Monday, February 22, 2010

A Casual Trip to the Korean ER

So as I dug into my instant beef curry noodle dinner tonight, I began to feel an itch around my underarms. Having finally tracked down deodorant yesterday, I thought that maybe the Old Spice I paid $15 for was some sort of black market knockoff loaded with skin irritants.

By the time I finished eating, the itching had intensified and I also felt an itch around my hips. I went into my bathroom for a closer look and I saw that I had crazy rashes under my arms and around my pelvis, with hives in other random places. I went online suspecting an allergic reaction of some sort, and as I read symptoms for anaphylactic reactions, I felt lightheaded and I began to have tingling sensations.

Everything I read online advised that I seek immediate medical attention. For a moment, I tried having an attitude not unlike my dad's. When my mother's appendix burst, he prescribed some aspirin. When her water broke with my sister, I'm pretty sure he suggested they wait until the next day to deal with it.

I could feel my condition getting worse. When I realized I was having a little trouble breathing, I called Mr. Lee, and he drove me to the emergency room.

What followed involved a lot of gestures, pointing, and stripping. Ultimately, my self-diagnosis proved true. One moment, I was talking to the doctor:

"yes, you have allergic reaction, it is not too serious, but we should take precautions...this will be painful"

and the next moment a nurse appeared and I heard "sey-gay," which means three. She promptly gestured for me to drop my pants and offer my cheeks up.

Me: "Awwwww, in the butt? Really?"
Nurse: "Nay (yes)"

Having just been told "painful" and translated "3," all I could say was "aw, shit."

So as I hunched over the bedside, in went the first, and it hurt, and the nurse tried to be quick about the second, but I was taken by surprise and I tensed up. She motioned for me to rub the cotton ball from injection one and I was half doing that and half trying to keep my pants half up. She said "second, two" and kept telling me to relax (relax-ah!), but I was like "come on, give me a moment to recover here." She started laughing at my mumbled curse words, so I started laughing too.

All of this was going on in a crowded ER and we were only separated by a sheet. I can only imagine what the other ailing Koreans made of it.

She then made me lie down on the bed for one in the arm. Once that was over with, I was feeling quite woozy (those of you that know me well may be aware of my troubles with needles and such) and the nurse had another cotton ball in place. For the record, this is exactly what I heard:

Nurse: "don't love"
Me: "love what?"
Nurse: "don't love"
Me: "love?"
Nurse: "don't love!"
Me (thinking): you just stuck three terrible needles in me, I love neither you nor the needles
Me: "no love!"
Nurse: "love, love, love!" (gesturing in a rubbing motion)
Me: "OH, RUB!"

Once made clear, I took her advice. I can't speak towards other Asian languages, but I understand why Koreans have problems with "r" and "l." The character in Korean "ㄹ" is basically both. Try saying an "r" and "l" sound simultaneously and that's what you've got. The confusion over "v" and "b" is similar.

It took about an hour for the drugs to kick in, and then the hives were gone, and Mr. Lee laughed his ass off at the exchange between the nurse and I. No more instant beef curry for this guy...


  1. Oh man, Keith. I just died laughing. Sorry that happened, but what a great story. lol xx

  2. to being...knowing from perscriptions people have had in Japan, at first I thought you were getting three pills in the butt and not needles. I was actaully quite shocked when needles came into play and couldn't figure out how a needle goes in the butt, but then it all made sense. This is one reason why I'm not getting sick in Japan.

    2. Japanese people suck with Rs and Ls (essentially there is no R sound). Ditto for Vs and Bs. In fact, Dave (or for Japanese people, Dabe) means bad. Its the equilivant as to saying that guy is an asshole (but, much nicer). When I told my students that my brother's name was Dave, they thought it was quite funny. I wouldn't figure that one out for like 3 months.

  3. SOOO What are you allergic to exactly?