12.31.2013

That time we spent New Year's Eve in a Korean Emergency Room

Alternately titled: IF IT WEREN'T FOR BAD LUCK, WE WOULD HAVE NO LUCK.

New Year's Eve started out like any other day off. We made breakfast at home, hung out with the kids, and then decided to hit up a kids' cafe. We had big plans to go out to dinner with friends and then ring in the new year with drinks and desserts at their house. I wanted the kids to nap late and long, so off to a kids' cafe to burn some energy we go.

We arrived and were the only people there and Steve suddenly said he didn't feel well. He went to the bathroom and puked a few times and then came out looking like a new man. He bounced with the kids on the trampoline and everything seemed fine. "Must have been something I ate!" he said. Not too long after that, he started feeling ill again. He went to the bathroom again and came out looking less than chipper. We left the kids' cafe soon after and he laid in bed (whilst still puking) and I got the kids some lunch and put them down for naps. I went to check on him and give him some pedialyte and everything that was going down was coming right back up. I called my friend and asked if I could drop off the kids while I took Steve to the TMC. She graciously took them (Molly screamed. She only seems to like me if I'm going somewhere without her.) and Steve and I raced off to post. He was complaining of trouble breathing and his arms and legs were going numb. He felt like he was going to black out. This, naturally, petrifies me because stomach bugs don't do this and what is wrong with my strong-as-a-horse husband?!

We get to the TMC (Troop Medical Clinic) on post and they look at us like we're aliens. They are basically staff duty at the clinic, I guess. They took his vitals anyway and then he really started having trouble breathing. I was so scared. They called a nurse and she tried (and failed twice) to insert an IV. All of his veins were collapsing since he was so dehydrated. After a third prick, they got him and started him on saline. He had an oxygen mask on (about 2 sizes too small for a grown man) and Steve's arms and hands were stiff and locked in this freakish position. Like he had claw hands. He couldn't unclench them and couldn't feel them. They decided to ship us via ambulance to a Korean hospital in a nearby city, about 30 minutes away.

Let me tell you for a moment about the medical setup here. The medical screenings (and EFMP screenings) that everyone who gets stationed overseas bitches and moans about? Those screenings are in place for a very good reason. Reason being- no one here (in Korea) knows what the hell they're doing. If you are sick, or likely to become sick, or have some sort of condition that needs specialty treatment, well, this is not where you want to be stationed. They just simply aren't equipped to handle any more than a sprained ankle or some mild menstrual cramps. Our TMC barely functions. The "real" hospital in Seoul (on post) is an hour and a half away, and that's with minimal traffic. Factor in real traffic and it can take 2-3 hours to get there. The only real "option" for us up here medically, is to go to this one Korean hospital that accepts Tricare. They speak English, but it is limited English. For example, this nurse was digging for more of Steve's blood, and she was trying to say, "You are going to feel a pinch." But instead, she said, "You going to feel.... ahhhh.... uhhhh... owee?" I asked the guy who seemed to speak the most English how much longer we had to wait on test results. He said, "You wait... won tuh too owuhs?" I said, "Yes, we HAVE been waiting one to two hours. How much LONGER do we have to wait?" "Ahhh... you wait... won tuh too owuhs. Ohkay?" !@#$%^&*(*&^%$#

Also, Korean hospital beds = very tiny.

Back to the story.

They load us up into the ambulance. Korean driver, Army medic guy, Steve on a gurney, me. No seatbelts in sight. The Korean drivers pay no mind to the ambulance with the siren going. No one bothers to move out of the way. So the driver does things that I've honestly only ever seen on Mario Kart. I'm only sorry now I didn't film some of it. But other things had my attention of course. Things like my husband not breathing properly and holding onto the gurney for dear life because WE BECAME AIRBORNE after rocketing across an embankment of ice in the road (because we were driving on the construction-work side of the road since the drivers wouldn't move out of our way, and apparently that doesn't get plowed all too often, or, ever). After wondering if any of us were going to survive the ride down there, we start to pull off onto our exit. Steve has to hurl again. Poor medic tries to unbuckle Steve as quickly as he can while also shoving what looks like a child's potty seat under his face. Success. We finally make it to the hospital and then go back to the triage section.


It is NOT like the US hospitals where there is privacy and cleanliness and order. It was- walk in, see a dude's junk hanging out while also noticing a very large and painful-looking flesh wound, stand here, make sure you take off his shoes (Korean priorities), watch the nurse rearrange the IV so that he bleeds all over the bed, tell us they need more, um, ah, uh, BLOOD and proceed to pull his pants down so they can take it from his groin (twice) (ouch), hold the bandages there for him ("five minute!") because apparently they don't spring for bandaids, wheel him down for a CT scan, wheel him back to a "private" wing (We are right across from flesh-wound-I-saw-your-junk guy. Awesome.), watch eleventy billion other people come in and have no privacy, wonder if this is real life or if you're watching a movie in 3D (complete with smells), flag down multiple people to ask what the hell is going on, get nowhere, ask some more, get discharged, go to the Korean pharmacy, ask what the medicine is ("is medeesin" duh), call friend to pick you up, go home.

Feels like death- still manages to be the hottest guy I've ever seen.

We had to go back to the TMC to get our car, then drove to our friend's house to pick up the kids. We finally get upstairs and put the kids to bed and shower off, vowing to burn all the clothing we wore to the hospital in the morning, and go to bed at midnight. Happy freaking new year.

For those curious- we never heard back on any of the test results. At one point they told us we had to wait for them, and then later a nurse told us to tell her when we were ready to leave. (?) We are hoping it was just dehydration and that pedialyte/soup/gatorade/crackers/sleep will have him feeling back to normal soon. Thanks for the prayers and please keep 'em coming. My goal is that no one gets sick here again. Ever. Please. God. Amen.

17 comments:

  1. wow. wow. wow. That is one hell of a welcome to the new year. I hope he is feeling better soon. I will pray it's smooth sailing from here on out.

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  2. Um. OMG and holy shit. What a scary experience!! I'm glad Steve was feeling well enough to leave and I hope he stays well. Wishing you all perfect health in 2014!

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  3. Uh wow. I think that's all I can really say. Here's to hoping he is 100% ASAP.

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  4. Wellll this is horrifying. Sorry, Steve. You're both such troopers. I think you should write a book on how to survive the worst case scenarios while living as an American in Korea. To get published, you might need to get captured by the North, make headlines, etc. But for now, these stories about hospital visits are a great start. (Also, PLEASE STOP HAVING TO GO TO HOSPITALS!)

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  5. Holy shit!!!! Am I allowed to say that on here? That had to have been terrifying! Goodness! How's he feeling today? You guys have had the worst luck out there. Praying nothing else crazy happens while you're there and that you don't get the stomach bug either! Here's to a hopefully calm and easy 2014!

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  6. Wow!!!! That is crazy...and scary! Hope he feels better and hope your new year gets better too!

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  7. Wow, this sounds crazy. Lance had a really bad stomach bug back when we were engaged and this sounds a lot like it. Hope he feels better soon!

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  8. Holy crap. Happy new year I guess! I will be saying some extra prayers that Steve gets better AND that in 2014 you dont have to deal with Korean healthcare. Ridiculous..

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  9. This sounds minorly terrifying! I'm sorry that your New Years didn't go quite like you planned.

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  10. I officially NEVER want to go to Korea. Your medical stories have scared the crap out of me. I laughed several times while reading this, but I'm so so sorry you had a rough day and the husband was sick. Hope he's doing better now and the other three of you aren't infected. Happy 2014!

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  11. precisely why i hope to never need serious medical attention while we live here. hope he's feeling better!

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  12. Wow! I'm glad he's okay. Crazy that he got so sick so fast. But at least you can check dirty Korean hospital off your bucket list!

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  13. Hope he's feeling better! And, truthfully, this could have been a bad case of food poisoning. Unless they ran a full stool sample, you'll probs not know for certain.

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  14. Whaaaaaaaat the hell. I hope Steve is 100% already. Bless you.

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  15. Holy Freakin' Moly! That is crazy! And you never did find out what the problem was?

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  16. Oh my gosh! I'm way late to this, but I hope he's doing well now. How scary!

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