A few months ago, I sprained my ankle. It was bad. I was on bed-rest being treated by Doctor Whack Job with an M.D. in Mega Dumbassery (i.e. Morgan).
So there I was
a Korean floor table on the bed
5 pillows on top of that
my ankle resting happily in a tourniquet made out of rags
An frozen sausage balancing on top of that. I’m young and have no ice packs of course.
This kept going for almost three long, painful weeks since doing anything made my leg feel like it was being barbecued alive. I literally had to wheel myself around class on a rolly chair trying to teach and get students to take me seriously.
Obviously, I can’t go to the doctor. I’m a millennial! We have spend it on student loans, traveling and trying to enjoy our best life amidst our canyon of debt. I’d rather amputate my own foot with a rusty spork rather than go to a doctor.
Then, my smartass decided it was a brilliant idea to go party-it-up with a sprained ankle. And by party-it-up, I don’t mean a casual night sitting at a bar having deep, riveting, intellectual chats about saving bees and women’s rights.
Oh no. I’m MUCH smarter than that. I promise.
I went gallivanting across Gwangju dancing the night away – on stages, on speakers, on microphones, on the ceiling, in the rafters, you name it.
Don’t worry though. I was really safe about it. I wore a good ankle brace. Top notch quality. Basically just a tight sock really.
Until I woke up the next day and I realized I was gonna have to make a trip to the doctor because dancing had made my foot the size of a beach ball.
I told my Korean coworker because I don’t dare go alone. Going to the doctor is already a nightmare but going to the doctor in a foreign country where I speak less Korean than a Korean fetus?! I probably would have ended up getting brain surgery for a tumour I didn’t have because of the language barrier and lack of communication.
It’s just a sprain. The doctor will probably just give me a cast and some pain meds. It’s not like it’s gangrene or botulism and athletes food all rolled up into one big disease burrito. I’ll get out of here real quick.
We got to the hospital…I didn’t know the journey that awaited me in the very near, very alarming future. I swear I had the dumb-boy look on my face the entire time.
We sat with the doctor and he moved my foot around asking me if it hurts. Um… yeah it hurts! You’re moving my sprained ankle around like a Rubix cube! AND THIS DUDE said:
“You need acupuncture”
*blank blank blank dogs blank blank* OK.
Because at this point my brain still hadn’t comprehended that I was about to have A BAZILLION NEEDLES STICKING OUT OF MY FOOT.
They took me to a weirdly curtained off “room” that was surrounded by other “weirdly curtained off rooms”. It looked like a WW2 tent hospital with rows upon rows of cots lined up next to one another. I could hear all the other patients moans, groans, belches and all other bodily sound effects. Um excuse me? I don’t want to hear that like, ever.
Also, the smells!? The smell was of some mysterious ouija voodoo seance. I actually thought the witch from The Conjuring was about to pop out from some obscure corner. I felt like I was being inducted into some voodoo cult.
After a few minutes the “doctor” told me
“Before acupuncture, we have to do bloodletting and cupping.”
Huh!? Excuse me?! Have I been dropped into some alternate 15th-century universe?!
Then it hits me… something my co-teacher had mentioned briefly that I hadn’t really paid attention to…
“Oh okay I’ll take you tothehospitalit’sanherbalhospital after school”
Catch that? I didn’t!
I was at an HERBAL HOSPITAL. Excuse me, I didn’t sign up for some voodoo exorcist witch doctor cauldron ceremony!
Before I could do anything, the doctor came back and started stabbing HOLES in my foot with some weird, clicky needle thing! I had absolutely no idea what to do! It’s not like I could up and leave when there was blood pouring out of my body! The best though, is when the doctor took some cups and get this…
Oh and then came the actual procedure I was there for.
The Acupuncture (a.k.a. Needletopia)
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many needles at once, ever. It was not okay. At all. With no qualms or warning, Dr. Doolittle just stuck ’em right into my foot! There were also weird electric impulses going through the needles that made my foot twitch every two seconds! My foot not only looked demented, it also felt like it was being fried!
NEXT, they stuck some incense-candle-smoky things around the needles. They might as well have put some magical Dragon Tales gemstones around me to cure my sprain while they were at it.
After all was said and done, the doctor told me you have to come back three times a week for two weeks! Absolutely not! This experience was enough to last me a lifetime of befuddlement! I was NOT about to be inducted into some cult that gypsy smudges my sprain away with sage sticks and incense!
Safe to say, I never went back to that hospital. I just continued the RICE technique at home and lo’ and behold, my sprain went away. And for you underground dwellers, RICE is Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Jump on that bandwagon please. It’s the best thing I’ve discovered since spraining my ankle.
I don’t want to get too sentimental here but it just goes to show how different our Western medicine is from “alternative” medicine. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different. Of course I know they have regular hospitals that use modern medicine but this was an experience for the books.
This whole experience definitely tops my “culture shock list” here in Korea. Right behind the immense shoving in public and the creepy matchy-matchy couple culture.