Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Doctor's Visit: "Your jaw is wrong."

Let’s take a break from India and come back to little Kamagaya so I can tell you about my trip to the doctor’s office.

For about a month now I have had a dull ear ache that comes and goes. It is in both ears at times, though significantly worse in my left. I have found that it hurts more when it’s cold out, whatever that means, and at certain pitches or volumes I find myself cringing. I decided that enough is enough. I had been putting it off, since I wasn’t quite sure what the doctors were going to do about it, but yesterday I decided I should at least try.

I asked Sinapi how I would even go about going to the doctor. She graciously said she would take me. So after school we walked down the alley, took a left at the train tracks and went to the little office next to the vending machine.

As we walked up the stairs, she told me this is where she came when she broke her finger, so at least we knew their was some legitimacy here. We walked in and up to the little counter, as a father and his son were walking out. The 3 year old did a far from subtle double take when he saw an American and Samoan waiting in line behind him. We waved. With his jaw still dropped, he waved back. CuteJ

Then it was our turn. We were now the only ones in the waiting area, and from over the counter, we talked to the two nurses. Sinapi played translator as we explained my symptoms. Through the counter window to the right I could see the doctor. He was leaning back on his desk chair, with his feet up on the stool next to him. The doctor was about 20 feet from the nurses who were simply working as a liaison between him and us. I wanted to scream, “Dude will you just get up and come look in my ear!” he could have done it over the counter if that would have been easier, since it seems the entire goal was to keep us on the opposite side of the wall.

In the end they decided to refer us to an ear, nose and throat specialist. One of the nurses drew us a little map. Sinapi and I walked home, map in hand, grabbed our bikes and headed down the street past the video store and left at Denny’s.

We found it no problem. Parked our bikes and went it. Took off our shoes and put on their slippers, and walked to the counter. Sinapi explained why we were there, and I handed over my health insurance card. After confirming that romanji would be ok I took a form to fill out. The office already looked a little more legit than the last place.  There were about 15 people in the waiting room, all with slippers on, and about 13 with those SARS masks. VERY popular here. Sinapi and I refuse to wear them. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

We hunkered down and flipped through magazines, talked about her upcoming wedding (yay!), and I tried and failed to read a children’s book in Japanese. After about 30 minutes, a man walked in who Sinapi recognized as one of the elementary school teachers she works with. She called his name and he wheeled around with and, “OOOOOOhhh Sinapi, HELLO!”

He took a seat next to us and we had a simple conversation about who I was, and why we were all there. He was such a sweet older man. Through his mask he explained that he had a throat ache, and was hoping to get some sort of medicine. “Ahhhh” Sinapi and I simultaneously responded. I said I had an each ache, well literally what I said was, “Watashi mo mimi, ittai!” Literally translated, My ear, ow!
I’ve been here 6 months, at this rate it could be years before I put together a real sentence.

He also explained that she was a good doctor. Sinapi and I didn’t realize it was a woman, but were both excited by that. He continued to explain that she was a good doctor because she, “found my nose cancer”. Without trying to offend anyone I wrinkled my forehead, as I tried to figure out if this was lost in translation or in fact was this exactly what he wanted to say. I turned to Sinapi. She had the same look. We clarified in Japanese, where he said the exact same thing. Hmmm.
Is there even such a thing as nose cancer? I mean I’m assuming this balding, rolly polly, 50 year old elementary school teacher doesn’t do any hard drugs. How do you get nose cancer? Seriously?

Anyway, he really was so sweet and offered to translate for us when we went in if we wanted. I said of course, and thanked him continuously. Then it was our turn.

“Bone-san!” We assumed that was Bohan. I stood and walked toward the nurse. As did my entourage. Meet team Kate.

-First up, the patient, Kate. 24 year old American, standing at 160 cm and complaining of an earache.
-Next up we have 25 year old Sinapi from New Zealand, healthy as can be.
-Last but not least, we have a 50 year old, elementary school teacher from Japan, complaining of a throat ache.

Got the picture?

The nurse greeted us as we walked through the door single file, and sat us on a bench just on the other side. I could see around the curtain that it was just one big room with one chair. I could see the doctor and her two assistants.

I felt like we were waiting to see the wizard.

Finally the person in front of us left and it was my turn. They told me to put my purse in a bin and have a seat. Before I sat down the chair began to move up. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz it said and I, along with Sinapi began to chuckle. Sensei chuckled too and nudged Sinapi not to laugh. Which of course only made us laugh harder. I tried to pull it together as the doctor picked up an old fashion medal instrument to look into my ear, all as my team stood by on the side lines, and the two nurses milled about. There were 6 people in that room, all to help Kate with her little ear ache. I tried not to think about it as I would start laughing, but it was getting more ridiculous by the second. And it was about to peak.

The doctor picked up the tool to look in my ear, and I swear to God before she even put it in my ear, said, “Anata no mimi dijoubu.” Your ear is fine. I understood that no prob, and before any of team Kate’s translators could say anything I said, “Honto?!” Really?!

She held strong with her decision, and as I was still thinking about it, she picked up some other tool. My mind ran through the possibilities of what it was or where she was going to put it. I opened my mouth. She shoved it up my nose. Sinapi started to laugh, and so did I. Now I was shaking with laughter in this chair that was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing up and down with and international audience. 

I sooooo badly wanted to take a picture. But there is now way they would have allowed that. Sorry.

She then did look in my mouth and saw the retainer I have glued to my bottom few teeth. She started to ask questions about it, I think mostly out of curiosity, but I thought if she’s gonna try and connect that to my achy ear, I’m going to have to question her medical school. I told her I’d had it since I was 13 and pretty sure it had nothing to do with my ear.

She then held my face as I opened and closed my jaw. It doesn’t usually crack, but this time I let it in the hope that she would give me something in some stretch of a connection. That was a mistake. She said something in Japanese, and the Japanese teacher, team member number 3, translated it. “Umm, she said, your jaw I wrong.” I shot Sinapi a glance, who immediately raised her hand to her mouth to stifle laughter. I was more thankful than ever that she was there.

“Okkkkkk,” I responded. Not really sure who to make eye contact with.  

Team member number 3 translated again, “She says you should see a dentist,” (not a chance in hell I thought) “do you know of one?”

I shot Sinapi another glance, trying to make sure we were on the same page, all the while keeping up the Japanese harmony in this situation. “Maybe Sinapi knows of one?” I said as sincerely as I could muster, while trying to make sure she knew that wasn’t going to happen.

She caught on real fast. “Yup yup, I do.”

Then we were done. We were sent back to the waiting room, so I could pay and get my insurance card back. I was clearly bummed. We waited for a bit in silence all pondering what just happened. Finally the teacher said to us, “Do you believe her opinion?” His wording made me smile. It was clear we didn’t. Sinapi and I just smiled and nodded.

My name was called to pay, it cost me 800yen, about 10 USD without insurance it would have been about 35 USD.  While I was up paying, the teacher and Sinapi were talking. When I sat back down, he said to me, “I feel sorry for you.” He said it so sweetly. I smiled and said, I did too!

Then it was time to go. We thanked just about everyone we walked by, changed our shoes, put on our gloves and walked outside, where we promptly started laughing hysterically.

Between laugher Sinapi told me that, the teacher had clarified with her, how to say, I feel sorry for you, and as soon as I came back he said it. Haha cute.

“Oh and for the record,” I added as we got on our bikes, “we’re not going to see a dentist, or any type of oral surgeon, which I’m sure is what they were hinting at.”

She laughed, “Ya, I soon as I heard that I was like awww hell no!”

We decided a Starbucks was in order. I treated, as I was so grateful for her visiting doctor’s office after doctor’s office with me and serving as translator, all the while keeping me from feeling like I was going crazy.

She mentioned that she knew of a pharmacist that might be able to help. So after Starbucks we headed there. I already liked him better as soon as we walked in, though I promptly was lectured not to use q-tips in my ears (IknowIknowIknowIknowIknow) and was given the full arm X when he described it. Got it sir. Though he did give me some antibiotics and another set of pills to take if the pain gets too bad. I was thrilled. We thanked him again and again, then I grabbed my stuff and headed to my Japanese class.

After class I was exhausted and my ear really was achey. I was encouraged by sources, that shall not be named, to call in sick today, which I did, and am relaxing my “wrong jaw” at home and taking my antibiotics before I head to the Hokkaido Snow Festival for this 3 day weekend with Jessica and friends. The snow festival was actually the real reason I wanted to go to doctor, if it hurts in the cold and I’m going to a snow festival, umm hello!?!!?!!

Ok now it’s time to shower and layer up before heading to the north. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Newly q-tip free,


  1. KB yes the Dr. visit should have been filmed, how was the show fest & how is your ear? Love ya

  2. It really was hysterical. My ear is still slightly achy, but I have gotten all kinds of messages from family and friends who were also concerned. I talked to my mom and the chances of it resulting from grinding my teeth at night is pretty likely. Beth is sending me a night guard (hot!) and we'll go from there. I'm eager to see if it helps.

    Thanks for the concern to all who emailed me! It really means a lot!




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