投稿者 HakuAi | 1月 8, 2009

Bad doctors in Okinawa

I never liked hospitals to begin with.  In fact, if someone asked me “What’s the scariest thing in the world?” I would answer “hospitals” without hesitation (followed by “dogs” and “spiders”).  My mother says it’s because when I was a few days old, this nurse tried to take a blood sample from my heel but couldn’t get any blood, so she just kept jabbing at it while I cried away.  I guess I never really trusted doctors after that.  

Still, in the 23 years that have since passed, I’ve managed to find doctors I can trust.  Although I always enter a new hospital with great apprehension, some doctors do their part to make me feel at ease, and at times I even enjoy going to see them.  Like my dentist, Dr. Kusakabe, or my fellow gaijin friend Bron’s doctor and confidant, Dr. Sakai, in Yokohama.  Come to think of it, I had only a couple experiences with bad doctors, jerks who made me want to run from the room, in the three years I lived on the mainland.  Yet over the course of just six months here in Okinawa, I’ve had the misfortune of clashing with a couple of the worst doctors I’ve ever met.  

I have theories as to why there are so many bad doctors in Okinawa, one of them being the lingering anti-American sentiment from the previous century.  Letting it slip to Dr. T******* of M******** Dental in Awase that I was American certainly was stupid on my part.  What if his sister, mother, or wife was one of those raped by those sick Marines?  Whether I personally had anything to do with those cases or not doesn’t make a difference to a lot of people here, and some of them are out for revenge.  Don’t believe me?  Think I’m paranoid?  Read this story: 
It’s not impossible others might share this guy’s sentiment, nor that some might be crazy enough to act on it.  And for the record, I don’t even KNOW any Marines, so I have about as much to do with the rapes and plane crashes as the murdered kid in the story.  

The good and bad thing about M******** Dental is that they’re a very large dental office with many different doctors as well as some counselors (who ever heard of seeing a counselor before going to sit in the dentist’s chair?  Is that for people like me who are squeamish about hospitals?  If so, we appreciate it).  This is good because if you get a crappy dentist, you can always ask for another one the next time.  It’s bad because none of the dentists has his name in big letters on the front of the building, and therefore if a dentist does something horrendous, the worst that can happen is he gets fired and/or sued.  He can’t lose his practice, because it wasn’t his to begin with.  When you have less to lose, you can afford to take bigger risks, right?  

The first mistake I made was going alone.  Usually when I go to a hospital for any reason, I make a friend, Japanese or foreign, go with me to hold my hand if the need should arise.  But I had warmed up to dentists in particular thanks to my very positive experiences with Yokohama dentists, so I figured I could handle this one.  Stupid… 

I saw a counselor first and she was nice enough.  She asked me why I’d come in so that she could write things about me on a piece of paper.  I told her that it was my wisdom tooth on the upper right that hadn’t come in yet but had been feeling tingly a couple of weeks back.  Not painful, but tingly… and it wasn’t feeling that way anymore, but my boyfriend had insisted I go and get it checked out before it got worse.  After she had written enough, I went in to see Dr. T*******.  He took one look at my teeth and proclaimed that my gums were swollen everywhere, and furthermore that I had a cavity on one of my front teeth.  (It’s a yellowish stain I’ve had since my first year in Tokyo, and Dr. Kusakabe had assured me that it was not a cavity and was never going to become one.)  I replied patiently that I had come in for my wisdom tooth, not for my gums, and would he please look at that instead.  So he took me into the X-ray room and took an X-ray of… the left side of my jaw?  When I asked if he hadn’t heard me when I’d said the problem was on the right side, he tried to tell me that he’d looked inside my mouth and there was no wisdom tooth on the right side.  Well, duh, I thought, it hasn’t come in yet, omitting the duh when I told him.  I insisted he take an X-ray on the other side, which he finally consented to do, and when the pictures came back he claimed there was no problem with the tooth in question: it was not infected and it would not come down any further, so there was no need to get it removed.  He did, however, give me some medicine; the yellow liquid kind administered in what looks like a syringe.  

I thought, after the fact, why did he give me the medicine if he had said my tooth wasn’t swollen or infected?  Maybe I didn’t bother to ask because I already felt like a loud, pushy American having had to ask so many questions, which wasn’t normal in Japanese culture.  I had even verbalized this excuse to Dr. T******* after insisting on knowing the reason why he could only clean half my teeth that day and the other half the next time.  He answered that it was because I would be uncomfortable holding my mouth open for so long at one time (I’m fairly gullible and accepted this reason until I went home and Rody told me it was full of crap), then remarked lightly that my Japanese was very good.  If it had taken him that long to realize I was American and therefore give the universal Japanese reaction to any foreigner speaking Japanese, I probably could have gotten out of there without being found out at all if I hadn’t opened my big mouth.  But it isn’t hard to imagine that my affiliation with the U.S. military by way of being from the same country was what drove him to give me medicine for a problem he had insisted I didn’t have.  And when I spit out the bitter yellow medicine, there were stringy black particles in it, which I don’t recall happening at Dr. Kusakabe’s office when he gave me the same treatment for the tooth on the bottom.  

It would be hard to prove that Dr. T******* had malicious intent as opposed to mere negligence.  All I know is that after almost two tingle-free weeks, the uncomfortable feeling where he shot that medicine suddenly came back stronger than ever the very next day… and that I have been having serious problems with that side of my face ever since.  As I write this almost three months later, I am on antibiotics recovering from a 39-degree fever, and the right side of my throat is swollen and infested with pus and seems to be getting bigger every day.  I had a similar problem just last month where I lost my voice.  I take Vitamin C, gargle with salt water every day and sleep at least 8 hours every night (lately during the holidays it’s been more like 12), and I survived 3 mainland winters in the past without getting seriously ill, so there’s no conceivable reason I would get this sick so many times and for so long, and always only on the right side, unless there was something in that medicine.  

I would advise anyone foreign-looking to take a local friend with them before going to ANY medical institution in Okinawa.  Doctors are responsible for their patients’ lives, for better or worse – and that’s just too much responsibility to give to someone you don’t even know, especially if it’s someone who may bear a grudge against you for reasons beyond your control.

Editor’s note: Rody made me erase the names of the evil dentist and his hospital.  I apologize if because of his paranoia this review fails to save your life or your health, but if you’re smart, you will figure it out yourself.  I’ve left enough clues.

投稿者 HakuAi | 12月 27, 2008

i a poophead.

That’s right.  I shouldn’t even be allowed to have a blog, as I am the most technologically incompetent person on Earth.  But since WordPress kindly overlooked this and gave me a free blog, I shall have to explain to you how to navigate around this site.  

This site, although its title indicates that its contents should be a mixture of everything relating to Okinawa (and in the future they shall be), is for now mostly going to be about taro pies.  If you want to read my general introduction about taro pies, you should click on the “Taro Pies” link in the upper right area of this page.  If you want any actual information about taro pies or want to see pictures of the many taro pies I’ve reviewed (most of which have not been posted yet; check back in a couple weeks), no matter how long and hard you search the top of this page where links ought to be, you will be as clueless as I was until I found the tiny little links in blue on the BOTTOM of the page.  That’s right, you have to scroll ALL THE WAY DOWN.  How humbug is that?  Well, if anyone has any advice for me on how to get page-within-a-page links to appear on the top of the page, please feel free to leave a comment (preferably without calling me a poophead or anything similar, since as you can see, I already know I am).  

Thank you for your patience!

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