Thursday, June 6, 2013

37 Celsius = The New Normal

Rocketman soon developed a fever and I had a quick lesson in Celcius. Fahranheit was out the door and all the ear thermometers registered in Celsius. My Korean friends, Hannah and Jennifer, came down from Seoul to be with us every night after work. It is the Korean way to have family with you when you are in the hospital and they truly are family along with Hellena who had to fly back to Qatar after spending a week with us.

When it came time to leave the night after surgery, I felt Rocketman's head and it was burning up. I was surprised that a nurse had not come in to take his temperature the entire afternoon and as we were getting ready to go, I told Hannah that I wanted his temperature taken before I left.  She went to talk to the nurses and almost immediately a nurse ran (and I mean ran) into the room with an ear thermometer. It came in at 38C which is 100.4F. (Thank goodness for my IPhone for quick conversions).

They were pretty shocked at that and we were told that the doctor had to be told and he would prescribe medication. I was surprised that the doctor didn't have orders to cover something like this which can happen after surgery. I did leave for the hotel for a fitful night sleep and returned the next morning to discover that Rocketman's fever had gone over 39C (102F) overnight and he was asked to hug the frozen hot water bottle that you see above.

Rocketman was miserable. The doctor had also prescribed a stool softener which he had been taking for a day before we were told and it had caused horrible diarrhea which is no fun with a catheter. Rocketman was in and out of the bathroom too many times to count and sleeping on a too short, much too hard mattress was not helping.

We occasionally had a nurse that spoke some English and when we found out that one of the pills Rocketman was taking was a stool softener, I immediately told her that he will not take that pill and she went to okay it with the doctor. That pill didn't reappear but it still took another day for the diarrhea to stop.

Rocketman and I would take walks down the hospital hallways which was a pasttime for many Koreans especially the ajosshis (older Korean men). Rocketman would push his IV and catheter stand with one hand and hold onto me with the other. He just wanted to get out of the hospital. I still felt he was too weak. But we made a pact that if his temperature got down to 100.5F that we would check out and I also required one day of him out of the hospital resting before we attempt to return to the States.

The only breakdown I had was while Rocketman was lying in the Emergency Room. We were both worried about what the total bill would be and if we had the funds on our VISA to cover it. We weren't sure if our credit limit would be enough for everything. I could not get reception in the hospital so I went outside to call the card company to see if we could get our limit raised. I went through three levels only to be told that Rocketman would have to say "yes" in order to get our limit raised.

I explained our situation, being in South Korea, having to prepay for all services, needing surgery... I finally lost it as I spoke to some manager. With tears rolling down my face and off my chin, I kept saying, "Don't you understand? I'm not in the United States where I would have other means. I have to pay for services upfront here in Korea. It was all to no avail and I had the manager on the phone while I returned to Rocketman's bedside. We finally were able to get Rocketman to say "Yes" and they raised our limit a measly amount.

It was during this first full day in the hospital when I ran into a lovely woman named Rhoda. She was American and had been on a tour of Korea when a family member became ill. They were on the same floor as us. Can you believe it? We shared our stories and it was wonderful. She really saw me at some of my darkest days and gave me a shoulder to cry on. Do you know that they even offered to help with our medical bill if we needed that? We checked in with each other every day.

They had given us a bag full of hospital things like a towel, tooth brush, toothpaste, soap, razor and a cup. We soon realized that the nurses were there to take vitals and administer medication. I took care of washing Rocketman on a daily basis. I finally realized I needed to buy some towels to help with the process. It reminded me of the work I used to do as a nurse's assistant at a nursing home back when I was 15. It felt so great to see how much better Rocketman felt once he got clean. But the fever persisted.

I was also in charge of changing Rocketman's hospital clothing and bedding. There was a cart at the nurse's station which contained clothing and bedding. I finally figured out that it was self serve. It was so different than the States but I quickly adapted. They did have a cleaning lady that came in everyday to wash the floors.

Rocketman's surgery was Friday, May 3rd and on Saturday I ran into Seoul for a few hours to see my bojagi teacher and to do some quick and I mean very quick shopping. I was back at the hospital by two. Stay tuned to hear all about my shopping in Seoul.

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