Salmonella poisoning in Korea

20 Jan

Lawson got admitted into hospital on the 28th of December. He’d been vomiting since 2 am, just a couple of hours after eating Samgyeopsal (Korean BBQ food). He’d said around an hour previous to the vomiting that he had stomach pains. I suggested that this was probably just wind knowing how dramatic he can be. I would come to feel very guilty about my off-hand, impassive response. By the time he was sick I was blissfully unaware and fast asleep, being the caring and sympathetic girlfriend that I am not, unfortunately. I was some-what reluctantly awoken at around 7 am to find Lawson in a state of panic. He was stood outside the closed bathroom door violently pulling and turning on it’s handle unable to gain entry, obviously desperate to get inside so he could unleash whatever the perpetrator of this sickness was. I jumped out of bed to give the handle a go myself and he dived over to the kitchen sink, catching what he could in his hand on the way. Luckily it was one of the few occasions we hadn’t left pots in the sink over night. My mentioning of this is probably a case of misplaced concern but hey, where there’s a silver lining…

Seeing Lawson’s defeated, dismal, pale face moments after made me realise that this was quite serious. He’d puked everything last thing out of himself and was exhausted but his stomach would not back down. So less than an hour later we got out of bed and trudged down to the taxi rank with nothing but some money, a credit card, a half-charged phone and a carrier bag for the journey to the nearest hospital.

The hospital was big, bright, newish and very empty at this time. I went to the reception and explained in the most simplest terms in broken English, (as this is how you talk to be understood without knowing Korean here), the problem and we were directed to the appropriate room. We waited in a seating area for Lawson to be seen. Him trying to focus his mind on anything other than being sick.  The doctor who thankfully spoke some English told us he may need to be admitted for two days as this was likely to be food poisoning.

In the upcoming hours we were led through numerous corridors and into different rooms as Lawson was given several tests. He had his blood pressure taken, he was weighed and measured, his stomach pushed and prodded, his abdomen x-rayed, and had some suckers put on his chest that were hooked up to a machine,(obviously, not it’s scientific name). It was much like the medical test we were given when we first arrived to enable to work in the school, in that we were herded around bewildered with much idea of what was happening or where we were going except this time it was Lawson getting all the tests in a very sorry state. During this long rig-moral Lawson had had nothing to drink so he was feeling very dehydrated and faint. I tried several times to explain to the nurse but she didn’t seem to understand.  In his lamentable state he was almost entirely mute, I felt very sorry for him. I’ve never actually seen him ill before beyond a mere cold.

Lawson on a toilet trip in hospital

Lawson, attempting to smile, on a toilet trip

Eventually, we were led to his ward.We were actually given the opportunity to select the standard of room based on size, sharing capacity and facilities like a personal TV etc. Lawson picked the cheapest and most basic. The maximum capacity was six and there was one shared television and a curtain rail around your bed for privacy. Just the general set-up you’d get on the NHS. The tests were not yet over. He then got a blood test, (the first of four in the next 48 hours), a urine test and another blood pressure test. We could certainly testify that they were especially thorough. He was hooked up to fluid and adrenalin and eventually fell asleep.

I decided to spend the first night in the hospital on a mat beside his bed. I’d noticed that the women, whose husband was on the bed next to Lawson’s, had a pillow and blanket set up on a mat for her to sleep on. She was actually a very funny little character. She ruled Lawson’s ward. She seemed to have a good rapport with all the nurses and tended to plod around the place opening curtains as she saw fit, adjusting the lights and changing the TV channel. The capacity of the beds fluctuated between four and  five but she was there the entire time making everyone else’s business her own. She was of small stature, slightly rounded but short with permed greyish black hair. I’d guess she’d be in her mid sixties. With age comes respect in Korea so being probably the oldest in the ward she had every right. Lawson was out for the count for several hours and I was starting to get very peckish so I tried to ask the nurse if there was a canteen or café with the help of my translator app. In the end, the old lady led me the whole way linking me as I would my own Grandma. I bought her a coffee to thank her which she then showed off to the nurses as though to say “look what the white girl bought me”. She gave me a pillow and as I was falling asleep put my coat over me, which may be beyond social protocol since we didn’t know one another, but it was still very sweet. It’s not often you get such thoughtfulness from a complete stranger. I actually wished I’d gotten my picture taken with her!

The next morning Lawson was feeling slightly better. By the afternoon he was quite bored, still not feeling too good but wanted to leave. Lawson got up with his IV to the reception desk and asked to leave but they didn’t agree that he should. They wouldn’t let him eat either until they were sure he could hold it down. He was really hungry but obviously they know best. I went home to get some things. Wet wipes, a pillow, his toothbrush, his hand held PSP vista game console, a book for him to read,  clean clothes and such like, I dropped it off before returning home. The next day,the early afternoon, he was back with me fed, (he reluctantly ate some watery fish soup, which he said was foul, to satisfy the nurses), and showered feeling much better. The ordeal was over and luckily because of the timing he had a full week off to recover before he started back at work for the new year.


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