Finally. I went back to the Peking Union Medical College yesterday, and had the cast taken off my right arm. The “bone doctor”, as the receptionists insist on calling him, is a pretty abrupt guy, but he seems nice enough. After the cast was taken off, I needed one final set of x-rays.
This took a while, as the radiology room was dealing with a group of elderly American tourists; one of their number, a woman who looked to be in her late 60s, had fallen, and apparently badly damaged her hip, which needed surgery. The last I heard, they were trying to find out if this had to be done immediately, or whether it could wait until they could get her back to the States. I hope it works out OK for them; it puts my own woes into perspective. From my own, newly-earned, insights into the health-care system, though, if they want to get the surgery done in the US, I hope they have damn good insurance – otherwise, there’s much to be said for getting treated in an English-speaking Chinese public-sector hospital. [Health tourism in China]
Earlier this week, I was sitting in Lush, in Wudaokou, doing a bit of work, and had to endure the sound of another American ranting at his Chinese language partner (there’s a common system of foreign men meeting up with Chinese girls for language practice). Apparently this guy had had to go to hospital for some reason, but he’d wound up at one of the foreign, privately-owned ones where he’d been charged astoundingly high fees. Which he went on about at length, so that in the end I felt really bad for the poor girl who was sitting there forlornly. Anyway, as I’ve said before, this whole episode since my accident has really confirmed my support of universal, state funded health care.
That’s an aside. The bone doctor looked at my x-rays. That’s a habit I’ve noticed he has – he’ll look at the x-rays, sigh, look at older x-rays, sigh again, look perplexed, think for a little while, sigh again, and then tell me that the bone looks OK, all the time with an expression that suggests that really it’s a mess but he doesn’t want to worry me. He told me that I shouldn’t carry any weight with it for another 6 weeks, after which I can use it for light weights. It should, according to him, be OK in a few months. To begin with, I should only stretch it.
I’d already arranged to meet Kong Cheng later in the afternoon, so I mentioned that I would probably be getting massage and tuina. The bone doctor looked perplexed. “No”, he said. I was surprised. Why not? “I see no benefit”, he told me.
WTF? This is why I lose confidence in Western medicine. It’s so compartmentalised. He’s an orthopaedic surgeon. The bone is mending, and no longer needs a cast. Job done, nice to see you, pay on the way out. The fact that I still can’t use my hand isn’t his department. In fact, in Western hospitals, it doesn’t seem to be anyone’s problem. Sigh.
So: the muscles, or tendons, are still damaged, or have atrophied and stiffened while my hand was in the cast. I can’t close the hand into a fist; trying to do so is painful. The best I can do is a loose ‘taiji fist’. I can just about do a “single whip”. I can raise it about 35 degrees from horizontal. So – of course I’m going to need more treatment (although, now I’ll be paying for all this myself, since my insurance doesn’t cover TCM).
I met Kong Chen at the Drum & Bell. He looked at the x-rays, and agreed that the bone is OK. He doesn’t think it’ll lead to arthritis later, which is something I’d worried about. He massaged the hand (leading to not a few yelps of pain from yours truly), and wrote down the name of some Chinese herbs I should use to make a poultice for my hand. I bought these later at a chemists’s shop on Guloudongdajie – total cost, including bandages, 18RMB. So we’ll see how that goes. He thinks that the hand may heal more quickly than the “bone doctor” suggested; I mentioned that it’ll be a long time before I can practice tui shou, let alone san shou, and he surprised me by saying that it may only be a few weeks. He’s given me some stretching exercises to do daily, which will hurt, but should help get the hand working. He’s off to Europe on Wednesday, and will be back in December, so by then I’ll know, I guess.
On Thursday, I finally caught up with S. She left China on business immediately after my accident, and only recently got back. I gave her a bunch of roses, and bought her lunch at the Vineyard cafe (I’ll buy her a fancier dinner, and more roses, at a later date, don’t worry). We had lots to catch up on, and she’s offered to give me acupuncture treatment if needed; she also recommended a top-level TCM doctor to visit (although I can’t because he only has a few consulting hours, and they clash with my teaching schedule). As for the acupuncture, it’ll also have to wait for a while until she gets back, as she’s also off travelling again for a while – and besides, after I dragged her out of bed to attend an emergency, just before a big trip overseas, do I really want to give her the opportunity to jab needles into me??? I jest 🙂 She’s urging me to stay in China, and there have been a lot of developments since I last wrote about Singapore; however I need to wait a bit, and see how some things work out, before I write about that…
I’m glad the cast is off. In fact, it’s just in time: the temperature has dropped dramatically in Beijing over the last week. Autumn is here, and soon the freezing winds will be howling down from Siberia… At least now I can put my winter jackets on…