Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Silk Road: Late Night at Kashgar Hospital

The view outside my dad's hospital window of a colourful tower
It was around midnight when we arrived at Xinjiang Kashgar First People's Hospital. We had to have our passports checked at the gate and then our bags screened by X-ray machines.

Turns out we would have to do this every time we went to the hospital, which was twice a day.

Then we went to the emergency room where my dad was lying on a stretcher and he wasn't very comfortable. We took his jacket and tried to make a pillow out of it. Inside the bare room were other patients. To the left was a young man in black curled up in the fetal position with lots of bandages covering his head.

Outside the room a young mother was wheeling her young daughter on a stretcher. The girl, about six or seven years old, was naked from the waist down and her right leg was severely bruised. It didn't look too good.

An ATM machine with cameras above
We were trying to keep my dad entertained while my mom, our doctor friend and the tour guide went to the doctor's office. The doctor was Uyghur and so the guide acted as a translator, explaining each step of the surgery, the surgeon even drew a diagram showing how he would drill holes in my dad's head to drain the blood from the clot.

Then we had to get dad's paperwork done to have him admitted but more importantly to pay the hospital 10,000 yuan (US$1,506) in cash right away. My mom went to the Bank of China ATM and thank goodness was able to withdraw cash. She could only do it in increments of 3,000 yuan which mean withdrawing at least four times.

We wheeled my dad across the hospital compound into another building -- again we went through security checks before he was put into the elevator to the seventh floor -- the neurology ward.

The nurse asked us if we had paid yet and we replied we were in the process of doing that, but she still wouldn't wheel him into the room until she'd seen the receipt. It was that bureaucratic.

Finally the payment was sorted and dad was wheeled down the hall then to the left.

The Han Chinese nurse flicked on the flourescent lights of a semi-private room (no private rooms exist in the hospital unless you're a VIP on the top floor of the hospital). In the bed closest to the door was a young Uyghur man with bandages around his head, while in the other bed was a woman, his wife.

The nurse shooed the woman out of the bed and forced the bleary-eyed Uyghur woman to help put fresh bedding on the bed my dad would be lying on. Then he was transferred from the stretcher to the bed.

At the foot of the bed was a bare bones metal frame cot with bamboo slats with a thin mattress and lump pillow. We were told that since we were foreigners they would let us use the cot free of charge -- usually others would have to pay to rent it on a daily basis.

My dad was given pyjamas but they didn't fit -- we would later find out we had paid a 100 yuan deposit on them.

Another Uyghur doctor who spoke some Mandarin asked us more questions, the answers he entered in the computer, like how many children does my dad have, what medications is he taking, when was his last surgery.

We were told by hospital staff that one family member would have to be there for the night, and my aunt, my mom's younger sister, immediately volunteered. She insisted, saying surgery would be the next day and that we needed to rest. We also gave her the authority to sign all the papers the next morning for the surgery to go ahead.

But it would be a sleepless night for her having to tend to my dad's needs, while we went back to the hotel before 4am. Our tour guide was amazing, there the whole time, translating and advising us on how hospitals work here.

I didn't get much sleep -- at one point I woke up crying and scared, trying to process what was happening and wondering if things would be OK.

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