Archive for the ‘China’ Category

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The Qipao

June 23, 2018

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

four Chinese qipao dresses on display

We recently went to a display of qipao dresses which had been owned by the Soong sisters or members of their extended family. If you are not familiar with the Soong family, it’s time for a little Wikipedia reading. These three sisters all married powerful men and were influential in Chinese politics themselves. Ai-ling married the finance minister H.H. Kung, Ching-ling married Sun Yat-sen, and Mei-ling married Chiang Kai-shek. At least two of those names should be familiar.

Green beaded qipao dress

dark blue, loose fitting qipao dress

black, unadorned, long sleeve, long skirt, qipao dress

two loose fitting, embroidered qipao dresses

black and white photo of two of the Soong sisters

Several of these dresses were on loan from the Shanghai Pavillion of Treasured Qipaos of Bygone Era. We will have to do some detective work to find out where this is. To see more pictures – click here.

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Medical Travails part 2

June 9, 2018

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

bouquet of pink rosesSo, in continuation of the last post, I have had yet another hospital experience. For many years, I have had difficulty walking. I have had fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and fallen arches for 11 years, but something else was afoot because my ability to walk was gradually declining.

In 2016, I went to a clinic near work to see if I could get some help with this. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a poor choice. The doctor was initially excited about the condition, but after MRI exams and a consultation with a spine surgeon ruled out surgery, the doctor’s interest waned. The next step was a consultation with a neurologist. Now, consultation is a rather grand word for what actually happened. The clinic (they call themselves a hospital, but … uh, no) has a small staff and any specialists are pulled in from the larger Chinese hospitals (genuine hospitals). These specialists do not speak much, if any, English. This meant having an interpreter – the nurse who speaks a micron more English than the specialist. Communication is the biggest obstacle in getting any care for really serious conditions.

After this brief consultation, the neurologist recommended an electromyogram examination. This could not be done at the clinic, so they scheduled it to be done at one of the main hospitals over a month later. This exam was quite an experience in itself. I was met by one of the clinic nurses so that she could guide me to the right place and communicate with the staff. The building was old, crowded, and not well designed for it’s purpose. The narrow halls were crowded with Chinese people waiting to be treated or tested. The exam room was crowded and lacked privacy. The exam consisted of having my leg shocked to test the conduction of my nerves. Being electrically shocked was just as much fun as it sounds. Then they told me they were going to insert an electrode into my muscles. I don’t think anyone was wearing rubber gloves. All in all, I did not get a good impression of one of the biggest and well respected hospitals.

We had summer travel, so it was fall before I went back to the clinic to see what was next. More than once I had to schedule an appointment with the doctor to prod him to move us on to the next step. Ridiculous. When DaddyBird would accompany me, the doctor would look only at him and tell him what was going on as if I wasn’t in the room. I could tell you the nationality of this doctor (not Chinese) and that would explain it, but that would be spreading stereotypes. (Some times stereotypes are earned.) Ridiculous sexism.

Another consultation with the neurologist resulted in a recommendation for a full neurological work up in the Chinese hospital previously mentioned. The clinic doctor was to schedule this. Time went on … I saw the doctor in passing while at a physical therapy session and reminded him. “Oh, yes, next week…” Next week came and went, so I texted him a reminder. Again, no appointment. So, after a month of him not doing anything about it, I gave up on him. By this time, I had breast cancer concerns anyway, so I had to prioritize.

So, fast forward through the breast cancer experience, this spring I decided I needed to get back to my mobility issues. This time I chose to go to the international medical care center that had done DaddyBird’s angioplasty procedures. They had done good work with little hassle. So, after an initial consultation with a neurologist, he recommended I be admitted to the hospital for 5 days to have thorough testing done.

It was a tight squeeze at this time of year because one of my library assistants was leaving for good and I still hadn’t hired a replacement. The end of the school year is approaching, so we are in the midst of getting textbooks back. A busy time.

So, into the hospital I went and the tests began. Another electromyogram, this time done much more professionally and thoroughly. They tested both legs, both arms, and my head. So fun having electrode pins stuck into one’s scalp. They checked my heart, my arteries, my abdomen, my head, my back, etc. On one morning they took 12 vials of blood for testing. All told over the course of 11 days, I think they took 20 vials.

I mustn’t leave out the most crazy test. They didn’t tell me what it was for. I knew I was in trouble when I was wheeled in and saw the machine. It was a chair, not unlike an astronaut’s chair with lots of straps, and it was mounted on a big wheel. They were going to take me for a spin. The technician strapped me in, but not very tightly. My head was secured and black out goggles applied. She told me to keep my eyes open. Then she said that I would be moved quickly, but not too fast. Don’t worry. That is what happened. Unfortunately, she had strapped me in so loosely, that I was banged around in the chair. Not fun for someone with fibromyalgia. I passed the test, whatever it is, but I won’t be joining NASA any time soon.

By day three they confirmed that I had peripheral neuropathy, but cause or specific type was still unidentified. A team of doctors were working on my case, so there was much discussion and different opinions.

Day four was the spinal tap. That is a scary thing to have done, but the painful parts were the local anesthetic shots and the pain after the shots wore off. Also, there was the challenge of getting into a fetal position and holding still. We are just poking into your spinal cord, relax, don’t move.

The tests from that were all normal. That was good news as things like multiple sclerosis would have shown up. Glad not to have that.

By the start of the second week, they decided it was probably Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy OR Vaculitic Neuropathy. The treatment is same for both conditions, so it is a bit moot as to which label we put on it. A 5 day course of IV corticosteroid treatment began. More blood tests, another MRI, and daily exams.

Finally released after 11 days, I will continue to take medications for another month. Will go back for a checkup three weeks from now before summer travel. The symptoms came on over the long term and reversal will take some time. Also, because I have had this condition for so many years undiagnosed and untreated, some of my nerves may have died and there is no coming back from that, so recovery of mobility may be limited. I will take what I can get.

A few cultural notes on being in a Chinese medical facility – English communication is always the big obstacle. Each doctor and nurse has a different level of proficiency. The young female doctor had the best English and was quick with a translation app to make sure medical terms were clear. That was helpful. The rest of my information came from the internet – checking medication side effects, condition symptoms, treatment options, etc.

In China, there is little yielding or waiting for others. For example, people who want to get onto an elevator will wait right in front of the doors and when they open immediately try to push their way in without considering that someone might want to get out and make room for them to get in. The same applied to exam rooms. As soon as the MRI room door opened, my helper had me up and walking in without waiting for the previous patient and helper to exit the room. There was not enough room for four people to pass.

As an inpatient of the international medical care department, I had the uncomfortable experience of being wheeled through a waiting room where about 80 women were waiting for ultrasound tests. I was in and out in about 5-10 minutes. This happens frequently. Foreigners are moved to the front of the line.

Having been through all of this, my recommendation for anyone with a serious illness or a mysterious condition, skip the local “hospital” and go straight to an international care facility connected with a large, well respected hospital. I hope this will be our last experience with major illness. I’ve probably just jinxed us.

 

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Medical Travails part 1

June 9, 2018

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

bouquet of white and purple roses

You may have noticed a paucity of posts over the last year, or so. There is a reason for that. We have both been involved in medical concerns.

We had a rough spring and summer, then in August,  DaddyBird complained of having a sore throat that wouldn’t go away. Then he noticed that when he was physically active the pain would spread down to his chest. Uh oh, angina. He saw a doctor who referred him to a cardiologist who referred him to a hospital for an angiogram. November and early December involved two angioplasty procedures to clear his blocked arteries.

My part in the medical drama of 2017 actually started in October 2016 when I went in for a routine check-up and a lump was identified in my right breast. Several years ago when we were still in the USA, I found my first breast lump. I freaked and assumed the worst because I have a significant family history of cancer. It took a while to get a doctor appointment, and then due to the joys of HMO medical care, it took another two weeks before I could have a diagnostic mammogram. That lump turned out to be a liquid filled cyst, nothing to worry about, although the delay of medical care gave me plenty of time to think the worst.

This time, the OB/GYN looked at a same day mammogram and said we need an MRI. So I did the MRI. After the MRI, she referred me to the surgeon. I looked at the written reports of both the mammogram and the MRI. They were both vague. “It might be something or nothing.” (That’s not a direct quote.) When I got to the appointment with the surgeon, he had no idea why I was there. The OB/GYN had not communicated anything. #*%($)#*%*! He scrambled around and finally found the written report for one of the tests and said “It’s probably nothing. Come back in 6 months.” I went away quite displeased. The clinic sent me an automated survey asking about my visit. I let them have it with both barrels. I named both doctors and explained how they had dropped the ball and I was not pleased. (I haven’t received one of these survey requests since. Probably threw their customer satisfaction statistics off.)

So … six months later, I go back to this surgeon. He is much more attentive and prepared this time. He gives me three options – Wait and see, Biopsy, and Lumpectomy. I cannot think why I would want to keep this lump and have to be periodically checking on it to see if it has turned against me. So, lumpectomy it is. Let’s just get rid of it. So, May of 2017 the first lump is removed, easy peasy. The procedure is so minimal that I am back at work the next day. The pathology report came quickly and the surgeon said “nothing to worry about.”

Yes, you read right. I said “first lump.” By the end of August I had a second. This time it hurt. Constant pain. Back to the surgeon. They do an ultrasound. I had seen the first lump and the second on the ultrasound screen and they look very different. The first was like a walnut, the second looks like an ominous black cloud. The lump is close to the suture for the first lumpectomy. The surgeon says “not to worry, what has probably happened is that the space where the lump was has filled with liquid, come back in one month.” He gives me ibuprofen for the pain, completely ineffective for pain relief.

So … back in one month, now the surgeon has changed his tune. He consulted with someone who actually understood the ultrasound and it is not fluid. Now he says that the first surgery may have triggered other tissue to grow into a lump.  Once again, my options are – Wait and see, Biopsy, and Lumpectomy. This time I opted for biopsy, thinking it could be done quickly. HA! At this clinic it could only be done once a week on Saturdays, so it was scheduled for 2 weeks hence. Then I got a call postponing it for another week. 3 weeks. After 2 weeks I was laying in bed with my boob hurting so bad that I couldn’t sleep and knowing that it was getting bigger. It seemed clear to me that the surgeon was guessing. I decided a second opinion was needed.

Right before the first lumpectomy, the insurance company had recommended a different clinic with surgeons who specialize in breast health. I had brushed off that suggestion because I didn’t want to delay. I wanted that lump out and it seemed straightforward. Now that things are more complex, I attempted to make an appointment at that clinic. The person who answered the phone spoke only Chinese. So, I tried the website “make an appointment” form, which did not work. So, I contacted the insurance case nurse who had suggested the clinic in the first place by email and asked her to help me make an appointment. She did. (Our insurance company is freaking fantastic.)

In late October, I switched doctors and went in for a biopsy. Since it was supposed to be a simple collection of a bit of tissue, I was awake for this procedure. Once she opened it up, she just took the whole thing out. I don’t recommend vivisection. Not fun.

At the beginning of September the second lump was 2.5 cm. By the end of October when it was removed it was 5 cm. Doubled in size.

It was supposed to take 5-7 working days for the pathology report, but it actually took 3 weeks. A very long difficult 3 weeks. I went back to the original clinic and got copies of all the reports. Now that I had the original pathology report I could see that it said “borderline” not “benign.” The second pathology report finally came and this time it was “malignant.” The report took 3 weeks, but by 2 weeks I already had a third lump.

A third lump.

Turns out I have a rare type of breast cancer. The good news is that it rarely spreads beyond the breast. The bad news is that it tends to reoccur, as I can attest after a third lump.

I found this out only by research on the internet. The main obstacle all along has been language barrier. If one speaks NO Chinese (to my shame) and  the doctor speaks only enough English to get by, it can be impossible to have the kind of in depth conversations that are necessary with major illness.

So, next step, another surgical procedure to collect tissue that had been around the second lump for on-the-spot testing. If it was malignant, the surgery would turn into a mastectomy. If not, I would get to keep my mangled breast. It was a big week for us as DaddyBird was to be in another hospital for his second angioplasty. He got me settled into my hospital and was there when I came out of surgery, but then was off to his own hospital experience. Different hospitals, so we communicated via chat and video call. We were both released on Friday.

The results of the third surgery – removal of the third lump and the test of the neighboring tissue was not malignant. Two boobs enter, two boobs leave.

With exactly one week between release from the hospital (for both DaddyBird and I ) and our flight to Prague for Christmas with BabyBird, we tried to leave the stress behind and enjoy the holiday.

In late January, I had a post surgery ultrasound in search of lump number four.

Surprisingly and happily, there is no lump number four. So far, so good.

So, now you know why I have posted so little of our adventures over 2017.

Medical adventures continue …

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Chuansha

October 8, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Chinese watercolor painting of a tree and two horses

During Golden Week (China National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival), we mostly stayed home and rested. Our big outing was to go to Chuansha overnight and spend a day exploring.

Chuansha was an older, walled city that has been swallowed up by modern Shanghai.

Chinese watercolor of two boys playing

We visited a museum that is the former residence of Huang Yanpei. There was very little signage in English. There are extensive exhibits including information about Huang Yanpei and other prominent people who have lived there over the years. The highlight for me was the artworks.

rubbing of a horse drawing a carriage

After the museum we walked down the adjacent old city street to have lunch.

cobbled street

After lunch we walked along the city moat to a park where remnant city wall is preserved.

15 foot high grey brick wall with crenellations

Next was Heming Tower and Chuansha Park.

five story high square Chinese tower

The park has two parts, an amusement park for children and a park styled after the ancient gardens. The garden was lovely, but very noisy. The boomboxes and karaoke machines make for an assault on the senses.

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To see all the pictures, click here.

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City Blocks

October 2, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

long city street

During a video conversation with my in-laws, DaddyBird described my walk home from work as “a few city blocks.” I had to disagree. I have no idea what the measurement of a “city block” is.

Above is the first of these “city blocks.” The flat roof near the top of the trees is the gym building of my campus.

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Next I have to cross this pedestrian bridge.

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Looking back from the pedestrian bridge.

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Then I have to walk down a pedestrianized street. I counted 26 restaurants down one side of the length of this “city block.”

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Then I have to turn and walk down this street to the next intersection – the green light.

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Where I turn again. At least I am now on the street that we live on, but still a long way to go.

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It was pouring rain this night. My umbrella was soaked through as were my clothes and shoes.

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You can see the waterfall from this drain pipe.

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Finally, I get to the bridge over the foul smelling waterway.

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There is our building. Not there, yet, because the entrance to the compound is what I call a city block away from the bridge and once in the compound, I have to walk back to the building.

According to Google maps, it is just over one mile. In the pouring rain and stopping to take pictures, it took me an hour to walk home.

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Spring Break

April 8, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

white blossoming tree

Normally we travel during spring break. We had planned to stay in Shanghai and explore some more of the many historical sites here. However, there was a death in the family that necessitated DaddyBird taking a flight to the states. I would have gone, too, had it not been for the fact I was in the midst of food poisoning. I stayed home to recover and to cat-sit.

white cat and tabby cat

Cat sitting can involve the neighborhood strays, too.

a white cat and an orange tabby

This is Smudge and Zippy. I usually feed them on my way to work each morning.

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This is Scamp. I usually run into her on the way home. She doesn’t care much for being petted. Last time, she didn’t seem very hungry or interested in eating, but she rolled over to show me her tummy. However, she didn’t want it rubbed much. She is a tease.

a beige corgy mix dog

This is The Dog. I don’t know what it’s name is. It belongs to a member of the apartment staff. It runs around the compound unattended and is the bane of my existence. It wants to play with the stray cats, or chase them if they will run, but the cats are not too excited about that. I suppose it is cute, for a dog, but I have never been a dog person.

My big adventure this week was going to the US Consulate to renew my passport. The website has all the information and forms one needs and if one reads all the instructions and has everything prepared, it goes quickly and easily. It is a bit astonishing to witness people who did not read those instructions, whether it is the guy at the door that did not make an appointment and cannot get in or the guy who did not bring a photo or does not know his China address. He, of course, is in a big hurry and is stressed out.

I encountered this fun statue in a pleasant little park.

historical building combining Western and Chinese style

A quick photo taken out the rainy taxi window of the Chinese YMCA building, one of my favorites. It was built in 1934 and combines Western and Chinese style.

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Guyi Garden Tour

March 19, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Chinese garden, building structure on the edge of a lake

We visited Guyi garden in February two years ago. We went again this month with a Historic Shanghai group, guided by Shelly Bryant who has researched the classic gardens of Shanghai and published a book on them.

Garden entrance with people posing in front of bamboo crane sculptures

The three main symbols in this garden are bamboo, cranes, and plum blossoms.

a pink blooming plum tree

The gardens are full of symbolism in the buildings, the walkways, and the artwork. I see something new every time. The gardens are peaceful and beautiful. They are meant to be used for music, dance, art, and poetry.

To see all the 2017 pictures – click here.
To see the 2015 pictures – click here.