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The Flu, a Chinese Hospital and a Toast

Recently I caught the worst cold ever. I have been miserable. I had this cold for several days with no improvement in sight. I mean, the box of tissues and my pillow have been my best friends. Andee wasn’t even been able to talk me into a movie. (I can always be talked into a movie.) I was grumpy, tired and ornery. Now that I am better, I can actually laugh about what happened. Put aside any food, swallow your drinks, and hold on. You are in for an adventure.

Because I have been sick during the Chinese New Year I’ve been out of sorts. Everything is closed! Dumpling shops where I pick up breakfast, shopping centers, schools, and even some pharmacies have shut down. In some ways it is like Beijing has turned into a ghost town. Talk about strange! My illness continued to get worse and white spots appeared on the back of my throat. This was now beyond what I could fight along. I had to go to a hospital. I needed to get help with what I thought was a really bad and stubborn case of the flu. The hospital is much like a medical center in the USA where doctors have offices but no beds for staying the night. I needed help and I was fortunate enough to have a very good friend take me. Sick people can’t think correctly.

After getting checked in, we were steered to the nurse’s station. After a little discussion with the nurse, my friend came back with a glass thermometer. “Here,” he said. “They need your temperature.” I took the thermometer and opened my mouth. Nanoseconds before I inserted the thermometer into my mouth my friend shrieked “What are you doing?!” I stopped and looked at him. What does he think I am doing? “I am taking my temperature.” Duh! Even well people can be weird.

He started to shake his head, wave his hands, pace and laugh. At this point we have attracted the attention of everyone of the floor. My friend managed to choke out, “We don’t put thermometers there!”

“Oh,” I said. Then I stared in horror at the thermometer. Where had this thermometer been before I had it? I then looked at my friend, leaned in close and whispered “Do I need to have my temperature taken in the hall?” He looked at me like I had grown a second head. “Of course.” I closed my eyes. I had filled with dread. “Why me? Why here? Why now? I almost stuck THAT THING in my mouth!” were thoughts that were racing through my head. Apparently being sick really meant being sick. All of a sudden I wished I was back at home, under the covers, hiding my head. I was so not ready for this. I had full blown dread. What now? How would I deal with this? Why could I not have some privacy? I want my mom!! Then my friend told me, “You have to put it under your arm. You know, in your arm pit.”


“Oh!” I finally understood! I had been saved! Suddenly I felt much better and I had not even been treated with medicine yet. My mood brightened and while I was still very sick I was now OK with being sick. Joy flooded through me making me feel like an overcooked noodle, I was limp with relief. Even the daunting task of worming a glass thermometer through a scarf, coat, winter sweater, and two shirts seemed easy compared to the danger I had imagined was looming in my near future.

The rest of my visit at the hospital wasn’t nearly so adventurous or exciting. I was told, “Yes, you are sick. Here are some medications that will make you feel better. Go home, rest, drink lots of fluids and don’t eat anything that is spicy or has sugar. If you don’t get better, come back.” I don’t know about you, but I am not prepared for another adventure at a Chinese hospital.

So now that I am feeling better, please join me for a toast. Whether you are drinking tea, coffee, water, or anything else you have on hand – please raise your glass. This is for all you readers. May you be safe, healthy and warm; and may all of your troubles be less than the imagined terror of a thermometer in a Chinese hospital.



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