When you travel to an unknown country, plenty of things are an adjustment, and it's not just battling jet lag. There's culture shock where things like tipping or not come into play.
Few people take the time to learn how the hospitals and health care operate in the countries they are visiting. After all, no one plans on being sick during a vacation. That oversight can be a painful lesson.
Prior Injury Flares Up
Recently a woman, we'll call them Sheryl, had a nightmare experience while traveling cross-country. She had a prior neck injury, and carrying 14kg while backpacking in Japan worsened it. “Pain and tingles” traveled through her body, including her “back, hands, neck, and jaw.” To handle it, she'd rest at the hostel all day.
A Worsening Situation
Days later, she couldn't move the lower half of her body. So she phoned a taxi to take her to the local emergency. There she spoke to a nurse who spoke English and explained her situation.
The nurse stepped away to see what could be done. When the nurse returned, though sympathetic, she informed Sheryl that they could do nothing until morning as it was evening.
It's Not About the Money
Sheryl was scared that, if left unchecked, the issue could lead to something more severe and lasting. She thought the problem was monetary and that she could pay for any care. Still, the nurse said the most she could do was phone the doctor, and they'd give her pain relief medicine.
A Round of No's
Understandably distraught, Sheryl asked if they could transfer her to another hospital. No. She asked the nurse to phone other hospitals to see if they could take her as Sheryl could not speak Japanese. The nurse claimed they wouldn't answer the phone. Sheryl pleaded if they could try, and again the nurse told her no.
Fortunately, Sheryl's Japanese friend helped her. They called three other hospitals for assistance. Shockingly enough, the hospitals did answer the phone.
Unfortunately, they all said she needed a specialist, and they did not have one present. She would have to try in the morning or contact another hospital if she needed assistance. Hours later, Sheryl gave up since no help was coming, and she had control of her lower body by then.
Constantly Pushed Down the Line
Still, Sheryl went to the hospital in Kyoto to explain her situation and receive assistance. Unfortunately, after conversing with reception, who relayed that information to the doctor, Sheryl was again out of luck. The doctor was too busy and could not see her.
Feeling bad because Sheryl was now crying, they gave her the contact info of a local English-speaking doctor. But again, the doctor told her they could not see her until Monday because it was Friday afternoon, and they do not do consultations then. At her wit's end, Sheryl tried phoning the Australian embassy to no avail.
Scared To Come Back
At this point, Sheryl hoped to get aid from the following country she arrived in. Unfortunately, her last few days in Japan were anxiety-ridden as she still experienced “nerve pain” and “numbness.” She offered to pay and still got turned away. Though she loved Japan, she didn't understand the issue and feared ever returning.
Here is how the internet responded.
No Ambulance, No Service
Many users pointed out the crux of the issue that led to Sheryl not receiving the care she needed. One word. Ambulance. “This was your mistake,” one person stated. Unfortunately, in Sheryl's country and countries like the U.S., ambulance rides are not free.
With that mindset, Sheryl likely avoided calling, but ambulances in Japan are free. Moreover, they are not affiliated with any hospital, so they will contact various hospitals until they find one to take the patient.
There are similarities to countries like the U.S., as ambulance patients are given priority as opposed to a walk-in or patient arriving in a cab. Other patients usually get seen eventually, but an ambulance implies that what's happening is so bad the individual cannot move independently.
Hence the priority. Many users reiterated that people do not randomly die because no hospital is available. The key is they know to call an ambulance, which will do the work for them. Helpful information to keep in mind if you plan to visit Japan.
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This thread inspired this post.