Posts/February, 2009/

Blood on the Floor

Friday, February 27th, 2009


There would be blood.

As part of the complicated bureaucracy of working legally in China, I needed to get a comprehensive medical examination for my residency permit. I guess China wants to make sure that it’s not letting people with contagious diseases in willy-nilly, if at all.

Yesterday I had a morning appointment.

The medical complex was a forty minute drive south of town. Thankfully, the friendly driver from work was waiting to take me there in his non-descript minivan. Through the drizzle and mist, we rode the elevated highway and passed endless city. There were buildings of every sort and as far as the eye can see. Massive repeating complexes of residential towers rose above soon to be demolished earth tone buildings. Buildings come in every color and shape, from ornate to sleek, vibrant to drab. Construction cranes loomed between office towers, sports stadiums, and train stations. Old people moved about in sad little parks along the highway.

How could there be so much city?

On the road, I felt almost as small as when I look into a starry sky. Shanghai is so massive and dense with stuff a single person is reduced to a speck of dust.

The medical center lobby contained people of various nationalities filling out forms and waiting for their number to be called. I was to meet a mysterious woman named Yuki who was sent from the visa agency. On the phone, she was described as a woman with glasses. There were many glass wearing women wandering around that morning, but eventually Yuki found me. She helped prepare the paperwork and get 10(!) passport photos taken. My number was 45. While I waited I talked with Dutch man, number 35.

When my number was called, I was led into a changing room where I removed my shirt and put on a heavy cotton robe. Little blue booties were slipped over my shoes. The hallway had multiple rooms branching off, each a different medical test. The first stop was what I had feared: taking a blood sample.

I told the technician I would probably pass out and she understood. The needle didn’t hurt too much; the idea hurt more. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine something other than a plastic vial sucking blood out through a needle jammed into my vein. I wasn’t very successful. An asian man, about my age was sitting next to me and having similar fears.

After the extraction, I went and sat in the hall and helped myself to some free cookies and water. I was feeling light headed, but I hadn’t passed out. I figured I was strong after all. I was called into the eye check room, and I aced the test. Next: X-rays. The room had an automatically closing, thick metal door. Inside, the room was stark and white. A large, modern ray emitting device was in the middle. The left wall had a viewing window for the technician to hide behind. I was told to stand with my chest touching a plastic covered section of the device while holding onto the sides. The technician walked behind the window and flipped the switch and I swear I felt my bowels jiggled by the rays. Was it just me, or was the room getting darker?

I woke after a sound night’s sleep. I had been dreaming about something, but it slipped my memory. A man was kneeling next to my head, hand on my shoulder and asking if I was alright. He was a Chinese man. I was in a white room. My bed seemed vast, cold and floor-like.

“That’s funny,” I thought. I hadn’t remembered going to to bed on the floor. And what was a Chinese man doing there? Maybe I was still dreaming. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was awake and that the Chinese man was there because I was in China.

The man helped me to some chair in the hall and I lied down. Feeling better, I reached for a cup of water someone brought. My left hand was covered in blood. At first I thought it was from the hole they pricked in my arm, but that still had a bandage on it. My head felt sore, so I felt it. Yup, the blood was coming from there. I showed my bloody hand to a nurse and she went to get some gauze. No stitches necessary.

Based on the various pains in my body, I think I must have fallen onto my left shoulder first before my head bonked the ground. I’m not sure how blood got on my hand unless it was when I had put it on the floor to get up.

They let me lie on the chairs for a while. All the other people getting their test looked at me with concern, curiosity or sympathy. Breaking my head also helped break the ice, and while lying there I had conversations with a Canadian millionaire, a married Indian couple, and student from Germany.

The rest of my tests included an ultrasound, EKG, blood pressure and heart rate (which I’m sure must have been low). I changed back into my clothes and walked into the lobby. Yuki was so sorry that I fell. I thanked her for helping me and walked into the rain to catch a taxi to work.

My shoulder, head, and teeth remain sore.

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