Who's been hospitalized in China? This guy!

By the time you read this, I'll be home, but I'm writing it in the middle of a two-week work trip to Shenzhen, China.  Travelers do get sick here.  Even the locals don't drink the tap water; bottled water is everywhere.  Usually a few days of Imodium clears up any problems.  But not this time.

On Friday night, I decided I wanted something nice to drink with dinner.  Since alcohol is pretty expensive here, I ordered a cheaper-than-usual dinner:  a cheeseburger.  It came fully cooked; I prefer medium rare but it's safer to have your food thoroughly cooked here, even in a restaurant inside a four-star hotel.  It tasted a little funny, sort of like they'd mixed in some sausage spices with it, but I finished it.  Ten hours later I was awakened by the urgent need to use the toilet.  I was kind of bummed, because I thought I might get through this trip without The Problem, but it's usually no big deal.

An hour after waking, I started vomiting.  Between throwing up and using the toilet every 30 minutes, I was dehydrating fast.  I started to see spots.  I called the front desk and asked them to bring me some medicine.  They came up to my room so I could write down the brand name I wanted.  While they were there, I ran to the bathroom and threw up violently.  The assistant manager said 'we think it's better if you go to the hospital with a bellhop'.  I knew that the anti-diarrheal medicine wouldn't cure vomiting, so I agreed.  

I felt like I'd swallowed Satan's motorcycle and he spent several hours doing donuts in my gut.

The bellhop transcribed/translated this conversation between me and the doctor
The Chinese doctor wisely diagnosed me with acute gastroenteritis.  It's pretty obvious when a foreigner throws up in a plastic bag in your office and runs to the WC twice during the visit.  He gave me three medicines, which the bellhop immediately administered to me.

I post the image of this guileless dog not to imply that the foreign doctor was untrained.  Far from it - I entrusted him with my life.  It was me that had no clue how to proceed.

If you are a foreigner, how do you pay for hospitalization in China?  Cash.  Visit the ATM in the hotel lobby before you leave.  In this case it was very cheap; the whole doctor visit was only 99 RMB, about $16 including the medicine.  The hotel had told me it might cost as much as 1500.

The bellhop dropped me off at my room and gently but firmly urged me to sleep.  Oddly, he and the doctor both said to drink only warm water, not room temperature water.  My coworker described this as a mere tradition.  My guess is that it helps prevent people from drinking too fast.  I know my inclination was to pound three bottles of water immediately upon returning to the room, but if I'd done that, it surely would have come right back out, along with the medicine.

Saturday was a lost day.  One of those medicines may have been a sleeping pill, because every time I'd wake up (to answer the phone or the door or to roll over) I'd fall right back asleep again for 2 or 3 hours.  I ate nothing, only pills and warm water.  On the other hand, delirium might be normal after losing five to seven pounds of water weight in a few hours.  My medical condition improved quickly but didn't clear up completely.  Sunday morning, 24 hours after the beginning of the incident, I finally showered and ventured down for breakfast, and as of this writing I've been awake and clear-headed for, oh, six hours.

In compressing this story to conserve time, I haven't mentioned the help and support of two important people.  First is my wife Alice, who contacted me by every means available to cheer me on.  Second is my coworker Mr. Gu, who visited me, double-checked my doctor's orders, and brought additional medicine.  Many thanks to both.

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