Monday, July 16, 2012

Shoulder Shennanigans

You'd think a rapidly developing country like China would have a somewhat comparable health care system to that of the US~ at least in a big city of 12 million like Tianjin. Unfortunately, I have often been sorely mistaken by my wishful thinking. About 10 months ago I started having pain in my left shoulder. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, so I figured I just slept on it wrong or it was some sort of pulled muscle and I ignored it. After 3 months of increasing pain, my PT friend from the States checked it and gave me some exercises to do but she didn't seem too concerned.
The pain persisted for another 3 months until I'd finally had enough. I sought help from a Chinese doctor friend who was also a PT. He started doing therapy for me twice a week, but nothing changed. Then I got an MRI which indicated that something was not exactly right, but showed nothing specific. Two more months of therapy and still no big improvement. I was getting frustrated and so was my doctor. He suggested that I see a friend of his to use simulation machines and another kind of therapy so I agreed. As of today I have been seeing this doctor for 2 weeks. He's really nice, but he speaks no English, so I am trying to teach him phrases as we go. You never really think about the little things that are important for a doctor to know how to say like, "Does it hurt? More painful, less painful or about the same? Move over, turn over, lie down and sit up." Just as important for him to understand are the English phrases, "It's better, it's worse, not too bad, holy *@%!, and for the love of God, STOP!"
Today the therapist said he was going to use a machine to "loosen my meat," a phrase directly translated from the Chinese-English dictionary on his IPhone. OK, I thought. I had seen a couple of other Chinese patients there with the vacuum modulator hooked up to their shoulders and backs, so I figured it had to be relatively safe. I decided to give it a try. He proceeded to put 8 round suction cups around my shoulder and in my armpit. They felt strange going on but I figured it was just part of the deal. I was then unpleasantly surprised when he turned on the stimulator and my skin was sucked up into the cups while my muscles were repeatedly given electrically pulsating shocks...for 20 straight minutes.
It wasn't a 10 on the pain scale but it felt like someone was digging their thumbs into my pit and vibrating. Not fun. After 20 minutes, he came back to unhook me and discovered that my body is apparently not as tough as Chinese bodies. I had serious red marks and suction marks where the equipment had been. He seemed a bit shocked, but because he had no English, he had no words to say. He looked like he wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. I wish my Chinese was better, but when it comes to medical Chinese, I'm as clueless as he is in English. I didn't have a mirror to look at the damage at that time, but I knew it was bad by the look on his face and the pain in my pit.
10 hours later after arriving home from a full day of work, I finally took a look. I was more than a little shocked. Even after that long, the red was still there and the bruising was very visible. If this happened in the States, there would be a malpractice law suit or at the very least there would've been some warning beforehand about the possibility of this happening. Not here! There are just looks of horror and people pretending that they don't see it or it doesn't look that bad. Unbelievable! So now I have two problems. My shoulder is still frozen and still hurts, plus now I have bruises in places that I didn't have before and they are also painful. What's a girl to do? Not sure, but one thing I do know. The octopus armpit stimulation/sucker is going to be the one getting a shocking punch in the pulsator if it ever tries to come near my pit again!