Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Health check in China -nothing for people with blood phobias

Some weeks ago I went to the hospital to do the compulsorily health check that you need to do in order to obtain a working visa. By now I’ve made peace with the thought of doing a blood test in China, but you should have seen me 3,5 years ago –back then I was livid!

You see, I have this super fear of blood –I guess better described as a phobia. It doesn’t matter what anyone says (“It doesn’t hurt, and it’s not that bad!”) or do (“very gentle, and you don’t even need to see the needle!”) I still faint at the sight of blood/shots/too graphic body organ images. It’s been like that since I was 13 (in fact, that’s when we “discovered” it) and I fainted in a biology class. (As all of you might have guessed I never joined the class later that semester when they dissected frogs).

I’ve still managed quite well in life (although I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve fainted, not to mention all the times I’ve been close to fainting –one of the most obscure one being in an airplane seat when I watched a movie that was just a bit too graphic for my blood-scared mind), however, every time it’s time for a health check in China I get quite nervous. And why? Well, because over here there is definitely none of that “babying around” at the hospital. If I tell a nurse in Sweden/Finland/Australia that I have a blood phobia and need to lie down from the start, she’s normally very understanding, mainly because it’s not that uncommon in the west (in fact, most nurses soothe me with information like: “you know what, most grown-up men are even more scared than you are!”) In China –not so much.

Doing a health check in China, however, is extremely fast and efficient. You get to the hospital armed with your 4 photos, change to a hideous white robe (no bra allowed, just a warning –better keep that robe tight!), and run between different rooms, doing everything from a sight test to EKG tests. Since I’ve done the test twice before I knew the blood test was hiding in one of those rooms, and unfortunately enough, I ended up bumping into it in the beginning of my examination.

There I came, still feeling good, just to walk straight into the sight of a western woman seated to the right, in the middle of her test, and a nurse armed with good knows what to my left, urging me to sit down and get going. Not a sight for sore eyes. I felt sick at once.

I tried explaining my phobia but it did little good (besides, I don’t know the word “phobia” in Chinese). As I was rambling on about me being “scared” and “feeling light-headed” the nurse looked at me as if I was a giant baby (I suppose in some ways I am, haha!), until I gave up, decided to hide my face in my arm and started humming along to some melody-lacking song (singing is NOT my thing). It didn’t hurt and I didn’t see much (that’s not the thing I’m “scared of” –it’s the whole feeling that I find sickening) and afterwards the nurse smacked an arm (as a sign of being done I suppose?) and forced a smile, before she hesitatively handed me a tiny chocolate bar, saying something like “good girl!”

We both stared at the chocolate bar, resting in hand, and I couldn’t help it, but I started laughing, because I felt so ridiculous. And believe it or not, as soon as I started laughing, the nurse joined in (she probably had the same thoughts) and we laughed so hard that tears started running from our eyes (and two nurses from other rooms came over to see what was going on).

I kept the chocolate and went to the X-ray room (there’s no part like “sitting down and relaxing for a bit” in this test), feeling quite good, or at least that’s what I told myself. But, as soon as I came into the new room I started to feel faint and weak and it didn’t take long before I had to sit down, being on the verge of passing out. The X-ray guy didn’t buy my whole “it’s because of the blood test” but thought I had a sugar low and brought me water and biscuits! However, after 1 min of sitting down and being watched by stressed eyes (a line was forming outside my room –like I said: fainting is not taken into account in this efficient test!) I decided I was good to go and went to another room. And that’s about when I fainted. Fortunately a tiiiiiny Chinese nurse caught me in the fall, and next thing I know I was lying on a hospital bed, tubes attached to my skin and a smiling Chinese doctor’s face over me. Turns out, that even though I had fainted, the examination still went on! I could not help but laughing when I realized that (what else can you do?!).

At least I was lying down so no risk of fainting again. A scary EKG test followed the tube test (me: “why is this taking so long?” (thinking: “man, this is insanely uncomfortable and makes me feel like crawling out of my own skin, stop it now!”) doctor: “oh, just need to look if there are any problems!” Me: PROBLEMS?! Are there any problems?!” She: “No big problems!” Short moment of silence. Me: “How about SMALL problems?” She: “Hahahahhahaha, you are the smartest laowai I have come across for a long time!” (Me, thinking: “yeah, enough about the flattering, are there any PROBLEMS?!”) and then I was free to go home.

Entered to office, still white-faced, hoping I would not receive any compliments of my “beautiful white skin!” I didn’t. However, two of my Chinese workmates actually noticed that something was wrong:

-Jonna?! You don’t look yourself today? Did something happen? You are very pale and look uncomfortable.

Must say I’m impressed. That’s some seriously good face-reading skills for sure. No one else said anything.


Dr. Heckle said...

I have issues with needles more than blood, but the thought of having tests done in a Chinese hospital would make me faint as well...

Tarja said...

I started feeling weak after reading your post about blod.... I so hate blod tests!

I remember the health check (well who doesn't..) when we arrived. There was one australian lady sitting next to me. She asked one chinese guy to translate what was written in her papers. It said she had heart condition! Well she didn't have one I don't know where they got this information.

I fainted in the blod test! Terrible experience...

胡崧 said...

blood-phobia - 恐血症

Chrissy said...

You did well Jonna!

I've never had blood drawn on my life! just a prick on my finger and i certainly do not look forward to it.

Reading about it made me feel so weak as well :D

That's so brave of you and i hope you're feeling way better now.

That was some experience.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Dr Heckle -yeah it's quite common to have issues w either needles or blood or both..

Tarja -haha, u r just like me I can tell! Good thing that Australian woman decided to come to China and did a health check..

胡崧 -thanks! Word of the day!

Chrissy -never did a blood test?! Ahhh, u r lucky! I think they are hunting me for some reason.

Pete In Syracuse said...

I love the fact you got Chocolate in this whole story....You Go Girl !!! lol

Netster23 said...

Joana hahahahah you have phobia with blood and needle?

You know what? I am too! I remember 3 years ago when the doctor taking my blood... I was laughing so loud! hahahaha I was so scared but I just can't help it to laugh to make myself happy and forget about the scary thing.

that was than...

in 2009, my mom in law was diagnose with lung cancer and I have to bring her in and out of hospital for medical check up. while I was there, I seen doctor taking her blood.

There's one time in the hospital where my mom-in-law went, a young lady was sick and the nurse was trying to take her blood but unfortunately the nurse just can't find the blood vessel to take the blood and because she is scared i brave myself together with her husband to give her encouragement.

Since than I tell myself I should not be afraid of needles.

wow your post just remind me of many things in this world where we thought its not possible but we can face it head on.

Great post! Cheers

Anonymous said...

I believe there is another word used for the condition of faint in sight of blood "晕血".


Melody said...

Oh man! I hate blood tests! I have 'em like every 3 years, and I'm already looking forward to April 11 2011 - not! I was already getting light-headed when I read your story.. Hope you're feeling well at the moment :)