09 September 2011

Shanghai - doctor visit experience #2

Just as my first doctor experience here in Shanghai was not planned, this second one was planned.
I thought that since I've gone to to the acupuncturist a few times in Finland and that acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and I just happened to be going to China, I should actually try acupuncture where it originated from. So, I asked my Chinese co-workers if they could make me an appointment with an acupuncturist.

One of them, Nan*, said she had a doctor friend (let's call him Dr.Boy) at a TCM hospital that she would ask if he could help us get an appointment there. I say us, because two of the girls, Nan & Cece* (I mentioned her in my previous post) decided to join me. Neither of them had tried acupuncture before and thought that this would be a good time to check it out with me. Sunday arrived and I took a taxi to a predetermined place where Nan met me and then we walked to the clinic. Celia was waiting for us and away we went. This TCM hospital is a medical place like any other where people go to get treated. Just as you and I would go to our doctor's office or RE clinic, many Chinese people go here (or to another one that is similar) when they need to seek medical treatment.

The first building we went into to find Dr.Boy ended up being the wrong building, but I got my first taste of where real** Chinese go for medical help. It was an older building that looked a bit run down. Definitely not western by any standards. There was people everywhere and they didn't look to be waiting in any orderly fashion. I mean, I saw 10-15 people in what looked like the treatment room (or maybe the admittance area), all just standing around where you could definitely over hear what the other people are saying. And I was the only foreigner there, being stared at intently by everyone!
In the second building we found Dr.Boy or maybe he found us. Before we talked to a doctor, we went to pay our visit-fee and to get me signed in as a patient/customer there. The patient booklet and card (to track my treatments) and the visit-fee cost less then 7€. We then went to the intake room where people were diagnosed before they were treated by acupuncture and cupping. The girls decided I would be first. Thanks girls! LOL. I sat there talking to a doctor trying to explain my 'pain' and what I wanted treated with my coworkers standing right behind me and several other people who were waiting to be treated also. Again, I was the only foreigner there. I started by telling the doctor that in Finland I was being treated for back and neck pain, but mainly for fertility issues also. The first part the doctor understood, but not the latter part. So, I quickly explained to the girls and they translated to the doctor. He still seemed sort of confused, so I just forgot about that issue and kept the focus on the back and neck. Sure it would have been great to have a treatment geared towards helping me get pregnant, but really I just wanted to experience acupuncture in China. After my diagnosis was made, I needed to pay for my treatment. It only cost 4€. Then it was back to the room where I was diagnosed and I waited my turn to be taken to a bed.

The receipts, my membership card (credit card looking item) and treatment book.
The inside of my treatment book with my 'diagnosis' written in Chinese.
 The treatment beds were cordoned off by curtains (like you see in a hospital). I was sitting in my little room for about 5 minutes waiting for the doctor to come. An older lady came in the 'room' and asked me to take my shirt off and lay down on the bed. I did tell her that I have experienced acupuncture before. She then made sure I was comfortable and away we went with the treatment. I know she used brand new needles, as I could hear her opening the package (and I saw the same happen to someone else after my treatment). Only 1 of the needles twinged a bit uncomfortably as it went in, but that feeling went away almost immediately. Once all the needles were in, I was hooked up to a light electrical current for about 30 minutes (sort of like the TENS unit (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulator) I used for a while right after the car wreck I was in when I was 14). During this time, I also had a heat lamp placed on my lower back. The feeling was so relaxing,k that I think I actually dozed off for a bit. Once the time was up and the needles removed, it was time for the cupping. I've never tried cupping before, although I did know what it was. 12-15 heated glass globes were put on my back in traditional pressure point areas (if I remember correctly). Since the cups are heated before being applied, they suction onto the body and also pull a bit of the skin and muscle inside. Cupping promotes blood circulation, remove stasis, and alleviate swelling and pain. I found this procedure to be a bit painful, but not unbearable. I was left this way for 5-10 minutes and then they were removed. My treatment was complete and I was free to go.

I got dressed and then waited for the girls to finish their treatments. During this time, I was intently scrutinized by all the other patients there. Dr.Boy came to talk to me and asked questions about my experience that day and previously. He's a very sweet, young and cute guy. When the girls were done we went to have lunch and we invited Nan's friend along. At lunch, Dr.Boy explained to me the lady who did my acupuncture is ~80 years old, although I wouldn't have guessed that. She is also very well known (famous?) as a doctor in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I was quite lucky to have her treat me, as usually it takes a long time to get in to see her. I was also told that this hospital is one of four, very well known and I believe one of the oldest hospitals in Shanhai.

My back  a bit more than 24hours after cupping.
(Even 5 days later, some of the markings can still be seen.)
It was a good experience and one that I am definitely glad to have been able to do. All of the doctors and staff that I came into contact with were very nice and professional. (Nan even went on about how the admittance doctor was so nice, took his time to ask questions and behaved as if he truly cared. He is her type of guy. *giggle* She's so cute, naive and young at times.) The price of the treatment, only 11€ total, is insanely cheap compared to my 45€ per visit in Finland.

*Not their real names
**I say real, because the Parkway Health hospital I went to previously seemed more for expats and foreigners. I could very well be wrong, but that is what it looked like to me.