My Brilliant Korea

The pills

Blogging | November 11, 2011

The doctor placed his chilly stethoscope on my back.

“Inspiration,” he instructed.

I paused for a moment, crooked my head, then:

“Ahhh,” I said, as a cartoon light bulb appeared above my head.

I breathed in.

“Desperation”, he instructed.

I breathed out.

“Inspiration”, he said.

I breathed in.

“Desperation”, he said.

I breathed out.

“You are OK, just flu,” he said.

A nurse hustled me out of the room, led me into the Injection Room of Doom (as it shall henceforth be known), and slapped me on the bum.

I cringed and pulled down the top of my pants.

She jabbed me, rubbed me, and slapped me on the bum again.

“Pinishee!” she declared and hustled me over to the front counter to collect my prescription.

I walked next door to the pharmacy where I was handed these:

Packets and packets and packets of mysterious pills to be taken three times a day (with food) for six days.

This, I have found, is the typical Korean hospital experience.

A little bit of confusion, a little bit of discomfort and many, many, many pills of unknown contents and side effects.

In Korea, medication is the answer to just about every problem.

Lacking inspiration?

Take a pill.

Feeling desperation?

Take a pill.

Runny nose, fever, vomiting, headache, sore eyes, cut hand, mysterious rash, broken nail?

Take a pill for those too.

The last time I went to see a doctor in Korea (before today), I was prescribed so many pills that I could no longer spell my own name.

After three days of medication, and with my flu symptoms all but disappeared, I sat at my desk for several minutes and tried to fill out a form.

“B,” I wrote.

“L, y, t, h”.

I stopped.

Something was missing.

But what was it?

I tried again.

“B, l, y, t, h…..e!” I scrawled, victoriously.

All the letters were there, but still, something was wrong.

Then I realised- the ‘e’ was backwards.

I tried and tried, but I could not make my ‘e’ look right.

I threw the pills in the bin, horrified at the effect they were having on my brain.

I know.

I probably should have done the same thing today, but the lure of the magical, fast-acting pills was just too much.

I, like many people in the Korean workforce, have no time to be sick.

Today I needed an immediate cure, regardless of the consequences.

It’s to erly to tel wot ths conscenses mite b.


1. Nikki on November 11, 2011

That sound freaking scary. Glad you got this post out before pills take effect!

2. Bill Householder on November 12, 2011

Yes. The local clinics and pharmacies are not very foreigner oriented towards providing information on medications. You have to ask and hope they understand what you need to know. I reccommend going to Severance Hospital in Seoul or Konkuk Uni hospital in Chungu. They do have Doctors who speak english. Severance is far above the best though. They have a foreigner service section there. I am going to start going there soon for my medical needs. It is a trek but it is more than worth it.

3. Blythe on November 12, 2011

Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting Nik! You're the best xxx

And thanks Bill, that's great advice. I'll keep it in mind for next time. There's also a great medical centre near Seoul National University with English speaking doctors. The doctor in Janghowon was very kind though. He did his best to speak English and I did my best to speak Korean. We got there in the end!

4. Caroline on November 13, 2011

This is incredibly scary, and I don't want to sound like your Mum but I think you should be a little cautious...

Having said that, I know you will and much more importantly, GOD I love those boots.

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About Blythe Seinor

When Blythe was a journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology she interviewed the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid.
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