Bedside What? (Part 2)

Well, we went back to see the doctor this afternoon. (That post from earlier today? It was from last week, but some blog maintenance issues prevented me from posting it till today. And yeah, the blog stuff is sorted out. See how nice and fast it loads? No? Er, well, Google sees. Google knows.) 

The doctor was a lot better today, for whatever reason. He actually made eye contact with my wife, for one thing—it was minimal, but it did happen a couple of times for a moment or so. He barely looked in my direction, but he made an effort, however fumbling, to be reassuring about our son’s ears. We were surprised, though, that he didn’t bother to examine his nose or throat, since our pediatrician makes a point of always checking them, regardless of what the complaint is. Though the doctor did stare at his computer screen for most of the conversation, he did stop typing and listen, and spoke with something like normal affect. 

I mean, it was still a somewhat weird encounter today, but at least we didn’t feel… baffled and vaguely awful about it, I guess? I still can’t help but wonder if the guy’s aware of how his demeanour looks from the outside, whether anyone’s clued him into how it appears to others. As I hinted in the comments at the end of the earlier post, one more than occasionally runs into individuals about whom your average person will say, “Oh, he just has trouble looking people in the eye,” as if that’s, you know, not indicative of some condition or anything. 

(I don’t think people with the various conditions that lead to this behaviour should be shunned, of course; but the common eagerness to avoid recognizing a condition when symptoms like that present themselves probably doesn’t help either, does it? Of course, I’m assuming he’s unaware, while maybe he is aware, and just has off days managing it, like we all have off days handling our stuff. I don’t know.)

Anyway, I’ll also say that the trip to Daejeon itself was much better. We took a better train, which always helps. While someone in the Seo-Daejeon Train Station apparently isn’t doing their janitorial duties—the hallway by the elevators is also by the bathrooms, and that whole part of the building stinks to a gag-inducing degree of enough urine to manufacture all the gunpowder needed to blow Pyongyang sky-high—but all in all, we mostly encountered really nice people.

There was a cab driver who, despite being basically bringing to mind André the Giant—I was scared to ask him about his past, since I have a suspicion he was a special forces guy and probably has unpleasant memories—was a huge gentle teddy bear of a man who was very sweet to our son. There was a granny who chatted with our son in barely comprehensible dialect about how I’m “terrible” because I was making my son work a little to get his snacks from me. “You dad’s awful!” she said, and I moved the snack around in front of him, weaving and dodging it for a few seconds till I let him catch my hand. I was a bit surprised till I realized she was just teasing us.

A couple of people even held the door for us. I think it helps to have a stroller (which we didn’t bother with, last week, though we should have). Somehow it makes people see you as more vulnerable, and gets them to let down their guard a bit more, maybe? I don’t know. I can say I was shocked when that happened more than once today: holding a door open for a stranger just isn’t commonplace behaviour in South Korea. 

Anyway, I still think maybe a second opinion wouldn’t hurt, but at least I’m not totally dubious about Herr Doktor now: our son’s ears, after all, are visibly better (via scope camera) than they were a week ago. But I remain baffled by that first encounter, I must admit. 

2 thoughts on “Bedside What? (Part 2)

  1. The best general practice doctor I’ve ever been to in my life is in Daejeon. Dr. Marshall Yun is the most friendly and professional doctor I’ve ever encountered, and he lived and practiced for years in the United States before returning to South Korea.

    I haven’t been there for some time, so I’d call first to see if his office hours (1:00-10:00PM) and day closed (Friday) are still the same. His office is easy to find as it is just outside the subway station in Noeun-dong which is on the side of Daejeon closest to Sejong.

  2. Yeah, I’ve had good experiences with other doctors in Korea. My cardiologist at Catholic University Hospital in Bucheon was outstanding (I forget his name, it’s been years now and he went on a sabbatical around the last time I left Korea); our pediatrician in Sejong City is also really great. I had a wonderful (no bullshit) dentist in Bucheon, too, and was lucky enough to get a recommendation for one just as good in Daejeon. I also know of a good—sometimes a bit odd, but compassionate and skilled—doctor specializing in, of all things, urology and dermatology, also in Bucheon. There was a pretty-alright dermatologist I went to in Jeonju: she needed a little help with one diagnosis, which my ex provided by explaining to me one diagnostic mnemonic that, when I repeated, cleared up something that had been misdiagnosed for many years, but beyond that she was great.

    That said, I’ve also had my worst experiences with doctors here. One idiot told me I was losing my hearing, on the basis of my saying I had tinnitus and had played music in the past. (No hearing test, just, “You’re losing your hearing.” Er, nope. I still have much more sensitive hearing than a lot of my undergrad students who’re two decades younger than me. (I can hear the everpresent whining of the speakers in classrooms when the audio systems are left switched on, while they don’t notice it and some can’t hear even when I point it out to them.)

    There was another guy who seemed like he was enjoying scaring the hell out of me—he saw an anomaly in my white blood cell count and started talking about cancer and stuff, and then ordered a test. (It wasn’t cancer. I kinda feel like maybe he could have spared the cancer talk until he was more sure it was remotely likely.)

    But to balance things out, I should also note that while most of my experiences with doctors back home were fine or great, my dad had a terrible one with our longtime family doctor, one Dr. Roberts in Saskatoon. (He was an old British doctor who’d flown with the RAF at some point, I think after the war but I’m not sure; as I remember it, he had a huge wooden propeller from the front of some ancient airplane hanging on the wall in his office and everything.)

    Early on in his first bout with lymphoma, Dr. Roberts suggested he have his thyroid glands removed, because, hey, that’ll fix it. And as an outpatient procedure in his little clinic. (???) When my father told him he felt like maybe he should get a second opinion on that. According to my dad, he asked for a copy of his file to be given to him so he could bring it to the other doctor, and Roberts became so furious that he told my dad, “Well, I’ll just put your file in the ‘dead’ pile, then.” Within a month or two, my dad actually was fighting for his life.

    Needless to say, nobody in my family ever went to Dr. Roberts again. The issue with Roberts was, I think, both that he was getting on in years (and so a lot of things were sort of slowly spinning out of control, including the decline in his clinic’s popularity, and he was kind of powerless to do much about it, but not willing to retire, either), but also that he took the doctor-patient relationship very personally, in a way I haven’t had a doctor do here. (The doctors I’ve seen regularly were mostly adequately personal, but when they err get it wrong here, they usually tend toward being too impersonal, not too personal, probably because, as someone else commented, they’re so overworked. I would imagine that’s probably the same back home, now, unless you’re dealing with someone more old-school, though. I wouldn’t know: it’s been more than a decade-and-a-half since I went to a doctor in Canada.)

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