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Hospital


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About a decade ago now there was a story that for a while caught the attention of the Bay Area Asian community. It was about a young Asian family that, on its way to the Pacific Northwest, got caught in a blizzard in Oregon. A father, a mother, and two children were snowed in their car for several days before the father decided to venture out in search of help. His naked body was later found with his clothes scattered some distance behind him. How strange that in those last moments of freezing to death our bodies should turn to unbearable heat as its final solution. As I lay in bed shivering with fever I thought of the man face-first in the snow, embracing it with all the joy of satiation. Perhaps our bodies are merciful after all.

* * * * *

My first experience as a hospital patient came today as a mild case of hypochondria and ample CDC warnings sent me to get tested for malaria. Of course it is not as simple as saying, Please test me for malaria, so we were referred from the paperwork area to triage, back to paperwork, to the patient examination area (where we spent most of our time), to paperwork, the cashier, and paperwork once more (you can see the healthcare industry is mostly about paperwork). Contrary to online reports that most Colombian doctors speak English, we found that no one did, and it took us a while to get across that I did not want the IV drip the doctor apparently ordered, though they left the needle in my hand for several hours.

Chris spent most of the waiting time trying to read old downloaded headlines from Yahoo! News and pulling faces at me for not seeming sick enough to warrant this trip. We also giggled and took pictures and generally acted inappropriately. At one point a nurse came forward and sweetly informed us that the hospital beds were only for one person, the patient, at which Chris sheepishly slunk out. He was slightly more sullen after that.

Since it turns out I do not have malaria but possibly just food poisoning or the stomach flu, we were relieved the hospital bill was only around $80. I left feeling chipper and almost well until we sat down to eat at a restaurant and my appetite flew away. Miserably, I swallowed one nauseating spoonful of soup after another, barely able to watch Chris devour food that used to make me salivate. Then it was a quick dash up to our fifth floor room and its bathroom--just in time.

Chris's mom would maintain that I'm not meant to travel like this. It's the fourth time I've been sick in the past half year, three of which have involved days of fever and immobility. Last night moaning in bed I was inclined to agree with her. Moreover, I'm eager to eat vegetables again--and not the bits of limp lettuce and shredded carrot that serve as ensalada here but, I don't know, a whole plate of sautéed, richly verdant leafy greens flavored with nothing but minced garlic and a slight sprinkling of salt. And suddenly an image of my dear mother comes to mind, all tender smiles as she sweeps the hair from my forehead to check my temperature. On the table she places a glass of warm water with a straw while in front of me she sets a lap tray with aforementioned sautéed vegetables. On close inspection I see it's kong ching tsai (hollow leafy green?), and I begin to salivate.

Then my stomach turns. Ugh.

Posted by chschen 04:12 Archived in Colombia

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