Getting to grips with Korean Hospitals 

One word: efficient. Here’s my story below…

I went to bed last night with a God-awful pain in my left shoulder and arm. I mean, I know pain – I’ve had a bad back since my teenage years and 8 years ago I suffered from a slipped disc in my lower back. So I knew this tear inducing pain wasn’t a regular bad sleeping/bad posture thing and when my go-to-not-available-over-the-counter pain meds did nothing for me and I stopped being able to move my neck up and down or side to side, I knew a visit to the doctor was unavoidable.

Fortunately, I have a hospital of choice (we go there to fill Raj’s prescriptions every 3 months) down the road and the hotline  helped me to make an appointment. Sadly, our regular doctor is on holiday but all the doctors at the Plus Hospital speak English, and I went armed with my medical records from home, where I had marked out previous experiences of taking the medication I wanted him to prescribe: a strong painkiller, an anti-inflammatory and something to help me sleep.
After some initial confusion about which floor I needed to be on, I registered and waited. It being obvious that I wasn’t Korean, one nurse took me under her wing and escorted me to the doctor. I described my symptoms and (planning ahead, I wore an easy to remove shirt) I offered to show the doctor where the pain was. He politely declined to touch me. We looked at the pages I had marked on my records and he diagnosed a herniated disc in my neck. Without touching. Say what?! He sent me to get an X-Ray (again I was escorted by my friendly nurse) for which I waited about 10 minutes. Again, no disrobing required as I stood in the demonstrated positions – who needs language skills when every day can be a game of charades!

The x-ray technician sent me trotting back to my friendly nurse, who after about 5 minutes took my hand and led me back to the doctor. With the x-rays on screen, he showed me that his diagnosis was correct and rather than just painkillers (I got those too) he wanted me to have an epidural steroid injection in between C5 and C6 (in my neck.) I mean wow! In the short time I had been waiting for the various elements of my treatment, I had been texting Raj and said that if it was a herniated disc, if the pain was still bad when we returned from Europe, I would investigate an injection. But no, no messing around here. Off I went back to my friendly nurse who scheduled my follow up and led me to the pain management clinic, as they were going to inject immediately. Seriously, this kind of thing takes months to schedule at home, even privately, and here I was less than an hour after entering the hospital being dealt with. The nurse gave me a robe and more charades ensued to describe the correct position for the injection. I had a few seconds to text my parents and Raj to let them know what was happening and in we went. 10 minutes later I’m lying back down in my cubicle for 20 mins to make sure I didn’t faint. With that time up, friendly nurse 2 led me back to reception and gave me a ticket, when my number was called, my bill and prescription were printed and I was sent off with a smile.

Next stop: hospital pharmacy – prescription handed over and my pre-packaged 14 doses of meds were given to me directly.


I detoured (feeling infinitely better – no more tears!) via my regular pharmacy where my guy just clarified what the medication was and less than 2 hours after my appointment, I was back on my sofa, watching Shrek the Third and writing this post. Absolutely incredible. Not quite zero pain but entirely manageable and pizza has been ordered for dinner 😃

I gotta say I could get used to this…

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