My first Korean physical (Another Korean hospital experience)


I have never had a full physical done.  I did the ones for sports in high school.  They tested my blood pressure and blood sugar several times when I was pregnant.  But that is the extent of my physical examinations.

Tim needed a physical last month and there were a few surprises so we decided that I should get one too.  Besides,  having a baseline in your early thirties is a good idea.

I took our normal bus this morning.  Riding the bus is radically different by myself than when I am with Clarissa.  My appointment was at 9, so the bus was packed.  I could barely fit on the bus in front of our apartment and I remained standing for the twenty five minute ride.  But I didn’t mind.  It was a breeze since I didn’t have to hold Clarissa. 

We began in the locker room.  I took off my shoes and put on a gown with slippers. My belongings were placed in a locker and I was given a key.  My translator asked me to pull my hair back.  I only had a barrette so I have been adjusting my bun all morning.  Next time,  I need an elastic band.

The first stop was a chest x-ray. 

Then,  we went downstairs and they did my height and weight.  But it was way cooler than the US.  First,  I stood on a machine measured my weight while a pole came down to measure my height.  Then I had to take my socks off and stand on another machine and hold on to some poles to measure my body mass. Next,  I put my arm into a machine for my blood pressure (this is the only result that I have really understood so far. My blood pressure is good.).

After that,  I went to a small room.  Like most places in Korea,  the walls are not painted but have wall paper.  This room was for the EKG. I had to lay down while the nurse hooked my hands,  feet,  and chest up to a machine.  Then,  I sat up and the nurse had me blow in to a straw looking thing for a lung function test.

Then I did a vision test.  I know that I need new glasses so the result on that will be interesting.  I had to do that eye puff test a few times because I kept closing my eyes. The hearing test was pretty standard. At one point, I thought it was over and put the buzzer down. But then the beeps started again and I had to scramble to find it. So my results may be slightly skewed.

The blood draw took forever.  I usually have really good veins so the problem is probably that I was fasting and dehydrated.

We then went upstairs for a bone scan.  That was interesting.  She said it would take six minutes and I had to close my eyes.  I felt like I was in Star Trek being scanned by lasers.

While waiting for my sonogram,  I saw one of my Korean friends from pwoc.  She said she missed Clarissa.  And she said that her physical took three hours this morning.  At that point,  I had only been there an hour.

The sonogram was interesting.  I guess the only time I have had one was during pregnancy to look at Clarissa.  I didn’t know you could look at other things too.  The tech didn’t speak English and my translator was elsewhere. So I think she did my neck,  breasts,  and all the trunk organs.  My glasses were off so I have no idea what things looked like. I will say that it seemed to take an entire roll of paper towels to get all of the gel off and I still felt sticky.

Next,  I had to wait a half hour for the gynecologist. She spoke excellent English so that was the best experience of the day. I was already wearing a gown with my pants. The doctor asked me to put on a skirt on the bottom instead. I thought that was way better than the paper gown the gynecologist in the US gives me. Pap smears are pretty much the same in both countries, but the actual exam was different. She used an ultrasound wand to do the internal exam instead of just looking and feeling. During the ultrasound, she discovered that my iud had moved and that I had recently ovulated. She was concerned that I could be pregnant but we would not be able to find out for sure for at least another week.

That information ended my physical early. I still did my urinalysis but we decided to postpone the endoscopy. Tim got one as part of his physical. The doctor puts you under anesthesia in order to put a camera down your digestive track to see your esophagus and stomach.

I went back a week later for the results. They handed me a 14 page booklet with my results. Overall I am pretty healthy as far as cholesterol and organ function. Apparently I have a couple of cysts that need to be rechecked next year. They did order some follow up tests.

The check out process was pretty painless. The copay for blood work and a vaccination was 9,500 won (like $9). My translator wrote me an English receipt so it was interesting to compare the two.

I am not pregnant so I am going to do the endoscopy and an abdominal CT scan next week.

Our first (and second) Korean Hospital Experience


We must be healthy people because we lived in South Korea for six months before we needed to see a doctor. Even then it was because Clarissa had a birthday and needed her two year check up.

Our insurance has direct billing agreements with four different hospitals in Daegu. Two of them deliver babies. I asked around and decided we should check out Hyosung Hospital. I┬ácalled the international center to make an appointment and didn’t really know what to expect. They had immediate openings for both Tim and Clarissa’s check ups.

On the morning of the appointments, we took the 564 bus to Jongdong market and then walked a couple of blocks to the hospital. It wasn’t as big as I thought it would be. Where we are from in Norfolk, the hospitals are huge! But there are only like six of them and they offer a range of services from labor and delivery, surgery, medical, and emergency room services. Here there seems to be a hospital around every corner. I’m not exaggerating. I can see four from my apartment window! But the hospitals are very small and specialize in one or two things. They don’t all have emergency room services.

Hyosung Hospital is two small buildings connected by a walkway on the second floor. I think one building has five floors and the other has seven. We walked into the reception area, found the pediatrician’s office, and tried to check in. We took a number and sat down. When our number came on the screen, we went to the desk and told them Clarissa’s name. They gave us another slip of paper and told us to sit down. At this point no one spoke English so I knew we were in the wrong place.

We then went to the other building to check in to the international center. We filled out some paperwork and then our translator walked us back to the pediatric section. First, we did Clarissa’s height and weight. She had to stand with her back against a wall and stand on two feet that were glued to the floor. Then, she was supposed to stand there while this machine came down to see how tall she was. She wasn’t really cooperative and was an inch or two too short for the machine anyway. (I should have taken a picture but I was too busy trying to keep her in place. I will have to remember next time)

Then, we went to where the babies do height and weight. I had to put her in a metal basket and the machine told us she weighs 10.5 kg (23.148 pounds) and is 81.6 cm (32.125 inches) tall.

Then we had to wait our turn. There were probably twenty Korean children there plus parents. They all stayed together in an area watching a television. I am not sure if the internationals get to cut in line because of the translator or if it is because we have an appointment and the Koreans just walk in, but we only waited about five minutes.

The pediatrician was very nice. She had a Tayo sticker on her name tag, so Clarissa was thrilled. She did all of the usual stuff; checked her ears, throat, and lungs. Then she asked me a few questions through the translator about what I thought about Clarissa’s development. She read Clarissa’s shot record and recommended the second hepatitis A and Japanese encephalitis vaccines and gave Clarissa a lollipop.

The Koreans really are smart about how they do things. Clarissa sucked on her lollipop while they checked her blood pressure and pulse. Then when it was time to get her shots, they had her sit calmly in my lap, still sucking on her lollipop. She didn’t even cry! She started to get a little concerned at the end and they just gave her another lollipop. Problem solved!

Then we went to Tim’s appointment. Again it was only about a five minute wait. The doctor was really nice. I think he understood English but just didn’t speak it well because he would listen to Tim and immediately respond in Korean. It wasn’t that strange to have the conversation translated. It seemed like the doctor was really listening and understanding what Tim said. Then we had to go across the street to the pharmacy and wait about five minutes for the prescription.

We went back today for a follow-up visit. Today we found out that Korean regulations say that you can only get 21 days worth of a medicine at a time. They don’t write you a prescription with refills like in the United States. You have to go back for another appointment. That might get old.

But everyone we met seemed friendly. Random Koreans thought Clarissa was beautiful and would stop and ask me how old she was. In Korea, she is three years old (when you are born you are one, and then everyone adds a year during the lunar new year). But some of the moms would also ask how many months old she is.