I Was Forced Into a Chinese Hospital
Last night my biggest fear was realised when a friend of mine told me that I needed to go to hospital or risk losing my finger.
I’d been suffering from a finger felon for a week. A felon is an acute infection in the finger that leaves a pocket of pus near the bone that needs to be removed by a doctor.
Through extensive YouTube research, I’d seen the surgery performed in two ways. Minor cases can be solved with a syringe that’s injected into the finger and extracts the pus directly.
Major cases require the finger to be cut open and the pus drained out with a tiny hose.
The reason I hadn’t gone to hospital sooner is because of the virus pandemic sweeping China. As the virus spreads and worsens, the government is encouraging us more and more to stay home and only leave in cases of real emergency.
When the virus broke out in Wuhan, tens of thousands of people fled to Shanghai to be treated after local hospitals were filled over capacity. The travel ban stopped this influx of people, but it was too late to stop hospitals in Shanghai becoming overrun by both visitors to the city and locals who’d become infected.
A colleague of mine had told me that hospitals won’t see anyone unless the need was dire, but after neglecting my finger for a week, the need became very dire. The doctor said that if I had waited any longer, I may have needed an amputation.
I went to the hospital at midnight, hoping it would be less busy. I’d seen videos online of the lines of people queuing up for their chance to get inside the hospital and be treated. I was lucky on this night because there were no lines, instead there were beds everywhere.
From the moment I walked inside I was engulfed in beds. On each bed was a sleeping patient who was hooked up to an IV drip and a beeping heart monitor.
The beds were arranged side by side and filled the reception area, except for a partitioned queue line for people like me to get to the reception desk.
At reception I explained my situation and was referred to the emergency surgeon on duty.
I gingerly walked through the maze of beds that filled a narrow corridor that led to the surgeons office.
When I arrived, I witnessed the most predictable sight for any emergency room surgeons office. A half-curtain was pulled across to somewhat conceal a bent-over man having his butt inspected. I couldn’t help chuckling, amongst this biggest health crisis since 2003, there was still people going to the emergency room to have random objects pulled out of their ass.
When it was my turn, the surgeon took my swollen finger into his hands and squeezed it. The pain was excruciating, he was pulling and pushing on the swelling to locate the puss inside.
After he’d finished examining, the doctor calmly explained my situation. He explained that both the ultrasound technician and the anaesthesiologist were still out of Shanghai. Whether they were still visiting their families for Chinese New Year or they were locked out because of the travel bans, I’ll never know.
He said that I could have the operation anyway, but it would have to be performed by the chief of surgery, and only if he’d agree to come.
Just do it
My partner and I nervously agreed and were told to wait somewhere.
In the meantime, I had my blood tested and killed time at the nearby McDonalds. It’s not legal to be in public without a mask on at the moment, and it was clear the masked McDonalds staff didn’t want to be at work.
They looked at me with suspicion and fear, wondering whether they were serving one of the many infected people wandering around the hospital.
After a nervous snack, I made my way back to the hospital and waited for the chief of surgery to make his decision. I didn’t have to wait long, he arrived within 15 minutes and sat down with the surgeon who had examined me for a meeting.
After 10 more minutes of waiting, the chief inspected me himself. He was quite cross that I had waited so long before coming to the hospital and asked me to follow him to the operating room.
Holding the mask closer to my face in a subconscious effort to somehow make it more efficient, I walked past hundreds of infected patients.
They filled every room, beds were arranged around and inside offices, dining rooms and operating theatres. There wasn’t a square inch of floor space that didn’t have someone breathing deeply, trying to beat a virus that doesn’t have a cure.
Eventually we made our way into a tiny room at the back of the hospital. It looked like a dentists office, and had a bright light that hung from the roof.
The surgeon proceeded to locate and arrange several knives and bottles of disinfectant. He pulled my hand under the light and sat me on a chair opposite himself.
With my hand held in his above an absorbent towel on a stainless steel table, the surgeon held a razorblade against the side of my finger.
This all I saw before I buried my face in my left hand and looked away. After that all I could do was feel.
I felt my finger being cut open by the razor blade, this pain being the mildest of what was to come. I then felt pliers going inside my finger and prying it open, a second blade went inside soon after to presumably coax the puss out from the crevice in which it was hiding.
For what felt like hours, the doctor dug around inside my finger, periodically stopping to squeeze it in an effort to drain out what was inside.
I remember screaming at him and I remember cursing a lot. Towards the end I remember yelling at him whether he was “f#$king done yet”. (Poor man).
Soon after he was done digging, he doused the finger in a liquid disinfectant. The stinging of the liquid was a cool relieve compared with what had come before it.
I finally opened my eyes and watched him use tweezers to push a piece of sponge inside my wound, the pain was unbearable. I felt my stomach church and turned away incase I vomited onto my finger.
While I was turned away, he added some kind of binding agent to keep the sponge inside before wrapping the finger in gauze and taping shut.
With that he stood and told me to find a clinic after 24 hours that could clean and re-dress the wound, I was then shown the door.
My stomach churned again when I saw the pool of blood and puss I’d left on the stainless steel table.
I wandered my way back out of the tiny room and into the maze of beds once again. I dreaded to think of what was waiting for me tomorrow, and looked at my bound finger with hatred.
How did I get a finger felon during a virus epidemic during a damn public holiday? Was I cursed by a witch? As bad as this is, I have a feeling that things are only going to get worse.
If you’d like to see what happens next as I bunker down during the viral pandemic in Shanghai, follow Health Tonic so you don’t miss a thing.