Thursday, September 22, 2011


Many, many doctors! (Credit:

I’ve been to more doctors’ appointments in 18 months in Korea than in all 28 years previously in South Africa. I’m not exaggerating. It’s not just the number of times I’ve been to a doctor that’s astonishing, it’s the sheer variety of medical experts I’ve seen. I’ve gone to regular GP’s, gynaecologists, neurologists, optometrists, dentists, orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists and even an OBGYN. I’m sure I’m leaving someone out… Oh yes, a dermatologist.

It’s apparently common for foreigners to get sick quite often during their first year in Korea. The air, food, weather, lifestyle and alcohol are all very different, so that’s fair enough. I rarely had the flu in SA, but I got it twice in the space of a month when I first arrived here in February 2010. It was snowing, I drank a lot of cheap beer and ate virtually nothing, so it was to be expected. But since then, various doctors within a 25km radius of my house all know me by name and the receptionists don’t even need to see my ID card when I walk through the door.

Aside from various bouts of flu, I had fairly serious surgery, and then needed a neurologist to figure out why my arms wouldn’t work and I had no feeling in my thumbs. These events are connected, and it was a case so bizarre that the neuro wanted to use me as a case study. Not only was I teaching children how to say fork instead of pork, but I was contributing to medical history!

It all started when I went for a routine gynae check up, as all responsible women should do. The doctor, who spoke very basic English (another fun aspect of all these doctors visits has been learning to speak medical Konglish) did his exam and then suddenly said, “Whoa!” and looked at his assistant with wide eyes. That’s not the best reaction when having your insides examined, just FYI doctors! He quickly recovered his composure before struggling for the word ‘tumour’. “You have big, uh, tumour in uterus. Maybe 7cm diameter,” he said. Oh, is that all? Ok then!

After calling a Korean friend to explain the full story, me in tears, Dr Tumour sent me to another hospital in another town, where I saw an OBGYN. Luckily this new man spoke better English, because going to the gynae is almost the least fun thing a woman can do and it helps to be able to speak to the stranger poking about down there. Dr English confirmed that I had a fibroid the size of an orange inside me, and booked me into surgery that same week.

To be continued…


  1. Aaah, yes... I remember this all quite well! :) xxx

  2. It must be the phase of the moon in the Northern Hemisphere, because just the other day, my bff and I were talking about "the least fun thing a woman can do" and she was regaling me with the joys of doing it in Swiss-German. Apparently by contrast, having a baby in another language can be quite informative.

    Good start.