Monday, January 10, 2011

Things I Learned in Japan: getting misdiagnosed with the swine flu is not worth skipping school.

First, before I start, I want to let everyone know - I did a guest post over on Finding Tokyo's blog about the holidays in Japan.
Please check it out, comment, follow Hana, and leave us both lots of love! :]
I also wanna give a shout-out to my best blogger buddy, Caroline Josephine at Spooning with a Schoolboy. She's amazing, and recently did a very personal post concerning her struggle with feeling beautiful and loving herself. 

(btw, this post doesn't have our similar coat because I decided to do this post first).
I've also added a blogroll on the right side, so please check those blogs out!
Also, if you're interested in a link exchange, I'm going to be adding a links page, so let me know!

So, I wake up one morning in early December. I'm not feeling too great, but I really just don't want to go to school. No, I wanted to just stay in bed and veg. I get up, mention to my host mother that I don't feel good, that my head hurts, and that my throat is a little sore and ask her to take my temperature.

She does, it's not too high, but she tells me to eat breakfast and sends me back to my room. At around 8:30 AM, she tells me to hurry up, get dressed, throw on a face-mask, and grab my gaijin-pack(my passport, gaijin card, medical insurance card, and a set of 3 phrasebooks with "emergency" and "medical" sections in them) because we're going to the hospital. I'm like, wait, wait, wait - Only my throat hurts! But she insists because I had a "slight" fever. I knew, just knew, this was not going to end good.

Remember last December? The height of all the Swine Flu craze? Japan, the country with the government that likes to scare it's citizens into submission every chance it gets, was in full panic mode. People were urged to go to the hospital with ANY strange symptoms, to always wear face-masks, schools were being closed for it, my own school had a couple classrooms closed (meaning they were banned from coming to school for two weeks). But, my host family always talked about how ridiculous it was and that there was no reason to worry. Or so I thought...

We get to the hospital and a masked man comes out to greet us. The first thing he asks is why we are here. Then I hear it. "My exchange student may have the flu." We had to wait outside, clean off our hands with alcohol, and then after he had double checked with the staff, and we were led into a special "flu only" patient area. Great, leading us into the infected area. I started to protest, I even said, "I don't feel that bad. I kinda just wanted to stay home." She just assumed I was saying this, because she knows of my disdain for doctors, tests, medical treatment, and talking to strange people about my body in a foreign language, so she politely told me to be quiet and just wait for the doctor.

They do the height/weight/oh, you answered me in Japanese! your Japanese is so good/where are you from?/how do you like Japan/do you eat natto? thing before asking me to wait for the doctor. So, I wait. And I wait. And after like 20 minutes, this creepy old dude comes in, starts speaking really fast to my host mom and then leaves. My host mom tells me they're going to do a flu test and then we'll wait for the results and go home.

Now time for the test.
Anyone ever have a flu shot? I'm not sure how they do them in America because I've never had the flu, but in Japan it's borderline "cruel and unusual punishment" which is clearly a violation of article five of the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly (which Japan became a member of in 1956).

A flu test, Japan-style. (google images)
This is how it all went down....
A nurse walks in. She pulls out this long thing in plastic wrapping. She unwraps it. It's a giant Q-tip. She looks at me. "Stacy-san, gomen ne,"("Stacy-san, I'm sorry") is all she says before shoving said Q-tip up my nasal cavity. I don't even get my shriek of horror out before she pulls it out and quickly says, "Owari" ("finished"). My nose hadn't even began to recover before she dashed out of the room.

Another nurse came in with my host mom and said we were free for the next hour until the results came in. So we went to Saizeria. Saize was seriously my first host-mom and I's hangout. She got some kind of gratin and I got the Japanese equivalent of spicy chicken wings and pizza every.single.time.

We came back, and surprise surprise, the test was negative. However, because Swine Flu takes 12 hours to show up on tests after someone contracts it, I was still told to stay home from school and to take all these different medicines, which conveniently enough, did not contact a fever reducer. When we're in the car my host mom tells me the rules for the next few days.
  1. I must stay in my room unless told otherwise, so I don't infect my host-grandmother.
  2. No leaving the house for the next 48 hours.
  3. No going to school.
  4. No studying or videogames or computer, unless it's to watch movies.
  5. No bathing until my fever goes down.
I figure, okay. So no bath tonight. That blows, but tomorrow I'll just wait and see how my temp is and I should be okay, right? Wrong.

So began my solitary confinement.
The first day was alright. My host grandmother ate dinner before me and I was relieved of my duties to clean in the morning and to do the dishes after dinner.

The second day, I woke up. Took my temperature. It was 38°C, which is kind of high, but I was also ovulating during this time period. In case any guys are reading this and didn't pay attention during health class, I'll explain: When a woman ovulates, she often has a low-grade fever. A fever of around 38°C is definitely low-grade.
How I spent my days: fangirling over Johnny's!

This continued all day, and into the next day. On the morning of Day 3, my host mom said that if my fever goes down to 36°, I can bathe. I was feeling better, so when my host-grandmother wasn't around, I snuck out of my room to grab a drink. She came out, I went to make a dash for my room, and she said not to. She asked how I was doing, and after I said I was okay, she told me about how my host-mom was trying to get her to get a flu shot, but she was just baka because I didn't have the flu. Right at that time, my host-mom came home and when she saw the two of us in the same room, she freaked and scolded me for being out of my room, especially with my host-grandmother there.

I took my fever around 3PM and it was 36.2°. My host mom said, "You're good enough to shower tonight" but my host-grandmother turned on me and said, "No. You said 36°. 36.2° is not 36°." And that was that, no shower again.
later on in the year, but notice my Minnie mirror? and awesome deco'd phone? :]

By the next morning, my skin was dry and gross. I could feel the dirtyness on me and it was the grossest I've ever felt. My fever was 37.5° when I woke up. I could have cried. It was Sunday and tomorrow was school. If I couldn't shower tonight, I was not going to school. My host-mom couldn't understand why I was so uptight, so I explained to her the American view of hygiene: we bathe daily. You skip a day, you better take a shower the next night or else you do not leave the house.

As to be expected, my fever did not go down until 10PM when it was finally 35.8°. I asked excitedly if I could shower, but my host-mom said she had to "ask my grandmother in the morning". uuuugggghhh. I told my host-mother that if I could not shower tomorrow, I would die. She laughed and sent me to bed.

The next morning my temperature was the same so my host-grandmother said I could shower. So I asked, "Can I shower right now?!?!" and surprisingly, she said yes. So I took a quick shower and went to my local 7/11 and Cheerio to celebrate~! That night I took another shower and spent 45 minutes in the tub. I was never, ever so thankful to have a shower in my entire life.

So, I learned my lesson: never try to skip school because four days of being denied shower privileges is not worth it. Or, at the very least, never try it during flu season.

Have you ever been diagnosed with the flu? Did you ever have a flu test? What are any experiences you have with the medical care in Japan?

Thank you all for reading!
don't forget to check out:

I hope you enjoyed this post and also that you will come back for my post later this week about "Seijin no Hi" or "Coming-of-Age Day" which, this year, is January 10th (today in America, yesterday in Japan)!

良い一日になりますように , wherever this post finds you♥

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