Tokyo Hospitals and Flu Tests From Hell


It seems that ever since I moved to Tokyo I’ve fallen into a cycle when it comes to my writing. I stop writing for some reason, come back to writing with a proclamation of “I’m back writing!” and then I immediately fall of the face of the earth again and stop writing for an indeterminate amount of time, only to see the cycle repeat once more.

Previous writing lapses were caused by a heavier than expected workflow, then a sudden dip in my mental health. While my mental state has been pretty okay for the most part/back to it’s normal level of complete insanity, this past month, my physical state decided to take a turn for the worse, causing me to come down with strep throat not once, but four fucking times. It’s really hard to write when you can’t keep your head up.

As you can imagine, a repeated sore throat and dangerously high fever is the kind of thing one might see the doctor for. So halfway through my third bought with the shockingly resilient infection known as streptococcal pharyngitis, I decided to bite the bullet and make my way to a Japanese hospital for some help.

It was an experience.

Hospitals in Japan are…interesting. You may have read that they just straight-up close after 8pm, but that’s not exactly true. The emergency room (and I assume ICU and other in-patient departments) are always open, obviously. However, the main reception area and any department that does not require on-site patient care does in fact close fairly early in the evening. When I got there, the place was a damn near ghost town. Most of the lights were off, and many workers and medical staff seemed to be leaving en masse. Even the main information desk was closed, with only a sign in Japanese instructing visitors where to go. Thankfully, a kind old lady noticed my confusion and pointed me in the right direction to the ER check-in area. (I’d also like to point out that she gave me the directions in Japanese and I understood them despite having a fever of 104. Watashi wa badass.)

Once I hobbled over to it, I was happy to see that the main ER lobby is pretty much the same as the check-in area of an American ER. You fill out some basic paperwork, describe how you feel and so on. One difference, however, is that they use your time in the waiting area to start some basic medical checks, such as your blood pressure and temperature (sidenote: in Japan “under the arm” is the de facto temperature-taking method). It was during this time that they told me my wait time might be upwards of two hours. I don’t know if it was my loud exclamation of “oh fucking hell!” or my recently recorded 104f (39.9c) fever, but that wait time was probably closer to about 20 minutes, at which point I was guided into the ER and allowed to lay down on a hospital bed. Good thing too, because I was nearly ready to pass out, and I don’t think the entire staff of the hospital would have been able to pick my giant ass up off the floor.

A few moments after collapsing onto a hospital bed, later a pair of nurses came in and announced that they would need a “flu, blood and urine test.” I knew the latter two just fine but I was a bit confused on the whole “flu test” thing. However, since I was barely conscious I really didn’t press the matter. Then they came back with a metal spike and I started to get a bit worried.

“Time for flu test!” the nurse said.

“Um, where do you plan on sticking that?” I asked.

“This go up nose!” she happily responded.

That was, like, my last choice.


A rough approximation of a flu test swab. (not really, this is an ice pick)

In case you’re wondering, yeah, having a GIANT SPIKE GO UP YOUR FUCKING NOSE HURTS. It fucking hurts. It really fucking hurts. I really fucking hurts a fucking lot. It’s fucking painful. What I’m saying is that it fucking hurts and I didn’t enjoy it.

After that foray into Saw I was presented with a plastic cup and the nurse, still cheerful despite my screams from having a GIANT FUCKING SPIKE GO UP MY FUCKING NOSE said “Okay, now we need urine. You can go to bathroom and use cup or -”

I cut her off, “no need for ‘or’ whatever ‘or’ is, I’ll go to the bathroom thanks.”

After that was a blood sample (needle in my arm, no big deal) followed by several IVs since I was dangerously dehydrated. I started to feel better, but here’s the thing – I knew I had strep throat, but they wouldn’t give me a strep test for some reason. I kept saying I needed one but the doctor said that since he didn’t see any white spots in the back of my mouth, that I couldn’t possibly have strep. Eventually though I wore him down, and I convinced them to give me a strep test.

Shock. I had strep. But then they wouldn’t give me antibiotics to get rid of the strep. “It go away on own” the doctor kept saying. Well, it had been hanging around in my body for three weeks now at least, so I didn’t buy that. Once again, I was eventually able to wear him down and get him to prescribe me some antibiotics.

That was a mistake.

Did I mention I’m allergic to penicillin? Well, hey I’m allergic to penicillin. I know I told them that, but for some reason they prescribed me a drug very similar to penicillin. That, of course, gave me a fever and hives. So back to the hospital I went for a round of hardcore prescription antihistamines (or as I like to call them, sleepy time fun drugs) followed by a prescription of horribly strong antibiotics that made my stomach tie itself into knots for a week. And they didn’t do me a whole hell of a lot of good, because my sore throat and body aches came back shortly after I finished taking them. I do seem to be better now though – two weeks removed from my last outbreak. Here’s hoping I stay that way for at least a month. I’m very sick of getting sick.

While I’m not happy about any of this, I can say that I did at least find the experience of going to a Japanese hospital to be interesting, if not a little bewildering. Here’s the thing; Japan is well known for its amazing customer service. Go into a camera store, those motherfuckers will bend over backwards to make you happy. But at the hospital…well…it’s not that the service was bad in the sense that I felt like they didn’t care. It was bad in the sense that I felt they were one fuck up away from killing me. Constant mistakes, constant confusion, constant ignored calls for assistance. I don’t know if they were too busy or just inept, regardless, it was weird. But hey, both trips to the hospital cost me less than $200 total – so I’m not going to complain that much. I’m sure that in America it would have run me close to a grand, if not more, and that’s including my insurance.

But fuck that flu test. For real.

6 Responses to Tokyo Hospitals and Flu Tests From Hell

  • You are inhaling radionuclides from Fukushima. Probably ingesting them as well. Good luck……

    • James Eldred says:

      If you’re joking that’s not funny. If you’re not joking and you actually think that’s the case then please fuck off and stop believing every poorly sourced, idiotic anti-nuclear piece of shit you read online.

  • I am serious and you are in denial. You have plenty of company though if that is any solace. And yes, I am very much anti nuclear though that is a recent change of heart. Tepco along with the Japanese government is guilty of irreparable harm to global human health. Smiling will not help………

    • James Eldred says:

      Before I moved to Japan I researched the hell out of this. Looking through source after source for information. It was not something I took lightly. Tokyo radiation levels are lower than most cities across the world. At their peak (20x their normal levels) they were still WELL below the minimum danger level. Even the most braindead idiotic propaganda (usually RT or other idiot sites) don’t mention Tokyo in their propaganda anymore, because none of their worst case scenarios have come to pass in the city – because the city is safe.

      The real threat of radiation comes from food, food that is routinely checked for radiation levels on an almost insane basis (leading to safe foods being thrown out across the world).

      So please, either come at me with an actual scientific source that shows its research or take your audiophile ears and idiot brain and fuck off.

  • batgrl says:

    I was totally ok reading this until the OMGDAMMITWTH giant spike part. Because damn, that is seriously horrorshow. And I say this as someone who’s been hospitalized with a brain bleed and had to have a spinal tap. Giant spike = worse. Er, not that this is every a conversation you want to have someone say “you win!” as a response but, just, wow. Damn. Massive cringing going on here.

    As a totally weak “on the bright side” you now have a hell of a new setting on your own personal How I Measure Pain.

  • rob says:

    wait, how does the spike measure you having the flu? i don’t….

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