I spent last night in the hospital. Here’s what happened:
I went to Mass, which was fairly normal except for the announcement regarding a change in location because of intense fog over Gulangyu. Crazy! Lester called me during Mass, so I called him back – he was in the hospital and asked me to spend the night with him. (So don’t worry about me, I’m fine. He’s the one who’s sick.)
After running back to my room, hanging laundry to dry, changing in pajamas, and packing an overnight bag, I grabbed McDonald’s for dinner and went to the hospital. As soon as I got to the hospital, I understood why he wanted/needed company. The hospital was deserted – I mean, I would have bet that there were ghosts or zombies hanging out, but not many humans. The few nurses there ignored me while I looked for Lester, allowing me to wander the halls in darkness. It looks like the abandoned psych ward from the movie Accepted – you know, the place where one character hopes to “finally realize my dream of getting hepatitis”. Probably going to have nightmares . . .
I finally found him on the third floor. His room is smaller than my dorm but otherwise resembles it very strongly: all concrete and tile with two beds (metal, not wood) with incredibly thin mattresses (if they can even be called that), two small tables, a wretched bathroom, and an outside balcony separated by poorly-sealed windows. He was in there with three Chinese friends, all from the dancing classes that Lester and I took last semester. Later, we were also joined by the older ladies from the social dancing group; I think Chinese take visiting the sick very seriously.
He has some sort of infection in his stomach which is causing him a lot of pain. He hasn’t eaten in days and when he did, he couldn’t keep it down. As far as I could see, he was the only patient on the floor, but surely if the nurse was watching only him she would have been more attentive? They have him on an IV drip; when it runs out it’s my job to tell the nurse. Medical care is cheap here, but I guess you get what you pay for!
The visiting rules seem generous, but contrary to my first impression they do not let absolutely anyone come in at any time. Instead, it seems more like they let absolutely anyone in, but they either have to leave by 11 or stay the night. The last two girls left around then, so it was just me and Lester. He slept while I did some flashcard reviews, looking up every now and then to check his IV bag.
I did Night Prayer before going to sleep around 2 in the morning. Night Prayer is always an interesting way to end the day; you pray the same words as always but each day they seem to have a different meaning. Tonight, there was special emphasis to the gospel canticle antiphon:
Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake,
Watch over us as we sleep;
That awake, we may keep watch with Christ,
And asleep, rest in His peace.
Luckily, he slept peacefully. I napped, waking up every hour or so to check the IV bag and call the nurse as needed. I was woken up for good at the ridiculous hour of 7 in the morning, when one of the friends from last night came over. The Chinese seriously have no concept of weekend; this guy had 6 periods of class yesterday (Saturday) and was at the hospital bright and early on Sunday morning. He was joined, before 8 a.m., by another Chinese visitor. Crazy.
He went in for a CT scan this morning, a field trip that required all four of us to participate. The result: acute pancreatitis. He’s going to be in the hospital for at least two weeks, they say. I’m hoping some other friends will be able to help out, but I’ll probably be around here a lot.
Incidentally, I know now the word for pancreatitis (胰腺炎), the verb for what IVs do (滴), and the ‘scan’ part of CT scan (扫). Vocabulary sticks in my mind much better when it’s strongly associated with an experience, so maybe now I’ll finally be able to remember nurse (护士) and itchy (痒).
I realized that this is my first time spending the night in a hospital (which the Chinese refer to as “living in the hospital”). I kind of wish I had more experience, because there are probably some interesting comparisons to be made. For instance: would I, a non-relative, have been allowed to stay the night at a hospital in America? I’m guessing not. (Although even in China they don’t seem too keen on the mixed-gender thing. The doctor keeps asking if he has any male friends and the guy who came this morning awkwardly asked if we had 一起睡觉, literally “slept together”, which I’m hoping has a different connotation in Chinese.)
There are a few things I’ve noticed even without experiencing something comparable back in America. In addition to their thermometers, their blood pressure cuffs also use mercury – a whole heckuva lot of it, too! Also, their nurses wear white tailored lab coats and have adorable little caps pinned into their hair. Why yes, Florence Nightingale, you may take my temperature!