The hospital complex seemed more like a college campus to me when I looked at the number and arrangement of buildings, closely but tastefully spaced with pleasing landscaping. I was paying more attention than on Saturday evening and it was daylight. We exited the taxi at the huge main entrance, but turned left to take the stairs to the second story footbridge that connected to one of the many grayish white buildings. We knew we wanted number 2.
As we had passed through the various large rooms with rows and rows of teal blue resin chairs in the middle, Greg commented that it reminded him of a train station. There were windows every where, close to 30 per room, with red digital numbers being displayed. People were sitting in many of the chairs seeming to be waiting for their number to come up. Others were involved in the surprisingly clipped pace of the foot traffic. The signs were 99 % in Chinese characters. The ones with an English word weren’t helpful to us. The women at the information desk on the first floor were able to look at the appointment slip and direct us to the third floor. Fingers transcend language barriers if all you need is a bare number.
We found the outpatient plastic surgery offices by actually comparing the Chinese symbols on the appointment slip with those on a wall. You can only appreciate the magnitude of that accomplishment if you have been surrounded by thousands of Chinese characters trying to find one that you recognize. I guess I had better memorize these particular characters.
The appointments are set up in blocks of time. We had chosen the 1:30 – 5:00 PM time frame since the morning slot was already quite full and we didn’t want to wait until evening. As it was, I was the 20th one on the list for the afternoon. Our realtor counseled that we need not show up right at 1:30. We aimed for 3:30 and made it by 4:00. We found ourselves in another train station type room, but it didn’t seem specific to plastic surgery. We couldn’t tell which window to go to, but Greg spotted a door that said ‘plastic surgery’ and we peeked in.
At first glance it seemed to be a hallway, but a nurse saw us and Greg showed her the slip in a questioning way. We expected to be told which line to get in or where to wait, but were ushered right into the consultation room where a youngish doctor greeted us in both Mandarin and English. All the while, he and the nurse clearly directed me to the chair by his desk. I sat down and waited for the examination of my face that I had been told would be the primary reason for this visit. The doctor folded his hands and smiled politely. After a few seconds of odd silence, he finally asked us how he could help us, like he wanted to know what kind of plastic surgery I wanted.
A bit disconcerted, Greg explained that we had an appointment, had been in the ER Saturday, and x-rays and CAT scans had been taken. We weren’t sure we were being understood, but after some exchange with the nurse and a few moments of quizzical searching on the computer he found the right pictures. It said LAURA right on the screen. Greg was pretty sure I was the only LAURA there. There was not a last name, possibly because most Chinese names have a maximum of 4 characters, most only having two or three. They don’t usually have enough space on their forms for English names or the like.
After examining the images briefly, he smiled and told us that he would go get the doctor who specialized in faces. After a few moments, an obviously seasoned and dignified man entered the office and assumed the chair while the younger doctor stood behind. The experienced doctor studied the test results in the thoughtful, but somewhat quick way that someone with lots of experience does. He pointed out the depressed cheek bone to us again and gave fuller explanations to the man standing. He then rather somberly informed me that once the swelling went down I would see that my face was deformed and flat. So, I may look normal because you are all used to seeing me with chipmunk cheeks, but those cheeks are currently an illusion.
He then went on to explain that the cheek bone is like a chair and I have broken all four legs! (yes, four broken bones in my face.) I was surprised and began immediately feeling more like an invalid. He confirmed that they will have to do surgery if I want to be able to open my mouth more normally. The summary of the procedure is that they will go in and put thin titanium plates with little screws in my face. Where’s the plastic in that surgery? The older doctor left the younger one in charge of getting me on a waiting list for a bed, which they expect to be available in 2-3 days. He also answered our questions about the stay. The first day will be for a pre-op exam and anesthesia education. Then they anticipate 3-4 days of post-op care. I’m thinking they haven’t progressed as much as the US to doing more through outpatient processes, but I don’t think I can be the one to start the change. Its not their procedure.
Greg teased me on the way out that I am turning into a Borg. No more TV for him! I asked if we couldn’t compare to something a little nicer, maybe at least the bionic woman. He suggested the bullet proof monk. I can just stop the bullets with my face…. We noticed that this is happening just in time for his birthday. What did you do for your birthday, Greg? Oh, I bought my wife a metal face. Something for the man who is hard to shop for.