Friday, 17 April 2009

Medical Check

I have been working at Web for one year, something which really leaves me in disbelief. I cannot comprehend how quickly the year has gone. To celebrate this, I have to take a medical test. This is because my working (Z) visa is about to expire. Web will renew it for me, but before they can I have to pass the test. This is the law unfortunately. These are the people who have to take it:
  • Foreigners staying in China for an extended period of time (strangely enough, if you want to stay for 6 months you don't need it, but if it is for one year or more, then you must have it).
  • Chinese people leaving the country for holiday or immigration.
  • Chinese people coming back to the country after living abroad.
This morning at 9pm, Nancy (who works in the human resources department at Web) took me to Wenzhou's medical centre, a bleak looking building with awful Chinglish written on every single sign. The sound of a child crying echoed through the corridor when we entered -- not a great start. We enter a lounge/waiting room and pick up an application form, I try to forget that China's health care system is graded lower than Iraq's. I filled out the short form saying who I am and why I am here, I applied one of my passport photographs (see below) to the form -- but had to get another one taken for another mysterious purpose -- and Nancy paid a whopping 350 RMB (£35) for the tests to begin.

The passport photo I had to have taken for the test (only added because I don't have any another other relevant photographs, and I pledged to add at least one picture per blog post)

In all honesty I hate, absolutely hate this kind of thing. The second I step foot in a hospital I can feel my heart racing and my blood pressure boiling. I think I have inherited it from my mum who is exactly the same. I know the logical reasons for not being worried, but somehow, somewhere in my mind, I allow all logic to be bypassed and worry anyway.

First was the blood test. It was like approaching a box office and buying a ticket for a show, but instead of getting a ticket I got a jab. I had to slide my arm in the space under the perspex glass, a grumpy middle-aged woman tied my arm (just like how heroin users do it in films) and extracted the blood -- and quite a lot of it too.

One thing I had been taught to look out for in China was the syringe. For anybody who has to take the test here, make sure you witness the nurse unwrapping the needle in front of your eyes. If you don't see that then refuse. The reusing of needles does take place in some places, luckily not in Wenzhou.

Second was the urine test. This one slipped my mind, and I had totally forgotten to drink copious amounts of water after getting up in the morning. I didn't need to go at all, so we asked to delay that test until the end.

Third, X-ray. I was taken up a short flight of stairs into a corridor, each room I knew I had to visit. We entered the X-ray room, this time a grumpy man told me to take off my shirt. I pushed myself against a metal slab and the picture was taken. Next....

Fourth, Eye and Lymph node test. The first time I did this test in Hangzhou I forgot to bring my glasses which was difficult to explain when I couldn't speak a word of Chinese. I remembered them this time. An elderly grumpy woman felt my face and throat and opened a page of a colour-blind test book. Then I was signalled to sit on a chair across from elderly grumpy woman and read the large-to-small up, down, left, right directions.

Fifth, ECG. I lied down, had a lot of scary-looking electrodes placed all over my body, and saw a print out of some complicated-looking results emerge from a printer. At this point I asked myself what the point of all this was. I can hardly spread a heart condition to the population of China can I? If anybody knows I would love to know.

Sixth, heart and lung test (I think). A man who looked to be in his mid to late seventies stuck a stethoscope on my heart and moved it around my lungs. Not a word spoken. I wondered if he thought I had a heart condition from the rate it was probably going. Even extended time in the hospital doesn't calm me down, only when I leave will it go back to normal.

Seventh, (will it ever end?) Ultrasound. Not only for expecting mothers, but also for foreigners coming to China. It was getting boring now, but yet another grumpy woman asked me to pull up my shirt as she applied the cold gooey substance to my abdomen. On the monitor I could see some of my organs, although the picture quality was terrible. The nurse threw a couple of pieces of tissue on my stomach and I cleaned off the liquid.

Eighth, blood pressure and height. Grumpy young woman (do they all hate their job or are they attempting to come across as professional?) sat me down on a chair and did the usual blood pressure thing. First time it was too high, she asked me to go out, take a rest and come back. I told her it would be a waste of time, unless you can ship Paul Mckenna over to relax me, then nothing will change. She did it again, and somehow it was better, but still a little higher than normal.

Ninth, urine test part two. I still didn't feel the need to do anything, so I drank a lot of water and had a nice chat with Nancy for a while. Nature called in the end, and I went to what was a very unsanitary toilet. I am glad I didn't need to go before doing the tests otherwise I might have backed out. The cup was filled and taken to another box office counter.

Finally I received a gift from the clinic: a free breakfast. The bag contained a carton of milk and six small bread buns.

Are such detailed tests really needed just for a laowai to live and work in China? From the posters pinned up on the walls it is obvious that Aids is the biggest concern of all for the Chinese government, but what about the rest? Is it relevant to have an ultrasound test? What could possibly be found from an X-ray to cause my visa application to be rejected?

On a positive note, if I do have any problems that need attention, doing these tests on a yearly basis should find them, possibly saving my life. Having a full-body test for this reason should almost be compulsory for everybody -- but something tells me this isn't why the government has put this policy into action. Very confusing, but very glad it's over.


flyingfish said...

Sounds like quite the ordeal! I'm really sorry you had to go through it, but VERY glad you kept a sharp eye (no pun intended) out for reused needles. I hadn't thought that needle recycling still went on here, though I know it used to be a problem.

As you say, I don't suppose you could spread an idiopathic or congenital heart condition, but surely heart problems may be symptomatic of communicable disease? Same thing with whatever they were checking for on the ultrasound, I'd imagine. I don't know much about this stuff, but the first thing that leaps to mind is TB, since of course it not only infects the lungs but can also cause abcesses and things like that elsewhere in the body.

Remind me to tell you sometime about the time they used acupuncture to treat me for a dystonic reaction to the anti-nausea medicine compazine. That was a picnic.

Sunny Sweet Pea said...

This all sounds extremely traumatic Chris!

Anonymous said...

Take it easy!Everything will be fine,i promise!!!!!
Good luck!!!!!!!!

Homer said...

Interesting. I am just about to leave America to go to Shenyang and teach. I went to my local doc and got this done. Now I don't think the Gov. is going to accept it because it doesn't look official enough.. Stamp it embosse it. Geez. All to work in China, who knew. Even so I might have to retake it when I get there. Thanks for the heads up on the needles though.

mabelp said...

Hey Chris, I think having a full-body test regularly is essential now as some illnesses don't have any obvious symtoms. My family and I take the full-body test regularly. After getting the reports, our doctor will explain the current status of our health.
When will you get the result of your report? You did tell me your blood pressure was high in the past. Can you tell me if you used to have a high blood pressure or it would only be affected when you have a fear? Hope you everything is fine!

大眼睛熊 said...

I'm glad it's all over now babe, and next time it probaly will be me going through all these tests, hope it will go well for me too!! :)

Legendary Gaz said...

sound's like your not in China bud. Your in Silent Hill!

I love the ultra sound not only for pregnant women bit lol

Jonna Wibelius said...

Oh I hate these sort of tests too.. actually, the feelings you had when walking into the hospital are the exact same ones I have every time. The worst part is to give blood. I have fainted 3 times when doing it.

Chris said...

flyingfish, good point. I hadn't thought of TB, it must be that! I actually received my results yesterday, all clear of infectious diseases, phew. Wow, you'll have to tell me your story sometime.

Homer, unfortunately I think you might have to do the medical again. I know somebody who paid a fortune to have it done in their country, only to have it done again in China. I think they only trust their own results. Then again, if you can get your working visa in America before you come, then you should be OK.

Mabel, yes, I got my results back yesterday, everything was fine in the end which was a relief :)

Kimi, you're right, I think it will be your turn next. I hope I haven't put you off.

Gaz, hehe, yes it was a little like Silent Hill actually, especially with the screaming baby.

Jonna, good, I'm not alone with this then!! My sister usually passes out too, somehow I just about manage to stay conscious.

Anonymous said...

No, an ordeal is being told you have leukaemia because they screwed up the blood cell count, and nobody told you correctly.

When doctors and lab technicians in China present and record reports and statistics accurately and professionally, then lao wais will begin to trust them more. The NHS is far from perfect, but at least you know you are not being bullshitted about with the results!!

As always, the figures are just skewed to what they think will make you happy, and as always, their boss happy, call me a cynic, but that is the way China is, and I doubt it will ever change!

As far as I know the x ray is to rule out TB, and I think the rest is just filler. I knew a nigerian who had a form of viral hepatitis, and they still passed him!! And that's on the communicable diseases page in the orange coloured book!!!

Anyway, its over with, and I hate it too Chris...:(

Anonymous said...

It was getting boring now

And the NHS is any better, or less boring? I've waited three hours in a NHS hospital for treatment, when some money in China has it sorted've married a Chinese girl almost, expect more to come.

nothing against you, just this is China!!!