Saturday, October 24, 2015

Chinese Style Check-Up

When I was pregnant with Juliana, we made several overnight treks to Beijing for prenatal appointments. It was our first baby, and I thought they actually did important things at prenatal appointments.

The next time I was pregnant, trips to Beijing seemed costly and highly inconvenient, so I decided the local hospital would be fine. But I did go to the newer hospital where you have to pay almost $2 to see the doctor.

But were always tons of people at the newer hospital, plus the 20 minute taxi ride is kind of inconvenient, so this time I decided the older, closer hospital with the 80 cent doctors was sufficient. Third baby, right?

Wherever they happen, I don’t look forward to doctor visits in China. Today I was scheduled for a 25 week check-up and 4D ultrasound. Apparently 4D ultrasounds are standard procedure to check the baby’s facial features. It seemed like it could be interesting, so Kevin decided to come along as well.

We arrived at the hospital for an 8am ultrasound appointment. That’s right - I guess 4D ultrasounds are fancy-smancy enough to warrant appointments. First we had to go pay the money (you always pay up-front), but fortunately it was early enough the lines were still short. Often there are 20 people in line - and you may have to go through the line several times to pay for each separate procedures.

We didn’t have to wait too long for our appointment either. The ultrasound tech scowled when Kevin entered the room.
“You have to wait in the hallway.”
“Why?” We asked. “In America the husband is allowed in.”
“This is China,” she said.
Kevin retreated to just inside the door where he could still see, and the tech apparently decided it wasn’t worth fighting over.

You would think a 4D ultrasound would be interesting, but you know what’s not interesting? Lying on a table for 40 minutes when you can’t see anything and the doctors don’t tell you anything. The monitor is positioned so the tech can see it, the only one who needs to be in the know. I might have fallen asleep except it was very uncomfortable to lie on my back for that long.

At one point we tried asking what they were looking for in this ultrasound. The tech gave me a Look and didn’t talk to me the rest of the time. Oh right, it is not the patient’s job to ask questions or receive information. Every so often the tech gave me an unpleasant look and pushed down a little harder on the ultrasound wand. I contemplated whether this was a “something is wrong” look or just her permanent facial expression.

For about half of the ultrasound, we could hear a woman crying just outside the door. I wasn’t sure if she was in pain or distressed, but the ongoing, animal-type moaning was rather disconcerting.

After a long while, she called in the head tech to take a look. Apparently she couldn’t find something, although I’m not exactly clear what. The head tech also ignored me completely, but she did look moderately pleasant while doing so.

When finished, they sent us out into the hallway to await the report. Since they didn’t say anything, apparently everything was okay? Kevin used my phone to quietly video part of the ultrasound, so at least I could see it in retrospect. Most of it wasn’t 4D anyway, since they were also doing the anatomy scan.

They handed us a report with a couple of cute pictures of the face. My student friend, who came with us to help with translation, tried to make sense of the report.
“This is the size of the head...the length of the arm. The heart looks okay. They could see the kidneys but not the liver. I think everything else is okay, but I can’t understand some of these things.”

Kevin headed off to teach while my friend and I went to get the glucose blood test done. More waiting in line to pay (16 cents), then upstairs to the laboratory. They said we first needed to go back to the OB doctor.

Back to a different section of the hospital where the OB nurse said we needed to pay the fee again. I was feeling a little woozy since I was fasting for the test, so my friend kindly told me to sit and wait while she went downstairs again to pay the money.

Like most doctors, there were no appointments, strictly a first-come-first-serve basis, so we were pretty far down the list. The waiting area was filled with women in various stages of pregnancy and a few of their mothers. Men aren’t allowed even in the waiting room of this area.

Eventually we were called back to the doctor. We crowded around the desk with 10 other people. Privacy...not such a big concern. The doctor asked the women to weigh themselves and then call out their weight for her to record. I can imagine that going over well in America! Fortunately I have been in enough embarrassing hospital situations that it takes a lot more than announcing my weight to a group of strangers to faze me. (Besides, one the other ladies weighed more than me.) While the doctor measured waists, listened to heartbeats, and prescribed medicines, I examined the cheery posters showing pictures of babies with various birth defects.

When my turn came, she carefully examined my ultrasound pictures. “It looks like a foreign baby! Look, it has big eyes and a big nose!” After she asked several simple questions I could easily answer, she told my friend, “I don’t know why she brought you! She can understand everything fine!” Yes, but there is a little difference between understanding “How many weeks are you?” and other medical details!

After a 3 minute check-up, we said we needed to do the glucose test. Well, apparently at that point it was too late to do it (that’s my guess, who really knows) and she said we would have to come back another day for the multi-hour extravaganza. I’m so excited. So much for fasting.

When we finally left at 11am, I was glad for my granola bar. Also, I was happy I will not be having my baby in Yinchuan.

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