About a month ago I expressed my discontent at the way the emergency orthopedic surgeon in Kagoshima handled my injury back on December 18th. This was based mainly on:
1. My limited knowledge of relevant medical Japanese
2. Fury at myself for having the accident in the first place
3. Pain as I felt the bone pressing on the nerve
During a follow-up in the US, I discovered another surgeon would not have treated the fracture in the same manner (granted, he did not have the initial x-rays or as much information about the accident). As such, I felt the entire Japanese medical experience could have gone better.
As I was sitting in recovery from this past (and hopefully last) surgery, I had the chance to review the file from my initial visit. It turns out… they did as thorough a job as anyone would expect, taking X-rays, CT scans (cross sections of the hand and wrist), culminating with a 3D imaging display of the damaged bone.
The staff were knowledgeable. The surgery was done properly. Although I was in no intellectual condition to choose my treatment, given the choice now, I probably would have opted for the same conservative treatment (closed reduction over surgery) and waited to see where the cards fell.
However, I am still rather annoyed. Why? Because I wasn’t given the choice. It’s one thing to tell a person bleeding from his chest “let us take care of it, we know best” in an emergency situation, it’s quite another to not consult with a fully conscious healthy young individual in no immediate danger about his options. This type of injury, a distal radius fracture, should consider the needs of the patient before the injury; practically all doctors are in consensus on this point. And yet, because it was deemed I was either unable to understand the different courses due to the language barrier or my own foreign stupidity, I wasn’t given a second choice.
The language barrier? Understandable to ignore an unintelligible person, especially in an emergency. But I had my accident at 9:00 AM and wasn’t treated until 4-5 PM, with my bilingual boss standing guard: no one mentioned anything to him, nor apparently thought about bringing in a medical interpreter.
In all likelihood, this isn’t even really a case of cultural differences, but rather doctors in any country believing themselves to be gods, having total control over life, death, and pain while you’re in their grasp.
Knowledge is power. If your condition can wait for a few hours, call a trusted friend and ask them to do some research, or better yet, be prepared for anything…
Useful Medical Japanese
Itami ga dou desu ka?
How is the pain?
Karada ga daruii
My body feels heavy
Shokuyoku ga nai
I have no appetite
Samuke ga suru
I have chills
hakike ga suru
I feel nauseous
Memai ga suru
I feel dizzy
Mune ga kurushii
My chest feels tight
I’m short of breath
Rentogen no shashin wa mite mo ii desu ka??
Can I see my x-rays?
Doctor (or sensei