Getting Ready for Surgery, or That Time Tomoko-san Was More Amazing Than Normal

Dealing with an injury is bad enough on a normal day in your own country. But dealing with a broken bone in a foreign country is a whole other issue. Now you have the added layer of your parents being 24 hours of travel away, the issues of foreign languages, and the issues of trying to navigate a foreign healthcare system.

(I have to say, though, that if I had a choice between breaking something here or in the US, I would choose Japan hands down. Here I am lucky enough to have two different insurances that cover me almost completely. The first one, the national coverage, brings the price down a ridiculous amount already. My ER visit was only about $45 including the X-ray and painkillers. My surgery will be under $1000 by quite a bit and my hospital stay is similarly priced. With my second insurance, the JET Accident Insurance, I am almost completely covered. If you are a JET reading this right now who forgot that the Accident Insurance exists, remember to use it! I had actually completely forgotten about it until a former JET told me about her surgery experience in Japan.)

Thankfully, I have had super-friend, Tomoko-san at my side for almost everything. She has been invaluable and indispensable. I don’t have internet as I write this, so I don’t remember where I left off last time, but let me bring you all up to speed from my ER visit.

On Saturday, Tomoko brought me back to Chiyoda Hospital for another consultation. There they took a CT of my ankle. I actually wish I had taken a picture of the CT since I think it looked pretty cool. I’ve never been rendered in 3D before. It definitely made the break a lot clearer and it was a lot more dramatic than I thought it was. It didn’t help that it had been moved around a bunch.

After that, the doctor informed me that the recommended course for a Fibula break is surgery otherwise it’s unlikely that it would ever heal correctly. Still, I was given two options. Option 1: have the surgery, spend a week in the hospital, and be walking around (slowly and carefully) in a brace for two weeks after that. Option 2: Be in a hard cast for 8 weeks and deal with the risk of the bone almost certainly not healing correctly. It would probably cause me a lot of problems as I got older as well.

Though it was terrifying (I didn’t cry at the time of the break, but I almost cried when he mentioned surgery) I knew that was the right choice. And after suffering the weekend on casts and with my stupid soft splint I knew I had made the right choice.

It’s Tuesday as I right this. This morning, Tomoko brought me to the hospital and we told the doctor that I had decided on the surgery. He then told me that it would have to be tomorrow morning, so it was better if I was admitted to the hospital this afternoon rather than tomorrow morning as originally planned. We spent almost three hours at the hospital this morning doing pre-surgery tests.

I requested general anesthesia (instead of an epidural which is what they were going to do) because I have a history of back issues and did not enjoy the thought of them sliding a needle into my spine and making things worse. Besides, I have been under general two previous times (I just looked around my room and tried to find some wood to quietly knock on) with no problems, so it makes sense that this time should be equally as fine. I’m definitely in better shape than I was last time, even if I’m four years older.

I was given the option of choosing the general hospital rooms or one of the more private ones for (what seemed to me, compared to American hospitals) like a nominal fee. I could choose a two person room for about $20 a night or a private with bathroom for $45. I chose a two-person room and am sharing it with an ancient woman.

After the tests, Tomoko-san and I went back to my apartment to get my things and have lunch. Have I mentioned how wonderful she is? Because she’s amazing.

She brought me back to the hospital and we got me settled in. The nurses already adore me. I had three of them announce that I’m really cute and I amazed them with my ability to read kanji. Then I copied the name of my inhaler onto a form and you would have thought I had just performed a magic trick.   Maybe I can score some extra Jello or something. (Joking. Jello isn’t something they do here.) I’ve got two outlets above my bed (important for a techno-addict like me) and a locking drawer next to my bed for my valuables.

Being in a Japanese hospital is interesting. I had to bring a lot of my own things. (Though I honestly prefer it.) But this includes my own tissues, cup, and trash bag. I’m scheduled for a shower at 3 (which is strangely not the first time I’ve said this, but definitely first time I’ve said it outside of a camp context.) because apparently showering ends at 4.

All the doctors and nurses have been very nice and friendly to me. They have all tried to find different ways to explain things to me when I don’t understand. The doctor who will be performing my operation tomorrow said I’m his first foreign patient and has been trying to use as much creative English as he can. It’s a simple surgery and this time tomorrow the hardest part will be over.

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