Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Should I Just Re-title My Blog "Craptastic?"

Joy, in her comment on my last post was sweet enough to ask me how my pox was doing. I figured ya'll haven't read me complain about anything in almost a day now, so it's high time I get posting!

I guess things are progressing as they should with my shingles. The rash turned into little blisters that popped at some point, and now the rash is crusting over and in some parts fading away. So that's good. The thing is, I'm not FEELING very good.

This past weekend was not too bad. I took things easy and tried to get lots of rest. I went out Saturday afternoon for a very nice lunch with a couple of friends and then had a short leisurely shop at Lotte department store. I was feeling alright and surely the reason for this was because I was liberal with the pain medication. I wasn't totally drugged out by any means, but I was taking a pill when I started to feel moderately uncomfortable instead of trying to stick to two pills a day at 12 hour intervals. I sort of fooled myself into thinking I was getting much better because I hadn't had to really feel the sharp stabby fire knife pain (I know I've said that before but really, it's the most apt way I can convey the feeling. I'll try to come up with another description tomorrow.) in the front of me, or the deep constant ache that's going on in the back of me.

Then I woke up late on Monday morning and neglected to take a pill OR bring any of them with me to work. By five o'clock I realized that I'd been tricked and I was still in a very significant amount of pain. I took a couple of Tylenol that did pretty much nothing for me and otherwise just grimaced and moaned my way through the rest of the day until I could get back home and take my medicine.

So I went to the hospital again today and the doctor greeted me not with "How are you feeling?" but, "Why are you here?"


I've been getting the sense that the doctor doesn't even want to give me a prescription for anything. I mentioned it already, but I left the hospital on my first visit to him in tears, with him "permitting" me to take some Tylenol and advising me to "not focus on the pain and endure." Last Friday when I visited him he wanted to reduce the oxycodone down to 10mg twice a day, which is what he had prescribed on my second visit the day after he doled out his sage advice on endurance. I was angry at that second visit, and told him I'd already spent a week in pain that was growing significantly and had tried to quell that with muscle relaxants and ibuprofen my regular doctor had prescribed. Now that I knew I wasn't having a heart attack and was dealing with shingles instead, let's unlock the narcotics cabinet already. After the third visit he finally doubled the dosage and that's been almost masking the pain. "So, no." I said last Friday. "Let's not decrease anything please."

Today, "Why are you here?" he repeated.

What the fuck?

"Don't you remember me? I gots the shingles?"

He examined me and noted the rash was getting a lot better. I told him my left boob is numb. "Yeah." He said.
"Here. All here is numb."
"I can't feel this," poking the side of my breast. "It's numb."
"Do you know 'numb'?"
(Fucking Rainman!)
"Doctor, arrayo 'numb'? N-U-M-B?"
"Mwoh?" (What?)
So I looked it up on my phone's dictionary. (Oh, yah! My cellphone has been saved! The jury is still out on the fate of my camera and MP3.) "Look here: numb. Is that normal?"
"I think you recovery slow. It's ok. Five days medicine."

I counted out the days looking at the calendar on the wall. "What about Chuseok? (The three day "holiday" starting on Friday.) "Are you open Monday?"
"Yes. Open." he replied, "But after this medicine you must endure."

Oh, great! We're back to that? I said "Don't be like that, doctor. If I'm in pain on Monday I'm coming back here."

I went back to work feeling frustrated, like I've been given a cut-off point for treatment. I'm worried about developing postherpetic neuralgia, a complication from shingles that could leave me in pain for months or even (I'll surely go insane) years. The doctor struggled greatly on my first and second visits to explain neuralgia to me, but now seems to be dismissing it. Dismissing ME, to be more precise.

I just don't understand where he's coming from. Why would pain that's deemed treatable now have to be endured without medication in a few days? I'm trying my best to convey how I'm feeling (like shit) and he's decided that he knows better. I'm really hoping that by Monday I'm feeling completely better, but I fear that's not going to be the case. Nevermind that I'm unable to count properly and realized back at work that I only have enough pills to last until Saturday.

So I spoke to my manager and she served me up a laughable dish of bull, saying that "Western people have a different attitude toward illness. We think we should endure. Western people go to the doctor often. We don't."

People here visit the "hospital" (clinic at best, but more likely a simple doctor's office) for everything! Then they go to the pharmacist to collect a hundred pills to be eaten four times a day with kimchi. In Canada I'd suffer through a cold or flu and just pop into the drugstore and get some medicine off the shelf. Here, the pharmacies are tiny and lack shelves by and large. You've got to describe your symptoms to the pharmacist and then HE or SHE will choose for you. With doctor's visits and prescriptions being so cheap here it's just easier to go see the doctor and get an injection on your ass before visiting the pharmacy with a prescription. By the way, I don't have health insurance. Having shingles has already cost me about four hundred dollars, so yah. I'd like to get better pronto.

I was so upset back at work, and feeling stressed about having to stress out for the next few days thinking Dr. Rainman was going to refuse to treat me. What I want to hear from him is, "Don't worry. I know shingles is oftentimes extremely painful. You should avoid stress. Get rest. Please don't worry, we will make sure you get through this as comfortably as possible until you're better." I don't understand the logic in withholding relief. I don't see how that's being very "doctorly." I'm sure I could endure the pain without dying from it, but it severely impedes me from doing my job well. It wrecks my sleep. It makes living unpleasant. It prevents me from enjoying ANYTHING. I'm not interested in martyrdom, give me the drugs already.

My manager agreed to call the doctor tomorrow but I know she won't be as direct as I'd like her to be. Afterall, the doctor is a man and he's older than her and apparently knows best. (Yeah.) I've written down some questions for her to ask, about the surface numbness and if it's normal to feel like I'm "flaring up" when I get stressed out and why I'm still not sleeping well at all, and about neuralgia. We'll see what happens, but if Dr. Rainman's going to be unhelpful I'm going to have to go into the city to a "BIG" hospital and seek out an empathetic and effective doctor before the weekend.


Diana E. said...

Jesus... what an ass. Go to a university hospital next time. There is a world of difference. Is Ulsan big enough to have an international clinic? I had great experiences with the one in Daegu.

Feel better, soon!

Foreigner Joy said...


Can you make it up to Seoul? I highly suggest going to Yongsei SEverance hospital.

Also when taking pain meds you can't stop them cold turkey. You have to ween yourself off of them or else there are other side effects. Also if you have been taking a certain pain med this makes it harder for your system to take a stronger pain med..which means you should be taking even stronger meds.

Seeing a neurologist or specialist would be best for you.

This might not be a case of taking the right pain medication but medication for something else that is wrong.

> < Just know how tough it is to get your Korean collegues on board. sigh