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Being sick sucks. I discovered earlier this week though that it can suck a lot less… if only there were ways of doing things more efficiently.
I had been coughing and sneezing for a week, but Monday afternoon, realizing that I was short of breath after a single flight of stairs, I decided I needed to see a doctor. It was entirely possible that I had pneumonia, and you try to not mess around with things like that.
Being in a foreign land I asked my boss what the procedure was for seeing a doctor. He asked Ito-san (one of his fellow managers who is native to Japan), and she looked up walk-in clinics in the area. It turns out there are are two in the complex that houses both one of our company’s towers and my hotel. Both asked if they could accompany me, but in a moment of sheer optimism I told them I would be okay.
I found the first clinic pretty easily (Ito-san had printed out maps and circled them). I walked in, asked the receptionist if I was in the right place to see a doctor, and once that was established she asked me about a Health Insurance Card. It seems they don’t get many gaijin in the clinic, and as Japan has socialized medicine (take lessons USA) it is usually just assumed that they need not take credit cards. I confirmed that I had sufficient cash to pay for the visit (under $50) and had a seat.
I filled out their paperwork… fortunately the receptionist was able to translate where my name, address, and phone number went. I told her I am allergic to penicillin, and she asked me to wait. Having long experience with long wait times in walk-in clinics and Emergency Rooms, I pulled out my Surface Pro to start reading. By the time I started on page 4 I was called in to see the doctor.
Remember I mentioned earlier that i was optimistic? The doctor spoke English – if not fluently, then at least well enough to ask the right questions and to treat me. He told me I would need to have a chest x-ray taken, and I figured that would mean a trip to another clinic, another wait, another….
No! The clinic has their own x-ray machine, and I was not able to sit down before the nurse/technician called me in. I took my shirt and chain off, and she did her thing. I put my shirt back on, and went into the outer office to sit and wait. I didn’t finish another page before the doctor called me in because he had the results of my x-rays up on his screen.
Wow… I was in and out (including x-rays) in under 20 minutes. The doctor explained the prescription meds I needed, what they were for, and where I could get them. The visit (including the x-rays) cost 5,900 Yen (about $63).
The meds (five days worth of three different meds) cost another $45. This was actually where I had the only complication – the first pharmacy I went to (in the same complex) only accepted the Health Insurance Card… or cash. Because I needed to pay by credit card I had to go to the other pharmacy (also in the same complex).
From the time I dropped my laptop bag in my room, went to see the doctor, had x-rays, went to two separate pharmacies and bought dinner until the time I walked back into my room was under an hour. If it was that efficient back in Canada I would probably not be so hesitant to see doctors.
Oh, one more thing… I picked up a pack of face masks… in Japan when you are sick it is courteous to wear them so as to prevent spreading your germs to others. I wore one for breakfast, to my meetings, and when I went out for lunch and then for dinner. My boss commented that I didn’t look out of place here, and in fact people would appreciate that I was being courteous. If I wore this mask in public in Canada people would think I was going to rob them at knifepoint.
I may not be happy about being sick, but I am thrilled by the efficiency with which the Japanese system deals with illness. As per the doctor’s orders I am spending a couple of days in bed (yes, I went to the meeting AMA… it was a very important meeting) but I will be much better when I go back to the office on Thursday… and nobody on my team will worry about catching anything from me!
It didn’t start as I had expected it eventually would. A week ago I was driving and I had the strangest sensation… I would look down at the dashboard periodically and when I looked up I felt as if I was going to lose consciousness. Of course when you are driving down the highway with your family in the car it is an extremely bad idea to lose consciousness, so I channeled my energies to… stay awake, for lack of a better term.
As the days went on I noticed the experience was getting worse, and pretty consistent. It did not matter how well I had slept, or if I was listening to music, or if there were people in the car. Also I noticed that it was not only happening when I drove, but also in all sorts of other situations.
Of course I told Theresa immediately, and I did my best to compensate… I did not look at the dashboard, for example. I turned my smartphone off when I drove. We hoped it would go away; Tuesday I took my older son on a day trip, and realized it was getting worse. When we got back to Oakville I dropped him off at home and went to the walk-in clinic. The doctor reassured me that my blood pressure and blood sugar were normal – I have been on a diet for two months and thought the weight loss might be an issue, but that didn’t seem plausible if my sugar was normal. I thought it could be ocular, and he agreed it was definitely possible, but to be safe I should make an appointment to see my family physician (whose office is one floor above the clinic).
My family doctor saw me this afternoon, and confirmed that it was likely not a tumour, and that my suspicion was very plausible. He told me to see an optometrist, and if he couldn’t rule out vision issues or glaucoma then I should return for further tests.
I sat in my car and Binged the term optometrist Oakville Ontario and came up with a decent selection, and started calling. The first two could not see me for a couple of weeks, but the third was able to fit me in this evening. I zipped down to Oakville Place and met the doctor, who chastised me for waiting four years between checkups. He also told me that my age and my profession have conspired against me, and that although I was indeed tumour and glaucoma free, I did need glasses. He wrote me my prescription,and I went next door to Lens Crafters, as I phoned Theresa to meet me there – after all, she looks at my face a lot more often than I do!
By the time she got there I had picked out three frames, none of which I ended up choosing. Truth be told, I think the Oakley frames were possibly 5-10% nicer than the Club Monaco pair that we ended up choosing, but for the $210 difference I was just as happy with these.
So the day after my thirty-ninth birthday, and for the first time since Boot Camp, I am wearing glasses indoors. I remember in my last year of high school when Dr. Foreman prescribed my first pair. I remember the excitement of the novelty wearing off in a hurry, and I never quite did get used to them, nor was I very religious about wearing them. I suspect that this time I will have the maturity and discipline to take the time to get used to them. Despite the constant cajoling of my wife who keeps telling me it is a sign that I am getting really old, I think I can get used to them, especially since this time we took the time to find the right pair that would be part of my face for the foreseeable future. Theresa, it should be mentioned, can make as much fun as she wants, as she is blind as a bat and has worn glasses as thick as my smartphone since she was a child. You would think she would be a little more understanding, what with the coincidence of this happening the day after my birthday!
Am I going blind? No. Truthfully I can really see as well without the glasses as I can with them. They are helping my eyes to adjust their focus… I hope they will help me keep my professional focus, and maybe even keep me from getting tired as quickly as I have in recent years.