On Monday we had to go get medical checks to renew our contracts. For the most part if we failed the tests we would not be renewed. Fortunately, the checks are for major medical conditions, drug usage, and AIDS. It’s not too hard to pass.
My handler-co-teacher-friend-guy (he has no real title) Andrew was nice enough to bring both of us. He translated and lead us around where we otherwise may have gotten lost. We even got to miss school and classes to go on “official leave.” Actually, all the 1st and 2nd grad students are taking finals this week so we only missed a a couple 3rd grade classes each.
Going to a hospital in Korea was quite an adventure. We had to go to a series of rooms, take a number. Wait for the number to be called, then do that test. Repeat. There are no privacy laws – or at least not as strict. So many times we were being watched by everyone in the area (out of curiosity).
We started in a small room where they had us fill out some papers and put our photographs on our medical tests – yes it had to have a photo attached. We had to get photos taken because all of ours are imperial and the required sizes were metric – they just didn’t work.
They took our height, weight and blood pressure. That morning I had read many stories online about people “failing” the blood pressure portion of the test in Korea, only to be retested and have it be okay. I’m not sure why this is so common in Korea – maybe the machines are different or maybe people are panicking a little from the stress of being in hospital abroad. Either way, I’m glad I read about this because Chris got 145/70. The number was, of course a “fail” on the medical test. We demanded a retest or even for them to read it manually. After a few hours of other tests, Chris returned to get a very normal blood pressure.
After that we had a hearing test and a vision test. Then we began the take-a-number spree. We needed to pay the $68 dollars (each) for the checkups. I think that’s pretty good for a full physical complete with chest x-rays, blood and urine tests as well as doctor consultation. $68 was without any insurance- the insurance wouldn’t have changed the price anyway.
We took a number and waited to pay. This took a good 20 minutes as the hospital was very crowded.
First Station: Private Consultation
We went to a very hidden room behind the payment area. Seriously it was a hidden little room. Inside were about 15 people waiting. On a large TV screen in front of us were all of our names. Your name pops up and you go to the corresponding room, 1, 2, or 3. The nurse was clever enough to put our names in hangul. Unfortunately, our names don’t fit – most Korean names are 3, maybe 4 syllable blocks at most while my first name alone is 3 syllable blocks. So we had to settle for 케이티첼 Kaeti Chel (Zel) and 크리스렌 (Chris Len).
Our names finally popped up. The doctor asked Chris if he was taking any medicine and if he was doing okay. I was only asked if I was okay and we were sent on our way. Very thorough.
Second Station: Blood and Urine Tests
We took a number and were 87, the current number was 63. The whole room was like a blood taking event. All the seats were arranged like an auditorium with two overworked phlebotomists at the front. There were no curtains or anything, we just sat in our chairs and watched twenty people give blood until it was our turn.
It got more interesting as we were handed a small paper cup labeled “medical cup” with a printout of our names on it. Then we were handed a seal-able vial “half, and half” they said. Yes, they really wanted the open dixie cup to be placed in their pee fridge. We had seen many other people return with dixie cups and put them into a huge sliding refrigerator. No seals, no caps. Just open dixie cups.
Third Station: Stand in line all day
Because Andrew was nice enough to come and translate us, we complacently followed him to each station and trusted that he knew what was going on. We also didn’t want to be a nag “what’s this station? now what? … what now, Andrew?” So we kept silent and followed along.
We went to a room that was blatantly x-rays. We had had chest x-rays last time so we figured we would be doing that. We went to another room and turned in our paperwork so we could wait in line. This nurse decided our names couldn’t be Korean-ized (unlike in the first room) and thus refused to put our names up on the tv screen. So we didn’t have a tangible thing to look at to see how much longer. “Someone will call your name here or in the other room when it’s your turn”
I think anyone could tell you that that wasn’t going to work.
Andrew waited in the other room in case our names were called there and we had to stand in a high-traffic area getting stared at by everyone. Finally after 30 minutes Andrew returned and asked the front window. Not surprisingly, they forgot about us.
They let us into the room and come to find out it was the freaking dentist. That’s not even part of the test, it’s not required for the medical check!
They gave us a 30 second cursory glance at our teeth and then approved us. A waste of time if there ever was one.
Final Station: Chest X-Rays
Not much else to say except we had chest xrays. I’ve never had one in the United States so I can’t really compare it to anything.
After three hours we were finally done. Chris had the day off and I had to go back to school for a few hours.