Two months into our nine month travels, and seven days after arriving in China, it was time to take our first trip to the hospital! I really thought it would be me first; being so clumsy, I could see myself twisting an ankle or needing stitches after walking into something… but NOPE! It was Gary. Unfortunately it was nothing exciting like a broken bone, but purely a case of feeling a bit dodgy. Towards the end of our time in Mongolia, Gary was feeling rather rough, with multiple cases of ‘Delhi belly’, nausea and a persistent cough.
We’d tried to allow him lots of time to rest after being on our road trip through the Gobi, but nothing seemed to be working and after a terrible night in Xi’an with a fever and bad stomach, we decided it was probably about time he did something about it. As we hadn’t visited a doctor yet on our trip, we just assumed it would be a big hassle, with lots of waiting around and a big bill at the end of it.
However, the night before at a dumpling party, one of the others had mentioned they’d been to the doctors that day and he was telling us how easy and cheap it was. He had advised getting there early to avoid any possible queues so we left for the hospital just before 8am. Luckily, we were staying a short walk from one of Xi’an’s hospitals so it didn’t take long to get there.
We had messaged our friends from Beijing the night before asking for some advise about doctors in China and they were so worried that they actually arranged for their friend (who lives in Xi’an) to meet us at the hospital! Although the doctors spoke a little English, we definitely would not have had such an easy time if it wasn’t for her – thank you CC!
After registering, we were sent to a waiting room where we sat for a short ten minutes before a doctor was free to see us. He spoke a little English and asked Gary a few questions, using our new friend CC as a translator where needed. He decided Gary should have a blood test, chest X-ray and provide a urine sample. On hearing this, we were prepared to be there for most of the day, knowing that in the UK it takes WEEKS to organise a blood test/ X-ray.
We were sent to get a blood test first – this part was a little weird for us! Unlike in the UK where you would see a nurse privately in a separate room, Gary had to queue up with about 20 other people for his test. In a big open room, with two nurses behind a glass screen, one by one people were approaching the desk, popping their arm underneath a gap in the glass. They were using separate needles each time but didn’t have gloves on (hmmm), and were processing people at a very impressive speed! A quick wipe of antiseptic and the needle was in and out in a matter of seconds. We were given some paperwork and off we went to the X-ray department.
After handing over the doctor’s note, the X-ray guy ushered Gary into a room and positioned him for the X-ray. We watched from the room next door which was separated with a glass wall. A quick flash later and the results were in – although we had no idea what it meant!
After that, we just had to pick up a urine sample tube and head to the toilets. Although everything ran very smoothly within the hospital, one thing we were not impressed with was the toilets! They were GROSS. Being in Asia, they were squat toilets (which is normally fine) and they were covered with everything you can imagine…. People were also smoking in the toilets, despite the non smoking signs and there was NO SOAP anywhere. Eurgh. The hospital had also run out of the normal urine sample tubes so Gary was having to pee in a TINY blood test tube, about 0.5cm wide, so came out very unimpressed when he’d peed all over his hands and then found there was no soap!!! Ha.
Once that was all done, we went to the waiting room and were told to wait for half an hour before going back to the doctor. When we got back in the doctor’s room, it took 5 minutes for him to tell us that Gary had gastritis (aggravated stomach lining) and acute bronchitis (which explained the cough). He was prescribed liquid sachets to soothe his stomach and antibiotics for the bronchitis. The doctor also advised Gary not to eat any meat over the next few weeks whilst his stomach healed. [This was actually the beginning of his vegetarianism – he stopped eating meat when told this and hasn’t eaten meat since!!].
We were able to pick up the drugs immediately, in the pharmacy section of the hospital. The whole process was surprisingly straight forward and everything was processed so quickly! We were seen within 10 minutes, sent off for a blood test, urine test and x-ray, and given results, diagnosis and medication within an hour and half – incredible! The whole thing cost less than £10!!
Although we found the whole process very quick and easy, I would definitely recommend taking a Chinese speaker with you if possible. Most hostels are very helpful and will offer to at least be on the end of a phone to work as a translator.