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!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Complete Hair-acy

They say that a woman's hair is her glory. Well, I don't know about all that, but it is one of the most important parts of being a woman. How you care for and deal with your hair says a lot about you and your style or personality. My hair is unusually thick, naturally wavy and unruly most of the time, so I don't often just let it dry naturally. It explodes into a big hair afro which looks like a nest ready for some mother bird to lay her eggs in. I usually give it a quick blow dry and resort to straightening it every time I wash my hair. Thankfully, this is only twice a week because the air is so dry here that doing it more often would lead to breakage. I grew up as a toe-headed blonde and although I have changed my hair color many times over the years, I have returned to my roots (so to speak) and have decided that dying my hair blonde is so much more natural than allowing the gray to take over my head. The style I am most comfortable with is an easy to care for, one length, long bob. I can pull it back into a pony-tail and not have to mess with it too much. I say all this to set the stage for my story.
When I first came to China in 2003, I had no fear of getting my haircut. Ignorance was bliss until my first experience at a countryside salon where I was sheered like a sheep in spring, much to the shock of my Chinese students who couldn't cover up the fact that they were both horrified and embarrassed about the haircut I received. I dubbed it the "Chemo-Barbie" look. Five years later when I returned to live long-term in China, I vowed never to get my lovely locks cut in China again. I was determined to wait 3 years and only cut it again when I returned home to America for a visit. After 2 years of growing my very thick hair and looking like a complete hippy, my American friend, Natalie convinced me to go to the place where she had her hair done. I resisted at first, terrified that I would have another scalping experience, but after a few more months of coaxing, I decided to take the plunge. Natalie went with me and held my hand as 2 young hairstylist work on my in synchronized fashion, each taking one side of my head. I could only close my eyes and pray that when I opened them again, I wouldn't have my former "chemo-barbie" look.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised at what a nice job they did. I was all too happy to pay the $6.00 and be on my way. Since that time I have only had my hair cut twice, each time at that same place and each time holding my breath recalling my first unpleasant experience. Both times have been fine...until today. Last week I colored my layer free, long pony-tail styled hair and felt confident that when I went to the salon today, the stylists would do as well as they had done on the two previous occasions. I walked into the salon, told them exactly what I wanted, they shook shook their heads, smiled and assured me that they understood...and proceeded to do exactly what they thought would look better on me! Not at all what I wanted! Apparently when I said, "I want you to give me a tiny trim, thin it out, and I don't want layers," it meant "Make me look like an 80's Malibu Barbie!" For the love of God! How is it that those two things are the same? I know I said it very clearly, but after he took the first big chuck out of my hair and I realize that this first cut would be the measuring stick by which all the other cuts would be gauged, there was nothing I could really do about it, except resign myself to the inevitable dissatisfaction of paying for a haircut that I despised!
Walking to the place where I parked my bike was (for me) like the walk of shame. As if I'm not obvious enough as a foreigner, my hair looked like the second story of my tall body that had taken on a life of it's own. You know it's bad when the puff that is your hair is flipped up at the ends and sprayed so heavily that even the wind from the bike ride home won't mess it up. In my head I was screaming, "Hair-acy! Hair-acy" It was ridiculous! So here I am, kicking myself for letting my need for manageable hair override my better judgement about getting my hair cut in China. I know it's just hair and the layers will grow back. At least he didn't cut it all off, so I think I can still get most of it into a ponytail~and I still have a straightener. Good thing it's only another 7 months 'til I get home!