Another medical system misstep

In the past, for the most part, if one of the kids got sick we would immediately make an appointment with of the many children’s clinics that seem almost ubiquitous in Hsinchu. If late at night, a quick visit to emergency might also be in order. The only real hesitation we had was the time and stress required to fight traffic during the long rush hour(s).

Other than determining the seriousness of their affliction, and overprescribing medication, doctors in Hsinchu provided a great point of contact for understanding what illnesses were making their way through the city. That way we could be better prepared for the progression of their symptoms, and prepare ourselves if we were also to get afflicted.

That almost reflex to see a doctor is something that I fight against here, as everything is weighed against “is it worthy of a 5-7+ hour wait in emergency”. This is a rather risky equation, as I am no nurse, and some problems are hard to diagnose.

This week Camren had severe vomiting and diarrhea. I initially didn’t take him to a walk in clinic as it seemed like a serious but common gastro intestinal virus. We all eat the same food and he didn’t have an infection. As a result he had a day of rest, kept hydrated, and managed to go to school the following day.

Last night before Jujitsu he complained of stomach pain. He characterized it as being super hungry, so I fed him a banana, and he helped himself to some bread with peanut butter. I then dropped him off at class and ran some errands nearby. But when I arrived back at his class to watch him grapple, he was sitting at the side and the teacher, or professor as he likes to be addressed, told me his stomach was too sore to work out. He hobbled out the door of his dojo, hunched over like an old man might be characterized in a cartoon, and made his way to the car. I saw cold sweat on his forehead which indicated real pain.

When we got home I checked to see if there were any clinics open Island wide. It was 6:30 and they all seemed to be closed but for the one at the Murphys Pharmacy in Stratford, which was scheduled to remain open until 7:30pm. I called the clinic to check if they were still seeing patients and was presented with a recording stating they were open until 7:30.

I packed Camren into the car to go to the clinic and told him not to get his hopes up, as experience has taught me that last minute visits to walk in clinics here are often unsuccessful – they may not be able to see more patients. Enroute I asked him to rate his pain. I said if your broken arm was a 10, how would this rate? He said an 8.

We arrived at the clinic to find that they closed early. Lovely. With no other clinics open we really only have one other choice, the emergency room.

We drove home and I gave him a cursory exam – no fever, no blood in stool, stomach not distended or hard, and he wasn’t vomiting. I used the “is it worthy of a 5-7+ hour wait in emergency” equation and decided to let him rest until morning. He agreed.

Luckily this morning he was fine. But I regret having made this decision. And I don’t appreciate having to make this decision in the first place.

Stomach pain is one of the symptoms that is usually worthy of a trip to an emergency room if other options don’t exist, and so I wasn’t overly concerned about adding stress to the system from an unwarranted visit. My concern was the real possibility that sitting in a chair all night in order to see a medical professional, might make matters worse for him, and to a lesser extent me (I’ve come down with yet another wicked chest cold).

Perhaps this limited access is the norm in most countries but it certainly adds unneeded anxiety to our lives here.

*Peter helpfully points out that there is a service that will help you decide whether your symptoms are worthy of a trip to the hospital. Just dial 811.