Language barriers are undoubtedly one of the biggest hurdles you need to conquer when living in a country where you don’t speak the native tongue. As I’ve mentioned in the past, my Japanese is currently (no, it hasn’t improved in a while…) at a level where I can comfortably order a beer, say I don’t need a receipt, and also tell if my students are slagging me off.
Unfortunately, its not quite at the level where I can say “Ermm…well I’ve had a cough for about five weeks…and…ummm…I have a fever that kind of comes and goes and…errrr…I just generally feel a bit run-down really”…so as a result, I’ve had to seek assistance with my recent medical issues which started just before my trip to Kyoto, and have lingered ever since. Man-flu, this was not. There are only so many weeks in a row you can cough in front of your students before they start to get a bit paranoid.
This is where AMDA steps in.
Instead of having a bunch of sick honkies going from clinic to clinic asking “Eigo de daijoubu desu ka?” (Is English ok?), what AMDA does is offer a helpline for foreign residents in Japan to help guide them to a doctor that can help them in a language that’s convenient for them.
All I had to do was call the number, tell the kind lady what the problem was and where I lived. Whilst I was on the phone, she reeled off the names, addresses, phone numbers and even the working hours of the English speaking doctors at a couple of local clinics open that day and wished me well. Easy as that!
I opted for the more distant of the two clinics purely because I didn’t need to make an appointment and upon asking the receptionist the magic “Eigo de daijoubu desu ka?” and being met with a blank stare, I initially feared I’d made a bad choice.
After a rather tense 10-15 minute wait however I was greeted by a very friendly, English speaking nurse who took my temperature and blood pressure before leading me to another waiting area and – after another short wait – I was called into the consultation room by the doctor who spoke perfect English. Good job AMDA!
Once I’d explained my symptoms the first port of call was the x-ray room to examine my chest. I can’t remember ever having an x-ray in my life so I was a little worried that this was a rather serious step, but once it was over and results were back I was told by the doctor, “Well…you don’t have pneumonia”, which I’m sure you’ll agree is great news across the board.
It was decided however, that I had a bacterial chest infection which was more than likely causing both the cough and the fever symptoms. He sent me away with a prescription for antibiotics, anti-fever tablets and a bottle of cough medicine. Thanks to my monthly government health insurance payments I only had to foot 30% of the total bill, which meant I paid around ¥1600 (£10.20) for the consultation and, rather amazingly, only ¥1200 (£7.60) for the medicine cabinet I took away with me!
Upon arriving home and taking my first dose of the prescribed medicine, I went about my daily business and got around to changing my bedding. At this point, I flipped my futon over for the first time in a while and noticed that there were a number of black mould patches on the other side. Now I’m not a doctor, but I think I may have discovered where the bacteria was coming from! Safe to say I no longer sleep on that.
With the above in mind, I’ve devised a handy three point list for expats living in Japan:
- Pay your health insurance.
- Keep the AMDA number in your phonebook.
- Check the underside of your futon!
Stay healthy, people!
It’s great they have this service! Back in the say in the countryside I remember my doctor using a rusty ah stick and telling me I should drink beer.
The important question is…did it work?!
On a serious note, I can see this service becoming a godsend. One of the reasons I avoided going to the doctor for so long is because I thought it’d be too much hassle!