The day after Ghibli I was back at work, despite still having problems with my lungs. For the second time I was told about another teacher at the school who had had similar symptoms – persistent coughing – but now I learned they had eventually gone off work with pneumonia because they hadn’t had it seen to.
This shook me a little and I decided I would definitely get my cough looked at. I knew there were a few clinics in the building where I was teaching so I asked whether any of these might be able to see me before my next lesson. The consensus between the Japanese counsellor and the senior teacher was that I would be better off going to a hospital. The senior teacher recommended Juntendo Hospital – it was just along the road in Shin Urayasu, and was a very well regarded hospital, used by the Emperor, no less.
My alternative would be Tokyo Bay Medical Centre in Urayasu, where I went after I dislocated my shoulder. The advantage is they already have my details and I have an ID card for their centre. The disadvantage is that I already know they don’t really have anyone who speaks English, and I’m a little suspicious about my symptoms starting just days after I visited it.
I decided on Juntendo and that I would go first thing in the morning. Hopefully I would be able to be seen before having to get back to Monzen-Nakacho where I had lessons starting at 2.00pm.
At this point there was another twist in the story – I got a telephone call from the district manager saying that there was a public health concern over a respiratory disease affecting some of the offices in the district. I explained I already had symptoms and plans to go to the hospital tomorrow. He gave me the all-clear to continue teaching today, but obviously however concerned I had been previously I was now even more anxious to get some answers. At the same time I didn’t want to panic anyone else or exacerbate a wider public health issue, so I kept this new information to myself.
In the morning I got up bright and early and made my way to Shin Urayasu by the usual route. I brought everything I would need for work in the afternoon, in case I wouldn’t have time to return home. I walked from the station to the hospital, it was another hot, sunny day with little shade along the route. Fortunately the hospital wasn’t very far indeed.
From the outside it was pretty nondescript but inside looked much the same as hospitals tend to everywhere, lots of corridors and signs and people. I had no idea where to go or what to do, fortunately there were people in uniforms hanging around waiting to help people like me. I approached one of them, she asked me a couple of simple questions, and guided me to the “first time visitors desk.”
Here I had to register with my name and address – basically just show my ID card and let the receptionist fill everything in. She asked a couple of questions about the reason for my visit then asked me to sit and wait while they made up my registration chart. After six or seven minutes she called me back and directed me to Block K, down the big long corridor. This was the area for respiratory illnesses.
I found Block K, a waiting room with a reception kiosk, and handed them my chart. I was asked to wait, then a nurse came and asked me a few questions (with the aid of a translation book). I described my symptoms and explained I was concerned I might have pneumonia but there was a risk of the disease my manager had warned me about. Pretty soon after that she came back, gave me a card and directed me to Block O to get an X-ray.
There was a smaller waiting area at Block O, and I didn’t have to wait long after handing my card in before I was called into the room. They got me to take off my shirt and stand against the machine, to inhale, and then they took the x-ray, and that was it. They sent me right back to Block K.
At this stage I was optimistic, I’d been registered and x-rayed within about 45 minutes of arriving and it seemed likely I would be finished with plenty of time to spare. But the optimism was misplaced. This time the wait got longer and longer as dozens of other people in the waiting room wandered into the consultation rooms ahead of me, one by one.
I had notified Head Office I was going to the hospital but didn’t expect to be late. Now it was looking more likely. I tried calling my manager to see what to do but couldn’t get through. I decided I’d better let the hospital know I had a deadline.
They were lovely about it, they immediately put me outside the consultation room and got a doctor to see me as soon as possible. I felt a bit guilty about “jumping the queue” and also guilty that I was definitely going to be late now that I was committed to seeing this through, but I decided in the greater good it was better to get it sorted out today.
My consultation was with a doctor who spoke passable English. To my relief he immediately ruled out pneumonia based on a cursory look at the x-ray. He said he would give me a prescription for my symptoms – an expectorant to loosen the “sputum” and a cough suppressant. But he was a little concerned about the other disease and wanted to do a blood test. He checked my availability and gave me an appointment to come back on 17th, my next day off but one.
I was then asked to wait again – only a short time – then they took me into the treatment room and took a sample of my blood. Then I was given my charts and told to report to billing, back in the main reception area.
By now it was clear I wouldn’t make the 1.00pm deadline for checking in at work. I notified head office again, and they were fine about it, as long as I would be there in time for my lesson at 2.00pm. I also spoke to my manager and explained what the doctor had said and that they were checking my blood.
I was worried the billing would take a long time – and it did. The queue wasn’t so bad but it was getting my bill typed up that took the time. Eventually my number came up on the big screen and I was handed the bill for some 10000 yen – more than I had on me. I paid 7000 in cash and tried using my pre-pay card for the balance – but I hadn’t charged it up before I set off, and there wasn’t enough on there. I was directed to an ATM in the hospital but unfortunately it only had Japanese language instructions, and I couldn’t persuade it to give me any cash. Luckily I still carry around my UK credit card for emergencies only, so I used that instead and it did the trick.
By now it was after 1pm and I was in a race against the clock to get to Monzen-Nakacho. Fortunately the bus stop outside the hospital had buses that went straight to Urayasu Station, and one came almost straight away. From Urayasu it was a 15 minute ride straight along the Tozai line to Monzen-Nakacho. I arrived 15 minutes before the lesson was due to start, with my phone bleeping with messages from people trying to track me down. And in the end, my students were late anyway!
After the first lesson I had a long gap before the next, so I went to look for a pharmacy to collect my prescription. The medication was much better value than the hospital charges – only 740 yen for a 2-week course. They gave it to me in blister packs in a little paper bag – no boxes. After 4 or 5 days it is definitely having a positive effect – my lungs are less frequently blocked though I still have occasional problems breathing after coughing.
Hopefully it was just a random chest infection and the medication will kill it off. But I’ll find out one way or another on 17th.