Monday, January 22, 2007


Ever since I got back from Gyeongju I've been having some breathing difficulties which I put down to picking up a bug of some kind, no doubt aided by spending most of the time there feeling rather cold. My condition got worse and I started waking up about once every half-hour during the night in a blind panic trying to gasp in some air while struggling against the pain in my chest.

If nothing else, given that such sleep deprivation is against the Geneva Convention I headed off to the doctor's this morning brandishing my brand new Korean Family Health Insurance card and a haggard look on my face.

The doctor - a PNU graduate much to the satisfaction and confidence of my wife - checked me out while typing 'dyspnia for 2 wks' in English into his computer. And I likely had bronchitis, or something very like it, so I shouldn't exercise (yay!) and I should avoid polluted places. "What, like Busan?" I almost said but just about avoided. The fact is that for all this is a coastal city, I have serious doubts as to existence of vehicle emissions legislation here and in any case, aside from that a toxic cloud of double-figure GDP growth economy wafted in over Korea from China just last week.

The doctor went on to suggest an immediate injection of something or other, but added that he guessed I wouldn't have it "being a Westerner". Now, I must admit I passed on the opportunity to have multiple neck injections when I put my shoulder out before Christmas, but otherwise I have no idea where this belief that Westerners are adverse to injections comes from. But there you are, that's our reputation.

So maybe I surpised him when I just said, "yeah, OK" - or maybe I said "I'll tell you everything I know", it was all becoming a bit of a blur as the need to sleep took hold of me again. Anyway, five minutes later a Korean nurse was sticking a three inch needle in my ass (yes, doctor, you neglected to mention where the needle would be going), though it seems I'm so insensitive that she was out of the door before I realised she'd already done it. After paying 3,000 won (about £1.62) for the experience, it was off to the pharmacy where I scored a series of drug cocktails for 2,200 won (£1.19).

Next we went to get a humidifier for our apartment. Lots of foreigners complain about Korea's very dry atmosphere and lots of Koreans - and foreigners - have humidifiers, but I was never consciously aware of it bothering me and I never saw the need for one. But the doctor had said we did, and that the dryness of the atmosphere was likely making my condition worse. So now we have an LG unit which looks like a giant custard pumping out moisture into our room. We didn't buy it though, Korean Parents loaned it to us.

But I still can't breathe so it may be chest X-rays tomorrow.

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