We always emphasize efficiency, in daily handovers and rounds - name, age, chief complaint or diagnosis, current management. What we neglect is a whole experience of being ill hidden behind the 4 bullets delivered in less than 2 minutes. And medical education experts had been cracking our heads trying to instill a sense of empathy and all-rounded care since as long as I can remember.
I had a terrible flu last week, taking 2 days off work and lying at home waiting for episodes after episodes of fevers, chills, and pounding headaches. 10 years ago Mum and Dad would towel me and cook potato soup, now they are 2000 miles away enjoying boeuf bourguignon while I sweat and starve in my deathbed.
On Monday evening I decided to go see a physician. The problem is, I don't have a primary physician - we simply don't follow this system in doctor-shopping Taiwan. In my semi-consciousness I rode along a street hoping to find any signs of a doctor. I spotted an ENT clinic soon and went in.
After 20 minutes my USMLE-accredited Iowa-fellowed ENT specialist is ready to see me. I gave him the 2-minute stint: my friends had flu, I went out with them, woke up Sunday and dang! "Oooh, your tonsils are very swollen," "Veeeeery baaaad nose," he said, while stuffing cotton buds doused in steroids into my nostrils. I repeatedly told him I'm allergic to Naproxen, a potent antipyretic. I eyed his "Basic Pharmacology" sitting beside the table. He sent me out (to refer to alternative drugs, I think).
When I saw him again he was dictating his treatment plans - something I'm not allergic to for fever, cough syrup, clindamycin for possible pneumococcus infection etc. Thanks to my National Health Insurance, all that and consultation costs barely NT$100 (USD3). While I was feeling sad for my USMLE-accredited Iowa-fellowed specialist, I happily carried a bag of multicolored pills home...
Only to discover they package it all together so I wouldn't know which pill is for what purpose. To ensure I take the adequate dose of antibiotics, I have to swallow the entire pack of 5 pills 4 times a day, even if I don't have fever, coughs, or dizziness. What medical wastage!
I took Tuesday off, half of Wednesday off, and felt well enough for work Thursday. Between lucid intervals of watching Air Crash Investigations and cooking my own version of chicken soup, I received numerous phone calls. As my number is linked to the hospital paging system, any calls from the hospital phone is displayed as a 6-digit number. This I answer with a raspy voice sounding as if I'm intubated and in a coma (you never know nurse practitioners - they LOVE assigning patients at 5.28pm). Friends' calls I answer sounding pitiful. Then my ENT specialist called - just to remind me how difficult it is to run your own clinic in Taiwan - even have to make follow-up calls to your patients.
I made my bout of flu sounds fun but it actually isn't. Some things you just have to experience it yourself before you empathize. Nevertheless, for the price of less than a meal, I wouldn't complain too much.