Ear, Nose, and Throat

I’ve been battling with some sinus congestion for the past week. The timing had me wondering if it was a sickness or some kind of allergies. I’ve never really had allergies, but they are a bug thing over here in Japan, especially in the spring time. I have also heard that they can come on suddenly even as an adult.

The past two days I’ve woken up with a nose completely blocked off. Usually steaming over some hot water would open it up, and I’d cough out a few things that were stuck. All sorts of unpleasantness. Just this morning the Mrs. and I were discussing whether or not it was tie to go visit a doctor.

Japan’s health care has some great things about it. The best is probably the insurance. There is a national insurance and, at least for immigrants like me, paying into it is a mandatory part of extending my visa. I’m pretty sure at least. I know I have always had health insurance here and due to that visiting a doctor and getting medicine has always been relatively inexpensive.

What I don’t particularly like about visiting the doctors here feels more like something bureaucratic or perhaps cultural. Pretty much every doctor I have even been to works on a first come first serve system. You show up and wait. Making an appointment is often not a possibility. Generally speaking I feel that waiting around a bunch of sick people is likely going to make me feel overall worse (by catching whatever they have) than any relief the doctor will provide. I’m not saying I’m right, but that is how I feel.

So, I was on the fence about going to the doctor. And then, during the fourth period class, in the middle of teaching, I heard a “schlupp” and then my right ear kind of stopped working. It felt all clogged up. Throughout the rest of the work day the pressure increased and everyone and then, like when I yawned, there would be pain.

Pain inside my ear is a deciding factor. As work ended, I made my way to the doctor.

And it was an hour wait. Which isn’t terrible, but it does feel long.

Then I got to talk with the doc. We chatted for a little bit (in Japanese.) he checked me out. Said what I had. Asked me if I understood what it was. I said not specifically, but I had heard of it. He asked me where I was from. I said America. He switched to English to explain what it was (sinusitis with ear infection). From there on out we went back and forth between English and Japanese. Turns out he studied for a bit in Atlanta (I’m from Georgia.) Overall, it was a very positive experience.

Some people reading this might wonder “If the doctor spoke English, why didn’t he start off with English?” I’m not entirely sure. But, I am really glad he didn’t. I really like being treated like anyone else. I’ve worked hard to get my Japanese to the point were I can function, maybe thrive, in almost any setting. Even doctors. Obviously, there are limitations (I didn’t know sinusitis). But I much prefer when interactions with new Japanese people I meet start in Japanese. I would rather have people make the assumption that I might speak the common language than make the assumption that I can’t. Not everyone feels this way, but that is my stance.

Just to further give respect to the doctor, before switching to English he asked where I was from. Just another thing that, to me, shows I was seen as an individual rather than as someone from the nebulous Gaikoku (foreign country).

So yeah, I went to the doctor. I’ve got sinusitis. My day is clogged and hurts. I’ve got a week’s worth of a wide variety of of pills, nasal spray and ear drops. Those and the doctor visit cost me less than $50. But, sometimes when I cough I I get dizzy and the world shakes. I also learned that my septum is bowed on both sides narrowing my nasal passage. Which does explain why I often feel like my nose gets stuffy easily.

The more you know.


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