Friday, May 5, 2017

Hospital Culture

One of the hazards of living in the Philippines is food.  Asians seem to have an inborn immunity to many of the micro creatures that inhabit tropical plants and animals. These bio bugs often make their way into the mouths and stomachs of unsuspecting victims.  On Sunday, March 19, I was a victim.

We celebrated Sunday morning worship at a church member's house followed by a lavish lunch of meats, vegetables, fruits, and more meats.  I ate.  Early the next morning, something was telling me that all was not well in the inner chambers of my anatomy.  By mid-morning my stomach was bloating and pain was stabbing my left abdomen.  

Caution told me to go to the hospital.  But staying in a hospital here is not the same as in the U.S.  I resisted, telling myself that maybe the pain would subside.  It didn’t.  By early afternoon the pain was intense so I drove myself to the emergency room of a nearby hospital and checked in.  Their initial diagnosis was that I had some type of intestinal blockage.

One of the caveats of Filipino hospital culture is that a patient must never be alone.  A family member, neighbor, or friend must be present to help take care of the patient and facilitate the purchase of medicines and other needed supplies.  As an introvert who values privacy, I really didn’t want anyone to know I was in the hospital.  But after 2 hours of pain and going back and forth to the pharmacy for meds, I relented and called a nearby friend.

Unfortunately, the wife of my friend is our WMU director.  By the time I was wheeled to my room, waves of church visitors began converging around my hospital bed.  Another aspect of Filipino hospital culture is that a hospital is considered public space, therefore whatever takes place inside is OK for public viewing. 

So, when a male nurse entered the room to inject my backside with a suppository, I knew I was in trouble.  “Oh my,” I thought, “this is going to be interesting.”  As the nurse slipped on his rubber gloves no one made a move to leave.  Everyone was ready for the show!  Finally I said, “Excuse me, but I think this procedure requires a high degree of privacy.”

Some got up to leave, but others seemed confused as to why this required them to step outside.  I even had to tell the nurse to wait until everyone was out before he lifted my hospital gown.  But he did wait and I was successful in preventing everyone from seeing my better side.

After a couple of days the pain eventually lessened and my insides returned to normal.  Most likely something I ate the day before played havoc with my plumbing.  But the incident was added to my list of cultural adventures and gave me more stories to tell about life in the Philippines.

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