It could have been the setup for an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

There I was, midnight on a Friday morning, sitting at my Summer Mode Kotatsu. I was clicking around the internet and ended up reading fanfiction, of all things, when my co-ALT calls me, sounding like hell:

“Hey…could you call a taxi for me? I think I need to go to the hospital.”
“Yeah, sure. Uh…do you want me to go with you?”
“No, I can make it, I’ll just say ‘byouki onegai shimasu.'”
“I think you mean ‘byouin.’ I’m going with you.”

He had gone home from work on Thursday after having a stomach ache all morning, resting in the nurse’s office, and finally throwing up around 5th period. We thought he had just eaten something that didn’t sit well with him.

After an insufferable wait at a train crossing, we got to the nearest emergency hospital. Between my Japanese and own experience with hospitalization, the doctor’s English, and the Japanese-English dictionary on my co-worker’s iPod, we were able to sign consent forms, run tests, and get a diagnosis: appendicitis.


I didn’t know what the procedure was in terms of contacting our school after hours. I’m sure this was one of those things we were told at Tokyo Orientation, or Fukuoka Orientation; but without having had to use this knowledge, I quickly forgot it. But since we had been able to proceed, and in any case the surgeon wouldn’t be in until the morning to decide on a treatment course, I figured it was pointless to wake up my supervisors in the middle of the night. After all, the x-rays, CT scan, blood work, and physical examinations had taken 3 hours. By the time my co-worker was admitted, it was 4AM. I decided to just get up early to call my supervisors first thing.

The ensuing week was pretty rough on my co-worker; he ended up needing surgery and much to his chagrin and my surprise, powerful painkillers such as morphine are not normally administered in Japan unless a patient is dying of cancer! He was able to get back on his feet one day after surgery, and was able to go home after a week in hospital. The three days’ home rest meant he missed most of bunkasai, but he did go to the second day of the festival to at least catch English Play and see the art exhibit.

For me it was a pretty crazy week, mostly because I had been scheduled for a visit to the School for the Blind on that following Monday, meaning I didn’t have my usual full day to prepare materials and generally plan things out, and the after school hours were taken up by the final stretch of rehearsals for the play. Also, I had been designated the stand-in for a family member with the hospital. Even though the admission contract had been signed by the school’s principal and vice principal, it made more sense to have me in that role for various reasons.  So, because Japanese hospitals are set up so that many of the things that in an American hospital are automatically provided have to be brought in by a patient’s family, such as slippers or a change of clothes, I went to the hospital several times that week. (That’s not to say Japanese hospitals don’t have clothes for patients to wear. They do, but it’s standard to tell the family to bring clothes instead. I assume it’s a cost-saving measure.) Of course, given that we are here without our families, I figured if I was in the same situation I would appreciate it if the closest thing went to see me.

Well, just for kicks, here’s a list of new words I learned through this experience.

麻酔(ますい) anaesthesia
点滴(てんてき)I.V. drip
白血球(はっけっきゅう)white blood cell
造影剤(ぞうえいざい)radiocontrast agent
腹腔鏡手術(ふくこうきょうしゅじゅつ)laparoscopic surgery
モルヒネ morphine
病棟(びょうとう)hospital ward
面会時間(めんかいじかん)visiting hours

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