Friday, January 7, 2011

Seoul National University Hospital

January 5th, 2010
Our sweet landlady made us lunch. After that I went to the hospital, the whole story is below. We had a date night eating out (Karjam loved the food at the restaurant I chose), then we watched "Tron: Legacy" which was good, but not so good that I understand why some friends have seen it several times. Special effects were great, but there wasn't a whole lot of story.

January 6th, 2010
Went to Incheon and back.

January 7th, 2010
I have foreign insurance, Fulbright required I get it (and told me which company) before leaving for Korea. I had to show proof of insurance, seriously. Which is unfortunate since the Korean gov't insurance is the best.

I've been to Severance Hospital often; they honor my insurance completely (after one phone call the first time I went there, to the insurance company). I don't like Severance much, but it's been convenient, both not to mess with insurance stuff and money and because the location is good for me.

Dealing with my ear I have been trying to suffer through a different problem, hoping it would just go away and a bit ashamed to complain to the doctors about -another- issue. But Wednesday I was in so much pain I finally went to Severance to at least see if my own assessment was correct, and if there was anything else I could do. Unfortunately no specialist could see me till Tuesday (despite what they said on the phone before I left my house), so I went to SNU Hospital, it's one of the three largest in town, with a great reputation, and is closer than Samsung Hospital, the last of the three. The doctor took one look and confidently told me I needed outpatient surgery. With my pain level through the roof, I agreed and we scheduled it for Friday. (I seriously told him "8, 9, whatever time you get here, I can be here").

The International Health Care Center people at the hospital (because foreigners without Korean insurance in particular, but non-Korean speakers in general go through the International Health Care Center) told me that with a "guarantee of payment" letter from the insurance company it'd be fine, and I was told it would run a little under 1,000 USD for my procedure. The guarantee was necessary because they claimed they'd never worked with my company (Seven Corners) before. I called the company and at first the company wanted to see a doctor's letter about the procedure and my medical records, as well as a cost estimate, but finally seeing as how it's not that expensive a surgery, the company sent the letter on Thursday midday. (To get the doctor's letter was impossible on such short notice; he only goes to SNU hospital twice a week).

When I got to the hospital Friday morning the International Health Care Center people claimed not to have gotten the letter, I sent it again (I'd been cc:ed) and left the Int'l Center for my surgery. Which was hella painful. Like incredibly. The local anesthetic worked but I had to get three shots, very sensitive and painful going in). Also since I've never gotten surgery before, I was scared to pieces. My arms were shaking the entire time, I couldn't even begin to relax. After the surgery I received instructions that makes me worried about my upcoming intensive classes—if I can't do proper post-surgery care, how can I be sure the surgery will work? Esp. the second class, starting on the 16th, will be in a facility with no hot running water.

After struggling to get my clothes back on, I slowly hobbled back to the center to settle everything and then quickly get my post-op pain meds before the local wears off, but they were complete NUMBSKULLS. They claimed to need to talk to the insurance company, but the letterhead didn't have the 24 hour number (that's the company's fault, obviously), and they didn't bother to go read the email where the 24 hour number was, so they'd done nothing while I was gone. And just suggested I pay up front in cash and get reimbursed later. I get paid by Fulbright twice, once was a couple weeks before I left, once in early January (when? I wish I knew!). Since arriving here required huge expenses like my security deposit, I am really nearly completely out of money. (Fortunately I paid for the rent, due the 9th, already). They needed to talk to the company, despite saying they'd just need the guarantee of payment letter, because they didn't know the company. Or so they said, because the insurance company knew the email, phone, address and all of SNU hospital as soon as I said Korea and the hospital's name-- obviously they have worked together before. I found the number on the email for them and they proceed to talk to other people in the hospital (they'd obviously just hoped I'd pay cash) and make calls and try to arrange a bunch of paperwork (including a paper where I swore to cover the cost if the company doesn't come through) and all this for close to two hours. My local anesthetic wore off almost immediately, but I couldn't leave the hospital to go to the pharmacy (also I didn't have the prescription until I covered the charges) and so I was standing there, bleeding in my bandages, tears running down my face from the intense pain. Finally they ordered the pharmaceuticals delivered to the hospital (seriously, in Korea you can get anything delivered, there is even a service now that bragged they'd once delivered toilet paper to a customer in a public restroom). I took the pain drugs, but ten minutes later got extremely nauseous- I forgot I hadn't eaten anything since the previous night. Intense prescription pain pills on empty stomach. I did not regurgitate, thankfully, but the pills didn't make a huge difference in my pain, I swear it was perhaps 10% to 20% less after taking them. Oh and the whole time I needed to pee so bad my bladder hurt but my body wouldn't relax those muscles.

At last everything was taken care of and I went outside. I swear my body was so out of it I couldn't even react to the sunlight, I was in this overexposed world with everything insufferably bright. I managed to make out a taxi in the glare and crawled into the back seat. He took me right to my door. I didn't even regret the traffic jam that raised the rate.

Outside the hospital. These heaters are just outside and above the doors.

My feet in "OR" slippers and SNU hospital pants:

Front of the hospital:

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