Sunday, October 18, 2009

Inside the 999

The 999 Hospital is rather far away, just off the 5th Ring Road near the Badaling Expressway. It’s easy enough to see from the highway, but hard to get to. It has a huge red sign on top: 999. Can’t miss it. Unfortunately, you can’t see it until you’re past your exit. Only a wee bit frustrating when you’re rushing.

We get there at last – now over three hours since that first call - and I explain to a nurse at the desk why we’re there. I show her the police paper, and she leads us through the ambulance bay to the emergency room, where a doctor points us to the first gurney.

There’s Xiao Tong, lying on the gurney with her head wrapped in a wad of bloody gauze, looking just like a cartoon character. When she sees us, she tries to sit up, but she can’t. She’s shaking a little, from fear or shock, I guess. Her hair is matted with blood, her clothes are blood-soaked and filthy. They’ve stitched up her head and given her an IV of saline, but she needs medicine, and a CT scan to rule out bleeding in her brain, neither of which they will do until I pay. Cash up front, you see: no such thing in this country as private insurance.

We leave Xiao Tong there on her gurney and go up to the second floor, to a tiny room full of people trying to pay bills. We fork over about $100 and take our receipt downstairs. They look over the receipt, then hand me the bag of saline solution. My mom takes my purse, I take the back end of the gurney, a guy in a white coat takes the front end and we pull Xiao Tong back through the ambulance bay to the CT machine.

At this point I realize people are staring, open-mouthed, at our strange little parade. My mom and I are the only two laowai in the whole place, and we’re pushing a bloody Chinese lady on a gurney through the ER. It was quite a sight. I’m not sure any other foreigners were anywhere near that hospital – if they were, I never saw them.

After the CT, we wheeled her back to the ER to await the results. A few flies buzzed around her blood-soaked gauze as we tried our best to keep them away. For awhile, all the other gurneys were filled with patients, but the room was amazingly quiet considering the level of activity.

Thirty minutes later, they sent me back down the hall to get the results. I hand carried them to the doctor, who looked at them, then gestured for me and my mom to follow her, away from Xiao Tong. “Blah blahblah blah,” she seemed to say, gesturing at the film. “Blah blah nothing here blah.” “Are you telling me it’s okay?” I asked and she nodded her head, answering, “yes, but blah blah.” Or maybe she said “perhaps, and blah blah.” I couldn’t tell for certain. I took a deep breath and said, slowly, in Chinese “inside of her head it is good, yes?” “Blah blah good,” answered the doctor. Or was it “blah blah not good”?? Another doctor appeared and mustered up a few English words: yes, he said, it was good. But: she needs to stay in the hospital for at least four days, and we have a choice. She can stay in the expensive room, where a doctor and nurse will monitor her condition, or she can stay in an inexpensive room, where no one will check on her. The expensive room, it turns out, costs about $24 per day. So we went with that. They sent us back upstairs to the cashier with a pile of receipts, to cover the room and the medications.

Back at the window, the cashier smiled and typed some things into her computer. “8000 RMB” she told us cheerfully. More than $1000. I asked again, thinking I’d heard wrong. But no. 8000 RMB. I don’t have that kind of money, I explained. They told me it was 150 RMB per night. No, she said, it’s 150 USD. But even that wouldn’t add up to 8000 RMB. I was confused. I tried to explain about the 150 RMB, and she threw around USD. We back and forthed for awhile, til she picked up a phone. After chatting for a minute, she came back and told us it would be just 600 RMB.

We paid, and went back to Xiao Tong. We’d been gone about 30 minutes, and the poor woman was in a panic. It seems that after they led us away to give us her CT results, they neglected to come back and tell her that all was okay. So she laid there worrying that we hadn’t returned because something terrible was happening.

She finally got into a hospital room late that afternoon, and we left her there waiting for friends to arrive to stay with her. The next day, the police caught the man who’d hit her – it seems he fled the scene, leaving his truck behind, so he probably wasn’t terribly hard to find. Apparently, they brought him straight to her hospital room to negotiate a settlement. First he insisted he didn’t have any money, but finally it was determined that he had some 7000 RMB in life savings, so he was forced to fork it over to cover her medical expenses. He gave it to her that day; her friends found a safe place to keep it until she could get out of the hospital and put it in the bank. And the case was closed.

It seems my ayi got lucky. No broken bones, but a heckuva headache. They pumped her full of IV antibiotics for four days, and then sent her home on Friday. She hasn’t returned to work, and I have no idea when she’ll feel up to it. Meanwhile, I have a guest in the house and four kids at home, all of whom need to be entertained on some level. And I’m becoming reacquainted with my vacuum cleaner.

My friend Jen sent her ayi, An Ayi, over to watch the girls one day, so we did finally make it to the Silk Market (thanks Jen!). And we’ll see what we can accomplish this week without an ayi. For starters, we’re going to make a quick run to Sunny Gold Market to buy scarves and things tomorrow.

And now we’ve reached the end of my sad tale. If you’ve gotten this far in the story, you’ll probably know the moral.

Wear a helmet.


A said... [Reply]

Yah for An ayi! I bet there was some mei shi going on.

Ambrose said... [Reply]

What a story! Good to hear that your ayi is okay.

Connie said... [Reply]

So glad to hear that she is only banged up and not broken! Good they caught the one who hit her too.

globalgal said... [Reply]

I'm glad that everything turned out well in the end! I have a similar tale of being the only laowai in the hospital - a friend injured his back and required a CT scan. A Chinese friend and I accompanied him to the hospital. I paid his bill (also up front) and then found out that in order to get him to CT scan I needed to rent a gurney and push it myself - across two parking lots! I also had to hand deliver the results to the ER doctor. The worst was trying to get the gurney into the elevator. It was really crowded and no one would let us in. I finally had to muster all of my courage and just ram the thing in! I'm an RN, so I'm used to gurneys, hospitals and blood, but my poor Chinese friend was not enjoying her new "job" as orderly.

Kelsey said... [Reply]

Wow. Crazy story!

I definitely never want to end up in a Chinese hospital!

Please. Write your own stuff.