Daily Archives: October 24, 2014

Tales From the Madhouse

(Ed. note: FYI Since writing the last blog, Terry and I had some interesting news. George was at the first hospital we went to on Saturday last night for another reason and talked to one of the nurses who had been there. From what she told George it was far worse than we have thought even up to now. Apparently the blockage was in an artery which is at the back of the heart and much more difficult to get at. She agreed that we had made the right decision not to go to Shanghai since I wouldn’t have made it. Every time I think that this couldn’t be any more surreal, it gets more surreal.)

Well, the serious stuff has come and gone (Ed. note: With the minor exception of that 40% blockage still in the other artery) so lets have some merriment and joy – at the expense of the people who I have nothing but gratitude for. None of the following are in any particular order – just random memories and observations from the last 4 days.

The Blockage

According to Dr. Hu (see below), this is my heart. When I suggested that it was really a plastic model of a heart, she looked at me as if I had three heads. I do hope it IS a model, otherwise somewhere in my body there is a large piece of duct tape floating around inside me.

According to Dr. Hu (see below), this is my heart. When I suggested that it was really a plastic model of a heart, she looked at me as if I had three heads. I do hope it IS a model, otherwise there is a large piece of duct tape holding part of me together. My blockage was in the blue circle which is at the back of the heart.


Now I know China is a busy and populated place but the scene at the ultrasound lab was something. First I am taken down in a wheelchair for my 8:00 appointment and roll into a room of 20-25 Jiaxingers waiting to get theirs done. I am pushed past all of them and stop at room 2 (of 10 which do them) where there are 6 people waiting. As the door opens I can see the patient – an older woman in her underwear, just coming out of the machine. Doesn’t bother the man in front of me – he marches in before she is even off the machine. Then it is my turn, but I waited until he was off.

Christmas Party and The Twins

I know that Terry has written about the noise in the hospital but the other night around 9pm (Ed. note: There are no official visiting hours – just drop in and bring your friends) there was a “Christmas party” going on – think of 45 – 50 of your closest friends and the noise they made in that one bedroom apartment you started out in. Now add in your favourite Uncle Joe who thinks it is fun to chase one of the squealing three year old twins around and around while the other twin screams because someone took her only toy. That was the decibel level. (Ed. note: And when it finally quietens down inside, you can always count on 2-3 car alarms an hour going off in the parking lot below our window.)

Ms Wong’s Night from Hell

Monday evening we are all sitting around looking at each other, waiting for the night shift teacher to come in when I hear the “click, click, click, click” of heels coming down the hall and in strolls this very attractive woman in heels and skintight jeans – Ms Wong. Apparently, she is 38ish, but she doesn’t look it. Terry’s thought was “You’re sleeping in THOSE?” Turns out she wasn’t. Ms Wong spent most of the night sitting on a 12” x 18” wooden stool out in the hall reading her phone. Why did she leave? Perhaps it was the snoring patients and family members (and servants), perhaps it was the hawking in the bathroom, perhaps it was the 90º heat in the room, perhaps it was loud and “fragrant” room-piercing belching from one of the Chinese patients – or perhaps it was the same patient getting up in his briefs to wander off to the bathroom. Who knows. I do know that she came into the room around 3:30 and slept all the way until 5 when Nurse Efficiency came barreling in to do Blood Pressure. I also know that she looked pretty much the same at 5:15am as she had at 7pm, so perhaps she doesn’t deserve too much sympathy.

Up all night and still looks good.

Ms Wong – Up all night and still looks good.


You may be wondering at the cost of all of this. Well, in their effort to get you well in a hurry the hospital provides you with a daily bill, with amount to date owing and what you spent the day before. There’s motivation to get the hell out of here. Our insurance company owes (as of Wednesday night) 34802RMB o4 $6389.64 with two days of drugs to go. (Ed. note: Final total is 37375rmb or $6855.00)

Hygenic has a Different Meaning

Today one of my roommates left. They had thought he had a blockage similar to mine, but after a week of being in here they discovered that no, it was a spot on his lung so he was sent off to a hospital in Hangzhou. Awhile after he left the cleaning crew came in. The first woman had a little whisk broom that she used to move around the dust that had accumulated between the 3 inch mattress and the bed frame. 10 minutes later it was time to strip the bed and put on a clean sheet, coverlet and pillow. Three hours later it was time for my nurses’ aide/servant to roll down the cover and have a nap in his street clothes. But hey, he took his shoes off. (Ed. note: Since no patient came in last night, that became Mr. Wang’s bed for the night – why not.)

Mr. Wang - He puts on the long coat so that he looks like a doctor. Very loyal to his charge though.

Mr. Wang – He puts on the long coat so that he looks like a doctor. Very loyal to his charge though.

Today was also a big day for my bed. The director of the cardio unit me came in and asked how I slept. I replied not well since the bed had a bad squeak and everytime I moved it made a lot of noise waking up the patients (Ed. note: But not the care givers strangely enough). Ten minutes after that I had a new, quieter, larger bed – complete with clean bedding – my first since arriving on Saturday at 11. (Remember, it is now Wednesday).

Dr. Hu (Who)

My cardiologist is a delightful woman. She struggles with English, but makes a diligent effort to be sure I understand what she is talking about. It is difficult however. Today for example I asked when I should start exercising and she said not for 2 months and then very very gradually. My next question was if I could get out of bed today and sit in a chair for a few minutes. She said that would be fine and then added that when I was standing by the bed I could do some exercise. ?? It is also a little difficult to get an answer as to when I can go home. On Sunday it was 7 – 10 days, Monday maybe 5 days, Tuesday it was next Monday and today – well today, if everything works out with the monitor I have to wear tomorrow for 24 hours, I will be home on Friday. It is now time for Terry to shave 30% of the hair on my chest off (Ed. note: This equates to 100% of a normal white male and 3000% of a Chinese male) in anticipation of Dr. Hu’s machine being attached to my body in the morning. Finally, I present Dr. Hu – really.

Dr. Hu runs 90% of the places she goes - but then maybe that is why she "looks" so young

Dr. Hu runs 90% of the places she goes – but then maybe that is why she “looks” so young

The Shoe Blog

So here are the shoes. Choose one of the two reasons why these make the cut:

1. Like I was out and about with a multitude of opportunities  or

2. Like there could be anything other than nurses’ shoes.

Director Xu's Shoes (Pronounced as Director Shoes' Shoes)

Director Xu’s Shoes
(Pronounced as Director Shoes’ Shoes)

I Return Home – From the Hospital and the Dead

(Ed. note: Here’s my problem. When one has a near death experience, which, according to Terry and the doctor I did, do I become irreverent and glib about it or do I take a long look about how I write these blogs.)

As you know by now, Saturday October 18 wasn’t exactly how I had planned it. Let me tell you about the morning from my perspective.

I didn’t sleep all night – for about the third night in a row, In the last few months I have become quite proficient at perspiring all night and Friday was no different. I got up about 6:30 and showered, thinking that might stop some of it. No dice. By about 7:15 I was experiencing huge pain in my chest and I took a Zantac, thinking it would stop the indigestion. After lying down with Terry on the bed and realizing that the pain had spread down both arms I began to think that this might be a little more serious. Terry has accurately described the events over the next little while from her perspective so I will just give you my “highlights.”

When they got me into the ambulance and we left our apartment I immediately felt an incredibly cold and strong wind and wondered why the EMTs had left the back doors open. Apparently, this was not the case. The doors were closed and the ambulance was warm. Go figure.

When we got to the first hospital I could hear the frustration in Terry’s voice as she wanted something to be done, but I didn’t have the strength to say anything myself. I was aware of what was happening but didn’t really feel part of it – but no, I didn’t float away and look down on the assembled group. The entire time we were there, my sense was that there was a 3 inch long, 8 sided piece of onyx in the middle of my chest and this was what was preventing me from speaking or breathing. Finally, aware of a discussion about either Shanghai or #1 Hospital in Jiaxing was best. I worked up all the energy I could to scream (I think) that I wanted to go to #1 Hospital. This wasn’t because I had any kind of sense of doom, although Terry is probably right – I wouldn’t have made it. I just wanted the damn pain stopped.

So off we went. Rick asked Terry is I saw a white light. Honestly I don’t know. The entire time in the two ambulances and the first hospital, I know that here was a panel of white light about four feet by four feet above my head – but those could just have been panel lights. According to Terry, it was during the second ride when I flatlined, but I have no recollection of it. I remember two things –a) Terry constantly telling me to keep my eyes open and b) watching the paramedic and Terry change places. It was as if I was watching on TV with the camera filming from behind my head and the top of my head just in the bottom of the picture. I watched him compressing my chest and then all of a sudden we were at the hospital.

The rest is kind of a blur with odd flashes of memory – the faces of the people from Nanhu, Mr. Zhou and Mr. Chen running through the hall pulling the gurney I was on, being manhandled onto the operating table, frequently being ill while the surgeon was inserting the stent and he and the nurse imploring me to stay still; the pain continuing despite having morphine injected and finally the surgeon saying “OK – you don’t have any more pain” which I guess was when the stent took effect and the blood started to flow again – and after about 10 seconds he was right the pain was all gone. Then it was up to the room at 11:00 – just 4 hours after it all started.

So what great life lessons have I learned? These sound trite when I reread them, but they are spoken from my heart. Don’t each so much fat, get more exercise and appreciate every day I have with Terry because if it hadn’t been for her I would have closed my eyes.