(This post got a little away from me but I wanted to be thorough for people going there. If you read my blog cause you’re interested in China, feel free to skip this one.)
In my last post I kinda hinted that I was in Bangkok for a special reason other than traveling. And that during my trip I couldn’t walk.
That’s because I went to Bangkok to go to the hospital. Chinese hospitals aren’t the best and you only go of you need something solved. (There is no such thing as a doctors office in China. If you feel sick, have a cold, blurry vision, broken arm, gunshot wound, you go to the hospital and see whichever doctor is available.)
As a result, preventative care isn’t really a thing here. Pap smears, cholesterol tests, skin care check, eye exams, aren’t done unless you are having a problem. Even then it’s sometimes a problem.
“Does this mole look cancerous to you?” my friend asked the dermatologist at the best hospital in Xiamen. He just shrugged in response.
“Dunno. Do you want it removed? We can do that.”
“But does it need to be removed?”
“If you want it removed fine, we can do that.”
“I want to know if it needs to be removed. Does it look okay?”
“It’s your call,” said the doctor.
And I’ve been in China for almost 8 years now. I go to the dentist on my own but trying to get the other basic tests are just too annoying. So I skip it.
Bangkok is a city famous for cheap, really good hospital care and the most famous of them all is Bumrungrad. They have a full body check that is incredibly comprehensive and cheap as dirt. Since I’m 40, I figured now was the best time to fill up on pad thai, thai iced tea and get a series of medical tests.
So what did it measure? Pretty much everything a person in their 40’s requires: deep panel of blood tests including CBC, cholesterol, all kinds of cancer markers, liver functions, hepatitis among others, urine examination, stool sample examination, EKG, full torso ultrasound, mammogram and boob ultrasound for the ladies (exercise stress test for the gentleman), pap smear and pelvic exam and an eye exam (more than just if you can see clearly). If your over 65 you get bone density and other tests that I don’t quite need yet. Check out their web page for the entire list.
The whole process takes about 4 hours, but it’s as painless as could be (besides not peeing for awhile). Everything is located on one floor, and clearly marked. You check in, then pay, then follow the nurses orders at each station, going from section A, to B, to C.
The first part is blood tests, height, weight, blood pressure quick eye check (the real one comes later) in little rooms that are very classically “doctors offices” but a nurse takes care of everything. You’re out within minutes.
The next part you need to change clothes. They have a really nice locker room, with big booths for changing your clothes. It’s a shirt/pants combo that is more like a spa outfit than a hospital gown. They give you a locker and a key, but you are free to take your phone with you. Also, they give ladies a free shawl to keep warm with and they let you keep it after!
At this point they give you bottles of water, which you should drink, but be careful. You have to do the ultrasound with a full bladder, but first you have to do the X-Ray, EKG and mammogram/breast ultrasound so ladies, drink carefully. I’d say I did the torso ultrasound about an hour or so into my visit. I was bursting by that point. If you mess up and pee earlier you just have to sit there and drink and wait till your bladder is full again.
The X-Ray/EKG/mammogram and Ultrasound rooms are all in the same hallways. They call your name, you go in, get taken care of by a technician and then released. You don’t necessarily get to meet the doctors, but they are in rooms next to you looking at your tests. I was “lucky” enough to meet two doctor because my results were so wacky. One was because of the mammogram. I had another one and the doctor called me into her room and showed me the results (the second was was clear, no worries).
Actually everyone was very nice. The nurses, technicians and doctors were all very friendly and also very careful. Like, that ultrasound goo. First off, the goo was warmed (nice touch) and they have copious amounts of towels to carefully wipe it off you. I had an ultrasound in China and they just threw a packet of tissues at me when they were done. Here, they are much more careful and considerate.
I should also mention everyone was super careful. There is a bit of a “conveyor belt” feeling to it all, since everyone in this are is doing the same thing as you, but every single nurse and technician checked my bracelet before giving me a test, and had me check their paperwork to be certain. I also don’t know what process they use for calling patients but they never forgot about me, and there wasn’t much wait time between tests.
After those tests are done you get dressed again and move onto section C. But first you pass through a little buffet setup and maintained by Marriot. It’s nothing fancy but after starving yourself the night before (you can’t eat anything 12 hours before) it’s a welcomed sight.
It’s also cool because they keep their clients in mind. There are a lot of middle eastern customers (as obvious by the hijabs, burkas and taqiyah worn by many of the people, including doctors and nurses) so the little snack bar had hummus and pita! I live in China! Do you know how RARE hummus and pita are?! They also had banana bread!
I think I managed to shove down 4 pieces of it before I was called to the next tests. (Suggestion. If you want to sit and eat leisurely for awhile, don’t give your paperwork to the next nursing station until after you eat. I gave it before I ate and I had maybe 15 minutes before I was called. Not enough time to eat a lot.)
Next up is meeting a doctor. He/she looks over all your tests that are finished and discusses it with you. This is where you can ask questions, but be warned, it’s not a specialist, so they can’t get too deep into anything. If there is something terribly wrong, the doctor would recommend a specialist and the nurses outside would hook you up with an appointment.
But the blood tests are done in-house and were finished by this time so she could review them. She also looked through all my x-rays and ultrasounds and pointed things out to me. It was very helpful.
Then I got up on a table and did the normal doctor stuff, looking at eyes, ears, throat, feeling glands, that sort of thing. Even though I had given my urine sample just minutes before the results popped up on my file and she explained them before I moved on. Incredibly quick results.
Next was the pap smear and the doctor was hilarious. She had this very soft, lilting accent that was hard for me to understand but also totally hilarious. “Takeoffyourpantsandputyourfeetonthestttttiiirrruuuppppps,” she said so quickly and smoothly she had to say it twice just for me to understand. “verryyyyy gooooooood,” she would say totally calmly and peacefully and she was checking my hoo-haw. Several times I looked at the nurse and she just gave me a “don’t worry, no one understand her,” look. It was quite funny.
Then I had the eye test, which measures cornea pressure, colorblindness, eye levels and what-not. I don’t have cataracts or any eye damage, and that was that. I checked out and they told me I could pick up my compete test results two days later.
Almost. I had two more things to conquer: an added-on skin care check and the dreaded poop test.
I tried once already to give the stool sample, but the poop slipped down into the toilet. The toilet has a bit of a ledge and they tell you to poop on the ledge part, scoop a piece out–they give you a small spoon with the sample cup–and then flush. But my poop fell into the water and they can’t use that.
I was all apologetic and embarassed but they were super nice and said I could turn it in at anytime. Even the next day. I imagine a lot of people skip this part of the test entirely.
But lo and behold, with the almost everything done and the pressure off, I felt the deep rumble and before I left for lunch I was able to deposit my poop sample. Ta–dah!
After lunch I had the skin care check in another area of the hospital (I paid for it when I paid for the health care check as it was one of the add-on options.) The check was good and thorough and she found one mole that needed to be removed and a few that I should keep my eye on. I also have these bumps on my head, cysts really, and one had been getting bigger and uglier so she looked at it. She said it was infected and I should get it removed.
She called up to the plastic surgery office and got me an appointment. I ended up waiting quite awhile but it was nice they squeezed me in.
The doc examined me and laid out the game plan. As I was leaving Thailand in just 4 days he would give me the stitches that dissolve so I wouldn’t have to deal with going to a doctor in China.
Also, he would put a waterproof bandage on my foot and use some waterproofing spray on the head stitches so I could take a shower starting the next day. Talk about technology! I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to shower for 5 or more days.
The small surgeries were carried out quickly and professionally. Besides the doctor I had two nurses and an aid who stayed in the room to help.They used numbing medicine and it didn’t hurt exactly…but they are literally cutting into you and you can still kinda feel the tugging and the pulling. It was a bit traumatic.
I’m not grossed out by cysts and stuff, but he showed me the thing he pulled out of my head as soon as I sat up and it was just a bit too much too soon. I had to lay back down again because I felt dizzy. They kept monitoring my blood pressure but it was a psychological problem, not a physical one. They brought me juice and water and stayed with me as I lay down, the nurses cleaning the blood out of my hair with wet wipes.
Two days later I went back and got my results in this really awesome, very comprehensive folder. The first part lays out all the test results in layman’s terms and gives you direct suggestion. For instance I have high cholesterol but it’s because my good cholesterol is high. My bad one is normal range so the print-out says I don’t need to worry. It breaks down everything like that. At the end it gives suggestions on what you should do to improve your health specifically based on your results.
The second part is just a sheet of all the tests with the medical abbreviations you can show another doctor. The third part has printouts, like of your heart rate and hand written notes from the doctors. They also give you a CD with all your x-rays and ultrasounds to take with you. It’s incredibly comprehensive.
If you’re still reading this very long post I assume you are going there yourself and wanted an idea of what it is like. Totally don’t worry at all. I know I have a very low bar, coming from China and all, but I’ve spent my share of time in hospitals in America and this is much nicer than even them. If you’re thinking about it, I give it two thumbs up.
I think in my future life plan, I’ll go back every three years to get this same check-up again. After all, it’s in Bangkok and do I really need an excuse to go back?
And if I ever need any serious medical treatment, like a big surgery or something, I would think about going back, even if it cost a little more out of pocket, just because the service and techniques are so much more superior to China. (They accept a lot of insurances, just not mine which is from the Chinese government.)
If you want to find out more, check out their website. Everything is listed, as well as the prices, and there is no secret fees or anything. I paid exactly what they said I would. Everyone speaks fluent English so you don’t need to worry.