Back during camp, when I was feeling horribly sick, everyone told me to go to a clinic. Well, wait, no. Foreigners mostly just advised the same kind of thing that we usually advise: bed rest, sleep, lots of fluids, and time. But all the Koreans who knew of how sick I was advised that I see a doctor, just in case.
Of course, I said, “No, no, you don’t need to go to the doctor for every little thing, you know! In my country,”I said arrogantly, “we don’t go to the doctor for every little problem.”
Turns out they were right, and I was wrong. I have tonsilitis, bad enough that the gums around the wisdom tooth that’s now causing me a little pain was infected badly enough to prevent a dentist from X-raying it or pulling it. Badly enough that it was that which explained the discomfort in my right ear.
While I was quick to complain about the too-short prescription I got from the dentist (3 days is too short for a proper run of antibiotics), I was not quick to criticise my own dislike of going to the hospital, something I couched in cultural terms, and which may actually be (to some degree) related to cultural difference, but which is also a personal disposition of mine.
And this wasn’t the first time I resisted going to a doctor when I bloody well should have hurried to one. After my bicycle accident, when Lime saw my finger (which, though I didn’t then know it, was broken), she advised I see someone right away, but I resisted until the next morning when it was all blue and swelled up and mildly throbbing.
How odd, that someone studying medicine should be such a big part of my life, that studying the advancement of humankind through technologies and science should be such a big component of my mental life (as a reading interest and as a major part of my own SF writing), and yet I feel so resistant to going to the doctor to get an X-Ray or have some pain checked out.
Is it because I dislike having to explain my situation in broken Korean to someone who I’m not sure will understand me? Is it feeling out of power over the situation in a way when I am dependent on someone else to make decisions that affect me, but cannot explain them to me in my language? Is it because of my parents’ long-term distrust of the pharmaceutical industry and its proponents within the medical profession? Is it the horror of a long-ago rectal exam that I am vaguely reminded of everytime I see a doctors office with one of those examination cots? Is it because of the doctor who got me involved me in test treatment of a condition when a perfectly adequate treatment was available, and due to my ending up on the placebo left me with messed up finger-and-toenails on three of my four extremities?
I don’t know, but I think I’ve learned a lesson, which is: if medical coverage is provided, I may as well go get my mysterious aches and pains and throbbing blue twisted extremities looked at. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and I could have not only had my wisdom tooth out but also not have dealt with an extra two weeks of tonsilitis. Ah, I should be wiser from now on.