Nov 15, 2017

In the Hospital

After an hour and a half of good sleep, I woke up with a pain in my lower abdomen. I knew immediately what it was because I have had it any number of times before. After having my gall bladder removed in my 50s (my appendix was taken out when I was 16), I started having a lot of gas. Sometimes the gas builds up and my stomach and intestines blow up like a balloon causing a substantial amount of pain. This has gotten worse since I had part of my intestines removed during a successful cancer operation. I had twice previously spent a week in a large hospital, Hamanomachi Hospital where I had had my cancer operation, and where each time they had finally said that they could not determine the cause. On the other occasions when this has happened, I just stayed up burping until the pain disappeared. This usually took about three hours or so, and except for a lack of sleep, I would be fine the next morning.

This time was different, though. The pain was substantially reduced after three hours but then it started to increase again. By five o'clock in the morning it was obvious that I needed to go to the hospital again, where they would insert a tube in my nose and allow the gas to escape.

Since the large hospital is far from my apartment, I had made arrangements to go to the Takeda Hospital the next time it happened. This hospital is one block from my apartment and where I have monthly followup examinations after my cancer operation. My wife called the hospital and the night nurse, after consulting with the doctor, said to come to the hospital.

My previous trips to Hamanomachi Hospital had been by ambulance, but this time we called a taxi for the one block trip. After ringing the doorbell at the back entrance, we waited until the nurse came down from the second floor. She took us up to the second floor and put me in a room.

 Although my room was technically for two people, I was the only one in it during my entire five day stay. The room was clean and quite modern. The bed was old as was some of the furniture but it was very adequate. The small window in the picture looks out on the hall but there was a large window on the opposite wall that provides a view of the tree lined street and the mountains beyond.

Eventually the doctor came. It turned out to the be the father of my regular doctor who was away giving a lecture at a medical conference. The father had started this hospital 40 years ago but now only worked when his son was not available. He checked me out and after I said had previously had the pain relieved by a tube through my nose and into my stomach, he had the nurse get the necessary equipment and inserted a plastic tube. I felt like an aquarium but the pain was soon gone.

Later in the morning I was given a number of tests, including blood tests and x-rays. The son, my regular doctor, stopped by to see me during the late afternoon. They put me on intravenous feeding for two days and then 1400 calorie diet. I lost almost 3 kilograms, which I hope I can keep off now that I am back home. When the test results came back, there was no evidence of what caused the gas but some definite irregularities. The reason for the pain was obvious, the gas, but they could find no particular reason for the gas. My kidneys were not functioning properly according to the blood tests but x-rays and the ultrasonic scanner showed no evidence of any problem. Also one of the markers for cancer came back positive but a second marker was unchanged, so it probably is not another tumor.

By the second day, I felt fine and was ready to go home but the doctor wanted to keep me under observation for a bit longer so he kept me for five days altogether. I used the time to read six novels and a manual on my Kindle, listen to some podcasts on my iPod, and walk in the hall ways for 40 minutes a day.

Since Japan has universal socialized medical insurance, my stay including tests, medicine, doctors, and room and board cost me just a little over US$200. We also have some additional private insurance and may eventual get about half of that as a refund.

I am now home and except for being very tired feeling okay. I expect to have some more tests next week but will be able to have them on an outpatient basis.

In my next blog, I will describe the hospital and its operations in more detail. It seems to be quite typical of small hospitals in Japan.

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