The F-ed Up Reality Behind Emergency Rooms in Taiwanese Hospitals, How ER Patients Are Treated
(This is a true story that happened to a patient in the ER in the hospitals in Taiwan)
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A 34-year-old lady ate fish too fast. This is what happened to her in the hospitals in Taipei, Taiwan.
TH is a rare stroke survivor, who’s been handicapped ever since her stroke at age 29. The pain started when she swallowed her first bite of fish head. You see, TH used to be very active, she was a world traveller who has been to over 45 countries. She’d be constantly travelling before her stroke, and when she was not travelling, she would spend at least 2 hours a day on the treadmill in the gym. While others jogged, TH sprinted. So trapped in a disabled body ever since TH‘s stroke, life has been bland. The good news is, TH still appreciates food. So, during her five years living with disabilities, when TH wakes up every day, she just thinks about what to eat for the day, and that gets her through another long day living with disabilities.
A few days ago, TH‘s mom cooked a large fish for lunch. Fish head is one of TH’s favourite food, so she gulped down a big bite. She realized right away that the fishbone was stuck in her throat. She was terrified because, based on her experience dining at France‘s famed restaurant on her Euro trip, when she also accidentally swallowed a piece of fish bone. The staff at the 3 starred Michelin restaurant kept on feeding her all kinds of foods and liquids. None of them worked. So, she knew that swallowing bread, rice, vinegar, olive oil, or none of the methods that your parents teach you work if the bone is stuck in the wrong place. Moreover, based on the pain she was experiencing, she knew it was too deep already.
You see, TH usually deals well with pain. When she fractured her humerus snowboarding back in Canada, she waited 6 hours at the clinic while chatting with her friend without dropping a tear. When she shattered her TMJ, a joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull, into pieces in a motorcycle accident with her blood splashing the whole scene, she remained fully calm and conscious and even walked herself onto the ambulance. TH‘s mom saw TH in pain, which was unseen before, called for 119, which is 911 for Taiwan, and TH is brought to the emergency room, where we are now. In the ambulance, TH asked the emergency medical technician to take her to her usual hospital, where all her medical records are stored, but the EMT said 119 patients don’t get to choose hospitals. They could only bring her to the ER at the nearest hospital, Hospital M. After arriving at the hospital, TH was told that all patients are required to do a PCR test, and the results require 1-2 hours to come out, and only those whose results are negative can be admitted. TH thought, isn’t this a simple procedure that requires just 5 minutes and a tweezer? Apparently, that wasn’t the case. So, she thought to herself, “I just have to suck it up,” and followed the standard procedure.
After waiting for an hour and a half, she received a text message confirming that her PCR test resulted negative. She was happy to enter the next stage. After about another hour of waiting, she finally got to see the doctor. The doctor sent her to do some X-Rays and CT scans. Back in Canada, TH was told by her family doctor not to get any more CT scans because she hasn’t had kids yet, and has had over 8 CT scans already in her life. So, TH asked the doctor if there was an alternative way to examine her throat. The doctor said no. However, TH overheard the doctor talking on the phone that she just wanted to keep it quick and straightforward, so she limited TH‘s choice.
After the imaging results came back, there was a humongous calcium buildup object about 3 centimetres in size stuck deep down from C5 to C7 of TH’s cervical spine segment, which was too deep to remove with just a tweezer.
The doctor then gave her two options. Number one: “gastroscopy” or option two: “esophagoscopy.” “Gastro,” meaning “relating to the stomach;” “-scopy,” meaning “study or examination. Esophagoscopy,” “Esophagus,” meaning “esophagus;” “-scopy,” meaning “study or examination.” TH had done gastroscopy before and still remembers the pain, so she asked the doctor what an Esophagoscopy is. The doctor told TH that an Esophagoscopy is a surgery that requires her to be fully anesthetized.
Now, medical malpractice is common in Taiwan, especially in those which involve anesthesia. It is not uncommon to see a teenage girl go to a plastic surgeon for a simple nose job and never see another tomorrow.
At this time, TH is still experiencing extreme discomfort. So, she asked for whichever could be done the fastest. The doctor told her Esophagoscopy would require her to wait until tomorrow, so gastroscopy seemed like the only option. Hospital M, where TH is, has a terrible reputation, so TH asked to be transferred to her regular hospital, which did not seem to have any bad reviews, and said she was willing to pay out of her own pocket for the ambulance. After being transferred to her regular hospital, Hospital V, TH spent another hour or two seeing the doctor and waiting for her gastroscopy. At the door, TH asked for “pain-free gastroscopy,” which is an option in Taiwan if patients are willing to pay out of their own pockets. However, the doctor told her there were no anesthetists on duty, so her only option was the regular one. It was 7:00 PM when she was admitted to the gastroscopy room. The last time TH went to the washroom was before leaving home at 1:00 PM. TH wasn’t sure how long the procedure would take, so she asked the doctor to let her go to the washroom before they started. Just when the doctor was about to let TH off the bed, a nurse came by and saw TH‘s ankle brace. With a grimace on her face, she told the doctors that she did not want to let TH off the bed because it seemed like a hassle. The two doctors obeyed. There were two so-called “doctors” performing on TH. Both turned out to be inexperienced. They sprayed some anesthetic spray in TH’s throat, placed a plastic oval mouthpiece to keep her mouth open, then stuck a long black tube about 3/4,” which is about 2 centimetres in diameter down TH’s throat. The procedure lasted way longer than TH had expected. TH saw the doctor stick in the tube up to where it was marked at 110 centimetres. She thought, her height was only 5′2″, 110cm is enough to reach her stomach. During the procedure, the doctor kept on yelling at TH, saying, “I told you not to swallow or gag. Why are you gagging!? Fifty minutes passed, the bed, the floor and the see-through part of the device were all covered in blood. TH started to tear up as she realized she was being slaughtered by two inexperienced technicians, possibly even nurses.
You see, in Taiwan, only doctors are eligible to perform a gastroscopy. These two are obviously not. During the process, there were many trial-and-errors, problem-solving “Oh, so you see, you need to do this, you need to do that” “So you need to this is how you hold it,” “Right, right.” “Now hold this for me for now,” “Okay, now your turn“…. There were many discussions during the procedure. TH starts tearing up as she realized she is being practiced on like a Resusci Anne. Most importantly, if she dies during the procedure, nobody would ever know how hard she fought before being slaughtered.
The “doctor” saw her tearing up and continued with the verbal abuse. “WHY ARE YOU CRYING NOW!? STOP GAGGING!!” But gagging is just a body reflex when you stick a 110cm tube down a person’s throat! Over an hour passed. TH‘s sinus was all severely blocked. She couldn’t breathe. She was about to suffocate so she signaled with her hand that she needed to take a break. When the “doctor”r took out the tube, he dropped it on the floor. You see, hospitals in Taiwan usually clean their facilities once a month. TH saw the “doctor” picking the tube out and about to stick it right back in her mouth without disinfecting it. With the COVID pandemic still going on, she asked him to disinfect it. However, the “doctor” completely ignored her request and stuck the tube back into her mouth, down her esophagus and down her stomach. The “doctors” were finally able to locate the fishbone. They and stuck a larger tube, about 1.5,” which is about 4 centimetres in diameter, and about 30 centimetres long tube into her throat and took out the fishbone. TH lived, she sat up, told the doctors, “You guys just deep-throated me hardcore.” None of them laughed.
So, if you value your life, don’t come to Taiwan.
And, if you come to Taiwan, don’t eat fish.