I am constantly amazed by Korean health care.
Let me start by saying that a month before I came to Korea I sustained an ear injury. I was cleaning my ears and tried to give my 4 year old nephew a hug, but he resisted and ended up kicking the Q-tip into my ear. Ouch! Yeah, it was stupid, but it happened and now I have a giant hole in my eardrum. The hole is about half the size of the eardrum.
I saw the doctor right after it happened and he asked me to come back before I left so he could check on it. It hadn’t healed so he recommended that I get the hole patched. I would have had to have gone to an Ear Nose Throat specialist and the doctor thought that it would cost no less than $600-700. I told him that wasn’t going to happen and that I would get it checked out in Korea. He said that should be fine because it was a pretty simple surgery.
A few weeks ago I finally sought out an ENT here to see about getting my ear all patched up. It just so happens that there is an ENT very close to my school and apartment (about a 5-10 minute walk). And the best part is that he speaks PERFECT English! His nurses are adorable. They get super nervous when trying to talk to me so they have put one nurse in charge of me. She knows just enough English words so that I pretty much know what she’s talking about. When I walk off I usually hear the other nurses clapping for her or giggling. It’s so funny.
In the doctor’s office I was able to see the hole in my eardrum. The tool that the doctor uses to look in the ear is connected to a TV on the wall. The hole is shockingly large. The ENT confirmed that I would need a patch, but he only performs surgery on Wednesdays and he was all booked up until September. That worked for me because I have several days off in September for Korean thanksgiving (Chuseok) so I booked my surgery for September 14th. AND the best part is that the doctor said that the surgery will only cost me about $100. Nice. That visit cost about $10.
So this doctor is apparently very thorough because he scheduled me to come back in two weeks. He asked me to bring a copy of my health check that was performed at my EPIK orientation. My follow-up visit was this past Wednesday. He advised me that I would need to have some tests done before my surgery. During my visit I had blood drawn and gave them a urine sample. I was also advised that I would need to go to the hospital across the street to get an EKG. I thought all of this seemed a bit overkill for a simple outpatient ear surgery, but whatever he says! That visit only cost about $12 (including the tests). My next appointment is in two weeks so we can go over the results of my tests.
I got off work around noon on Friday because it was the last day of school. This was perfect because I was worried about when I would have time to go get my EKG done. I went to the hospital right after school. Be prepared to be impressed. I swear to you that I went to the hospital as a walk-in trying to get an EKG. I was in and out in about 10 minutes. The part that took the longest was when I went to the wrong counter and the two nurses were too shy to speak English to me so one of them escorted me to where I needed to go (even though I heard one of them mumble “go straight and turn left” after I walked away). The EKG only cost me $5.
Korea, your health care system is remarkable. Thank you for providing waygookens (foreigners) like me such wonderful health insurance!