Thursday, October 06, 2016

Joe Mac makes the news whether he wants to or not

I'm currently reading, with shock, Joe McPherson's story about having a seizure, falling down (stairs??), and getting compression fractures along his spine. Joe's current experience with Korean health care merely reaffirms my leeriness of it:

This is the part I’m a little miffed about. This being a holiday weekend, I didn’t see a doctor, a specialist, or get any treatment for my back for three days. I guess the doctors were all off on holiday. You know, maybe the hospital could have sent me somewhere else where the doctors weren’t absent?

After the MRI on Tuesday, where they painfully transferred me on the table and back by lifting my sheets and slamming me down, the doctors found that I had compression fractures in my spine. My 14th and 15th vertebrae were cracked. I’ll need to wear a brace for three months, but thankfully, I won’t need surgery, and this will heal. I likely am a bit shorter now, though.

So before, where they didn’t care about the pain my back was in and how serious my condition was, they are now making me stay in bed. They don’t even want me to get up to use the bathroom. I’m saying, no, I’m going to get up to use the bathroom. The doctor chastised me for sitting up in bed. I’m like, “Well, where were you three days ago? I hope you were enjoying your time off.”

Am I bitter?

I'm happy to live in Korea, but I dread what's going to happen the day I get seriously injured. Another acquaintance of mine, Jeff Harrison, wrote long ago about what it was like to be treated at a Korean hospital following a major motorcycle crash. The principal insight I gained from reading about Jeff's harrowing experience was that Korean hospitals simply don't have the facilities to treat men who are over six feet tall and 200-some pounds. If you're a lumbering bulk like me, and you get injured, you're pretty much fucked. I know some rich expats in Korea who manage to find top-flight care, and who seem generally happy with Korean health care, but in Korea—just like in America—you get what you pay for.*

Meantime, I can only wish Joe a speedy recovery. I'm sorry to hear this happened to him. He's had a very tough year. 2016 is sucking hard for quite a few people I know.

*Health care in South Korea is generally cheap, but interestingly, most Korean hospitals are privately owned, with no direct government subsidy. How, then, are costs for the patient kept so low? One answer might be that Korea does have universal health insurance. "About 54% of health expenditure is met by the National Health Insurance Service." I don't understand the economics of it all, but I assume that, with NHIS bearing such a heavy cost burden, this may translate indirectly into lower prices at pharmacies and such. (Econ guru John Lee would doubtless know more.) Nationalized insurance isn't a viable economic model, though; according to the above-linked article, NHIS is slowly sinking under ever-increasing debt as expenditures outrace income. The raising of premiums hasn't had much effect.


Charles said...

That sounds pretty horrible.

Never thought about differing health care experiences coming from different body sizes.

Kevin Kim said...

Probably because you're of normal size from a Korean perspective. Everything here fits for you. For me, living in Korea means being repeatedly reminded how Lilliputian this country is. Everything is smaller—and not just smaller, but also thinner and flimsier. Kitchen equipment is a good example: pots are light and weak; utensils like potato mashers and ladles and whisks are too tiny or too bendable. Very little feels solid and trustworthy to me. That's one thing I miss about the States.

To be fair, Joe's complaints made no mention of body size; in his case, the scandal is that he spent three days with a broken back and no doctors to provide immediate care. In Jeff Harrison's case, however, there was trouble moving him, trouble finding a proper gurney for him, and then there was the screwed-in bone brace that snapped while inside his leg, essentially re-breaking the femur, a broken end of which poked upward into his quadriceps, causing the muscle to bulge outward. Scary, and too easy to visualize, the way Jeff described it. Motivates me to stay out of Korean hospitals. (Young Chun's motorcycle accident and subsequent hospital stay weren't reassuring, either.)

I could rant on, but I won't.