Sunday, April 18, 2010

Japanese Health Care

I was going to write about the trains; in fact, I've been writing blog posts about the Tokyo trains in my head for a week, then getting home and being too tired to actually type them out. But instead, you're not getting the trains. Tonight, you get Jenny's visit to the hospital.

Last night, Saturday night, I went to see a movie in Ikebukuro, which is sorta south of me in Tokyo. It had lots of nice stores, and so after the movie I walked around, browsing. I was in a department store with books in the basement, and I had just happily purchased four volumes of manga that I wanted. I said thank you to the clerks in Japanese. I turned around...

... I walked directly into a paper sign. To be exact, it was two paper signposts that had a long ribbon of paper strung between them (imagine a finish line at a race track), and the clerks had placed it directly behind me while I stood at the register Obviously, it was there because I was the last customer being checked out at that register. Also, just as obviously, I completely didn't see the paper sign-thing.

I got entangled in the sign and the store staff had to free me, which was embarrassing enough. But by the time I had walked to the train platform to go home, I knew something was starting to be wrong with my right ankle. My ankles and I, as frequent readers will no doubt remember, have a fabled bad relationship with each other. They're weak and I'm clumsy, which is a terrible, terrible complication.

Yes, dear readers, it was another sprain.

I got myself ice and some food provisions. I took a cab home from the train station, even though that costs money and involves driving in circles for awhile as we try to find my house. I nursed and coddled the damn ankle for hours last night.

I woke up this morning and it was three times the size of my other foot. And it hurt terribly, so terribly. So I got on the US Embassy website for Tokyo, and went about figuring out which of the international hospitals I could get to on a Sunday. This is Japan--things close sometimes on Sundays, especially hospitals. And I desperately wanted an international hospital because my medical history is complicated and I needed to be able to get some talking in English done, easily.

I ended up setting on St. Luke's International Hospital, which is only 11 miles away from where I live, but a pain in the neck to get to. If I had been able to walk onto the trains easily, I would have happily done the 40 minute train ride + 15 minute walk to station. Instead, since I was still coddling the damn ankle, I paid an obscene amount of money to take a cab for a half hour. But the cab was honestly worth it, since I wasn't dying in utter pain by the time I got to the hospital.

The hospital itself was lovely--I've been in and out of hospitals visiting relatives for years, so I know my hospitals--clean, well-staffed, and very friendly. I got x-rays, medication, and a decently long consultation for a little under US $300. And that's all with absolutely no health insurance that the hospital would take in Japan. (I submit a claim later, which may or may not be reimbursed partially by my US insurance.) Comparatively, I've had the same services in the US, paid $100 as my co-pay, and then gotten an itemized bill of what the insurance company paid that often totaled over $2000.

In Japan, it was a relatively quick ER visit. Between my little bits of Japanese and the doctor's bits of English, we were able to understand each other well. We each had a dictionary and referred to it, and I was left satisfied that he knew what was wrong with me and how to help me. Communication is key, after all. What was even nicer and more unexpected was that the registration staff and the pharmacist were both able to do the same with me in English and Japanese combined. It's somewhat far away from where I'm living, but it was a nice hospital to visit. I do agree with the doctor that it appears to be a minor sprain, but if it gets worse, then yes, I do need to see an orthopedist. But that won't be an emergency, so I'll go somewhere closer, and not on a Sunday. =)

Questions or comments are welcome. I would have liked to have gotten a free brace, but I bought tape to help me walk the rest of the way home with the trains, and I'll get an ace bandage tomorrow. Plus, the painkillers worked wonders and the swelling thing they gave me is decidedly lovely. Overall, I'm satisfied.

I'm not entirely looking forward to having to hobble back and forth to school this week, but it can be done, slowly. And I reserve the right to not go tomorrow, if my leg is still swollen badly.


Adam Heine said...

Sorry to hear about your sprain, but glad to hear Japanese health care is so affordable. It's the same here in Thailand; your trip probably would've cost about $100 USD or less (no insurance).

I'm always afraid when we go back and visit because we don't have insurance. If something happened, we'd be fairly screwed. Why does something like a minor sprain cost $2000 in the US? Do they fuel the x-ray machine with diamonds or something?

Deb Salisbury said...

Hugs on the sprain. I hope the swelling goes down soon.

But at least you have something to read while you're recuperating. :-)

Nadine said...

I'm so sorry :( I hope your ankle feels better soon!

ryan field said...

Sorry you had to see the inside of a hospital so soon. But, awful as it might have been, I'm sure it was interesting to see how things work in healthcare over there.

Hope you're back on your feet soon.

Blee Bonn said...

I hope your sprain heals quickly. I had a great experience in Japan also with the local doctors. I had an ultra sound to see what sex my baby was and to make sure all was well, I think it only cost me about $75. I couldn't believe it!

The doctor spoke well enough English but when I went on to say how great it was that they can tell if the baby is a boy or a girl, and I couldn't see how they did it, (I was complimenting him), the doctor pulled out a medical book and showed me a picture of a woman's (blank) and tried to explain it to me. Needless to say, I tried to get through that conversation as quickly as possible. :)

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