleep, and a couple hours later, one of the other English teachers that I work with popped in to visit. It made me very happy that he cared enough to come visit.

All I really wanted to do on Wednesday was sleep, but unfortunately I kept getting interrupted. First they took me to do an MRI of my gallbladder. Then they took me to have the most insane looking IV put into my arm, called a PICC line apparently. I didn’t take a picture of my actual arm, but it looked something like this:

PICC line

Essentially, they injected my arm with local anesthetic, put this tube in my vein that I later found out went all the way from the entry point mid-arm all the way into my chest, and then sutured it into my skin.

Then my co-teacher and vice principal came back, then another friend…it was quite exhausting. I was hooked up to an IV and a steady stream of antibiotics for the majority of my stay. Thursday was not quite as eventful…No testing that I remember, but I had a lot of trouble staying awake that day. I affectionately (or not so affectionately) named my IV pole Naruto. Partly because it spins around in circles like a whirlpool, partly because Naruto has fighting spirit, which I needed at the time.

Friday was by far the least eventful day. I finally was able to stay awake for the whole day, so I just read more of my book. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that I literally did not eat for two days. They needed to fast me for something or another, so I did not eat from Tuesday night until Thursday night. When I did finally get fed, it was very soupy, simple food–rice porridge, miso, and the like. Sometimes some vegetable mash. It honestly resembled baby food. But maybe because of my stupid gallbladder, maybe because my stomach had shrunk, that was really all I had the appetite for anyway. Bland is good right now.

Good ‘ol Naruto was supposed to get removed on Saturday morning, but ended up coming out on Friday night instead. I thought that maybe it was leaking fluid into my arm because I noticed that my right hand was starting to look kind of bruised and swollen and felt kind of funny. When I told the nurse, they found a different doctor that was not my doctor and removed it. I made the mistake of looking before it was completely out when I thought they were done and it was not pretty. The next day though, Dr. Mom so kindly informed me that it was probably just restricted blood flow from the IV line…oops. Either way, I was glad to be rid of Naruto. It’s annoying being attached to a pole.

IMG_1398
The end damage to my right arm–lots of little suture marks
IMG_1403
My right hand is turning into a giant bruise. Looks like I punched something. My knuckles on my index and middle finger are turning the most interesting shade of reddish-purple.

So on Saturday, discharge day finally arrived. They did a second MRI on my head since I was complaining of headaches, but nothing sinister showed up (Even though it doesn’t answer the questions of why I’m getting them or how I can fix them 😦  ) . Then we waited for a very long time. Did not end up leaving until about three in the afternoon. The school people who waited with me were very patient.

Takeuchi-sensei told me that they’re just going to dissolve the stones with oral medication for now, but should it happen again, I’ll probably need surgery, so I have to see a surgeon in two days for a consultation. And when all was said and done, I was out about $650 of un-budgeted expenses. Yikes.

While the hospital stay was slightly traumatic (it’s beyond frustrating being trapped inside a hospital and having your blood pressure checked and skin poked every few hours when you can’t communicate well and have no clue what’s going on), I am glad to have a diagnosis and glad that for the moment, I am feeling much better. Minus the mystery headaches.

I finally came back to work today, and of course, since news spreads through the grapevine like wildfire, everyone who has seen me today has asked how I am now. One of the teachers who drove me home on Saturday, who is knowledgeable about anime, was kind enough to bring me a Naruto figurine to replace the “Naruto” that I left behind at the hospital.

Other than getting weird looks when I try to choke down my nasty Chinese herb medicine crap every four hours or so (tastes like a weird combo of mugicha and black coffee and berries), it has been okay so far. And hopefully it will continue to be okay, and hopefully I can still go to Tokyo to see Sara and Marco (!!!) in a few days as planned.

So….if anyone was ever wondering what it’s like to be trapped in a hospital in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language…ain’t gonna lie, kinda frightening. But I am alive, well enough, and that’s all that really matters.

Until next time, friends,

またね!

エリン (Erin)

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