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)

11 thoughts on “Tales From the Madhouse

  1. Lee Barter

    Geoff and Terry,

    I’m simply happy to hear of your recovery the rest of the stories and hospital experiences are simply surreal as you stated. On a lighter note I believe you have all the elements in what has happened and could get this “story” optioned for HBO especially the shaving/removal of your body hair, think of the The 40 year Old Virgin waxing scene..

    Speedy recovery!

    Lee Barter

  2. Mal and Karen

    Mal and I are so happy that your tenacity and the Chinese health care system worked. Will need to put your advice into practise. At least the Italian carb overload has been curtailed.

    Welcome back my friend. Be good.

  3. Dave

    Despite it all, it sounds like the medical system over there took pretty good care of you. Dr. Hu (who from appearances would seem to be some sort of child prodigy) needs a thank you card, that’s for sure. Perhaps we should try annoying noise levels and assorted mayhem in hospitals over here…just to stimulate proper motivation. Keep well.

  4. Vern Porter

    I am so glad you are on your way to a full recovery. I did not know they had such a top notch medical system. An interesting story of your journey. I still don’t know if I can beat you on the golf course, but am looking forward to our next trip. You take care of yourself young man. We are all thinking of you.

  5. Mike & Alanna

    So good to have you back to writing … it means you are on the road to recovery. Nice to have the pictures of your care givers. One question though – no picture of Ms Wong’s shoes?
    Stay well my friend. Mike & Alanna

  6. Judith

    I’ll never complain about our Health care again!… maybe all that noise, etch Speeds recovery…. the body/brain knows it needs to GET OUT of there and escape to the serenity of home…..??

    I’m so relieved to see this POST as it means you truly are on the road to recover, LOVE, Judith.

  7. Lois

    When is your book being published….AND when is the contract in China over? BUT…kudos to the skill of the surgeons and your tenacity to make it through the night..so to speak. It is best to laugh at life sometimes….too much around to make us cry..so welcome back to life.

  8. Bruce

    It’s clear you haven’t lost your sense of humour! We are pleased your recovery is going well. I wonder if Dr. hu knows Doogie Houser M.D.?

  9. Ray Kinasewich

    Geoff; the heart is a wonderful orgen, take care of it and yourself. I know what you have gone through and compliment you for your great attetude and spirit. Get well and take care of yourself.
    Ray K

  10. mary thomas

    Hi ho…So so glad to hear you are feeling better and thank you for keeping us posted on your improvement progress report !!! Things can only look better from here on in. Yes, you are lucky to have Terry and you better start building a bigger and taller pedestal now or start planning for even a better birthday surprise next year . Take care to both of you…hugs…Mary and Al


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