Cough, Cough

You may have noticed I missed posting last week. I have a doctor’s note. ***

“Ah. Well, ok. Thank you,” Erin said. She was talking on the phone.

“What’s up?” I said. I sniffed, gave a tight, hard cough and winced. Yup, this was definitely feeling like pneumonia.

“My co-teacher will be here in about twenty minutes.”

“She’s a saint, that woman,” I said, wheezing.

“Yes, she is,” Erin replied. “She found out you were sick and marched us straight off to the principal’s office to ask permission to leave early. Now, she may have just wanted the excuse to get out of the building by noon, but either way, she’ll be there to help translate when we get to the clinic.”

“Which is awesome,” I said. “But something’s still wrong.”

Erin sighed and said, “Apparently, the school district only set up my insurance for me. You weren’t included on it.”

I felt a stab of worry.  “So, I’m not covered?” The national insurance that Erin qualified for as an EPIK teacher paid 50% of all medical bills. It was supposed to cover spouses and dependent family members too. Sadly, it seemed that the "Hey, nobody told us Erin was married!" glitch was coming back to haunt us again. It never occurred to us to ask if anybody filed a correction to the paperwork for her health insurance.

“It’s okay. We’re going to get it switched over as soon as we can.”

“But for this visit, I’m not covered.”

“No, you’re not.”

“What if its crazy expensive?”

“Then we’ll figure out a way to pay for it. It’s okay. You need to see a doctor."

I was in no position to argue. My brain was in that bleary place where sitting and staring at a wall for a couple hours felt like a pretty decent way to pass the time. A car pulled up outside and honked.

“There she is. Let’s go!”

The clinic was located on the third floor of an office building in a newer part of town.  It was sleek, modern, and reminded me strongly of every medical office I’ve ever been in in America.  Erin grabbed my Korean ID and she and the co-teacher went and talked to reception. I sat in the waiting area staring at the flat screen TV mounted on the wall. There was a nature documentary on, bonobos. I spent a while looking at the pretty monkeys.

Erin bustled back, “It’ll just be a few minutes.”

I nodded. Erin’s co-teacher sat down on a nearby couch, smiling. She and Erin started talking shop. I went back to the monkeys. They were playing in the water. Yay.

The doctor called us in and did a whirlwind exam. Ears, nose, throat, tongue depressor, listen to the chest, frown and nod. He said something rapid to Erin’s co-teacher and she smiled.

“Okay, okay! He wants to give you prescription.”

We bundled back out into the waiting room.  The nursing staff printed off a prescription sheet that we were supposed to carry to the pharmacy on the first floor. Then the nurse turned to us and developed a serious, slightly worried expression. She said something in Korean.

Erin’s co-teacher translated, “Ah! Okay! She want you to know she is sorry it is so expensive.”

Erin sighed. I sighed too. Then we got the bill.

“That’s… 13000 won,” I said. Roughly $12.00 for those of you back home.

Erin blinked, smiled, and said, “Please tell her its no problem."

The co-teacher said, “Okay?”

“Very okay.”

We headed downstairs to the pharmacy.  The lady behind the counter winced when she saw I had no insurance. They filled the prescription and gave us the bill. Another $14.00.

We headed home with a dizzying array of pills and syrups. Korea is known for being serious about their pharmaceuticals and this day was no different.  I had no less than four different pills to take, three times a day, for the next several days, as well as a cough syrup. Not that I really cared.  At this point, I was thrilled that there was a bed in my near future.

Erin’s co-teacher dropped us off at the door with a cheerful goodbye, and an admonition to drink lots of warm beverages. I nodded sincerely.

The next morning I came to a stirring, thoroughly profound conclusion: Korean doctors are free to bury me in pills every day if I’ll come out the other end feeling that much better after a mere eight hours. Which is good. Daytime TV in Korea was getting old.