Looking around a room you see four beds, two chairs and a green two seat armless sofa. A plastic statue of Mao’s bust, encased in square clear plastic, looks on. The light pours in through two big windows either side. Near, there is a patient sitting on a wooden chair. There are other patients waiting for treatment too. You see intern student physicians in white coats standing and looking on. They look worried. A 40 year old Caucasian male is biting his lip, a female is looking concerned and another one has widened eyes. One student reaches out to comfort the female patient. She is sitting with her bare back to us, the wrong way round for how you would normally sit on a chair, legs spread either side. Her arms folded on top, head on her forearms. Her back is purple, red and blotchy from the first part of her treatment: scraping of the skin with a plastic paddle to move the energy in the body. Soon a powerful force is about to be unleashed. One fellow student places their foot on the bottom horizontal bar of the chair to create a brace. The patient says something in Chinese to the doctor. Doctor Bai hits her on the shoulder with an open hand and pushes her head further forward and down. A tungsten needle is heated red in a flame held by an assistant. Dr. Bai, standing spread legged behind, plunges the needle deep and without hesitation into the base of the head next to the third vertebrae. A cry out of pain from the patient. The smell of singed skin. Dr. Bai places the palm of her open left hand on top of the free end of the stuck, thick needle and rotates it around in a big circle, manipulating it. The patient whimpers and the spine is felt with the free right hand. Then the needle is manipulated again and the patient stamps her feet on the ground. Another open hand slap by the doctor and we are ready to begin the adjustment of her herniated disc. Dr. Bai instructs the patient to call out a giant “huh” sound. She does this by shouting a large “huh” herself and nudging the base of the needle against the skin. Her left hand now fisted and the pointing finger second knuckle placed left of the base of the lodged needle, next to the herniated disc which is protruding left internally from the spine, Dr Bai releases a giant “huh”. With this her force of strength and body weight are thrown against the needle and against the patient’s spine. Both patient and doctor give a giant “HUH”. One in effort and one in pain, the creaking chair lurching sideways under the pressure. Then again, and another time and then again and another time for good measure. The needle is taken out, red heated and plunged again. This time centrally on the vertebrae bone or possibly on the herniated disk itself or close above. With crying out and “Huh”s the process continues. After this then again on the right hand side of the spine. The previous treatment’s dark marks, and scars, giving guidance of where to place the needle again. That’s because this patient we saw had returned to endure and suffer this. Maybe five times or so. Why? One stating they would prefer this than getting an operation. At the end Dr Bai brushes her hair from her forehead and continues to the next patient for treatment.
The patient? I’ve actually never seen a reaction like it. After treatment she was positive, smiling and happy. Dr Bai’s statement:" Everyone feels ten years younger after treatment". Incredibly it’s true somehow and they keep coming back for the effective results.
At 70 something Dr. Bai is fit, strong and generous. She will do these treatments as she has seen results for this type of case possible thousands of times over numerous years. She gets excited to tell you about what is happening and she takes the time to explain what’s she is doing between rigorous treatments.
Previously the head of Acupuncture at the China Japan Friendship hospital she has reached a legendary status. Appearing on the front cover of a magazine recently she was stated as being one of the top ten people in China! She is one of Beijing's most renowned practitioners and specialises in treating complicated musculoskeletal, neurological, digestive and respiratory conditions.
Still the first words I wrote in my notebook after my first 2 hours of clinic as a reflection of what was going on were: rough, aggressive and gut wrenching. The first two days my brain was paralysed with shock!
More soon about other amazing treatments and my own personal reflections and hopefully video and pictures too.
In this post I will introduce the gynecological ward to you, one of the legend doctors who works there and some more in depth analysis of some of the “interesting” techniques they use to help patients and also the pulse analysis for determining the sex of a baby…
Doctor Wang Qing outlined the ward for me. There are 18 beds for various gynecological conditions. Mostly infertility cases, covered by 3 doctors. Patients are admitted through the outpatients’ room downstairs and on to the ward. Here they may be treated by the same doctor seen in outpatients downstairs. The doctors rotate one day in outpatients and one day on the ward with inpatients.
The ward was in a lot better shape than the oncology ward I had witnessed. One experienced nurse in our group stated that all oncology wards can be a bit “rough”. The TCM Gynecology ward was painted in mostly pink and everybody was a bit more relaxed in pink pajamas too. It felt like it had a pleasant atmosphere. Patients spend a minimum of two weeks getting treatment.
Most patients were put on IV drip with saline and a base of Dan Shen ( Blood Activating herb) and Huang Qi (Qi Tonifying herb). This lends an orange colour to the saline, check out the picture soon (also notice the old style glass bottle saline holder). This combination helps the patients beat fatigue and apparently the tonifying effect is overall very pleasant and calming J
Also I have added a picture of an x-ray of the common situation of the ovaries being too high/raised upwards in the opposite direction for you to see.
Two interesting techniques, unique to TCM, came up which I will now outline. One was the use of electrical abdominal stimulation combined with herb use. Cotton pads were soaked in herbs and placed on the abdomen above the ovaries. TENS pads (electro stimulation) were used for 20-25 minutes above the herb pads. I saw two patients having this treatment, next to each other on the ward. One was diagnosed with menopause and the other I didn’t catch, but they used the same herb formula to soak the pads in.
Zhen Zhu 15 (Pearl: this probably incorrect as I cannot see the public hospital system using loads of this?!)
Bai Jiang Cao 15
Hou Po 10
Mo Yao 10 (Myrrh)
Ru Xiang 10 (Frankincense) Love seeing these two herbs in formulas and they are well known for treating traumatic pain
Hong Hua 10
Dang Gui 10
Chi Shao 20
Gui Zhi 15
E Jiao 15
Another technique on the ward was the placement of warm bags containing cooked herbs on the patient’s abdomens. This was indicated for infertility for a range of cases from endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, issues with fallopian tubes. It was avoided during period and was used for 3 months, on ward and also at home. After this time it was advised to try for pregnancy.
Bai Zhi 10
Chao Zhi Qiao 10 ( See above about Zhi Qiao)
San Leng 15
Gui Zhi 15
Dang Gui 10
Hong Hua 10
Cang Zhu 15
Su Mu 10
Bai Jiang Cao 15
Hou Po 15
Mo Yao 10
Mu Xiang 10
Huang Bai 10
Chi Shao 20
Tou Gu Cao 30 (this is not a very commonly used herb) Speranskia is acrid with a warm energy. It enters the liver, spleen, and kidney.
Also herb enemas are practiced, but I didn’t manage to get any information on that.
Finally it’s worth noting Dr Xu Run San. Xu is his family name, Run means nourishing and San translates as second brother I think. On the Wednesday I saw him do his rounds on the ward and on Friday I saw him in outpatients clinic. Two things: He’s one of the top doctors for Gynecology, in China! And he’s still practicing at 86 years old. When I saw him in the ward he came in holding hands with his wife. Anyway I took some pictures on ward and in outpatients. I think just by these few pictures you get an idea of his good humour and generosity.
This is where he practices when not in the hospital:
Oh yeah finally I had the chance to practice predicting the sex of an unborn child from the pulse. Left side is Blood and represents Yin (feminine quality). Right side is Qi and represents Yang (masculine quality). If the pulse of the mother is stronger on the Yin/left side it’s a girl. If it’s stronger on the Yang/right side it’s a boy. I got the prediction wrong (the mum knew from previous ultrasound). But this is all according to what theory you practice and the left and right can swap around with different theories-classic Chinese medicine, I just picked the wrong theory..!
Beijing: Second week. In the hospital gynecological department, part one
Here you will meet some Chinese gynecological patients, hear about some exotic commonly used herbs, discover some mainly used formulas administered by some legends of TCM in China and go on the ward for gynecology TCM and discover some far out electro abdomen techniques for treatment.
In this TCM part of the hospital I observed in the outpatient and inpatient (ward patients) areas. On a daily basis with outpatients (patients coming to see the doctor but returning home) it was very busy. I have discovered all patients come to the hospitals as there are no General Practitioner doctors in China. Although there are acupuncture and herbal clinics that you pay as you go. But you also pay as you go in the hospital, so it must be much cheaper for people to come to the hospital.
On Monday I was in a small room of the hospital that had two large dirty windows that faced out on to some trees. Two tables were either side of the room each with a doctor and a intern doctor helper. A nurse called out the next patient’s name and from the queue of seats outside a patient would come in to either doctor On one of the tables myself a student intern translator and Kyla, another student from my year, were sitting. That’s 5 people. Then a patient would come in making it 6. Before the patient would leave another would come in while the first patient’s details were finalised, making it 7. Usually another family member or partner might attend. 8 people knee to knee discussing some very detailed personal information and sharing charts and x rays. That’s 14 people in this room at most times! Further to this the next patient might be hovering around waiting for their turn. From 8.30am to 11.30am the doctor I was with saw over 20 patients. One every ten minutes in this manner.
What was the vibe in this environment? I am surprised to report very friendly and relaxed. The doctors had a lot of smiles for their patients. Patients were well behaved and respected the advice they were getting. All round their were positive vibes. How this works I have no idea? It just seems with all barriers removed human camaraderie and goodwill increase in my opinion.
Most patients who came in were suffering from PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), blocked/damaged ovarian tubes , PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Disease), ectopic pregnancy issues, irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea. A lot of the ovary issues I saw, from x-rays, were of the ovaries themselves orientated upwards instead of downwards, which I thought was strange that so many would present like that. Some patients were seeking pregnancy tests from blood results and one I saw wanted to help her baby grow well.
This is the formula prescribed for the 7 weeks pregnant woman who wanted here baby to grow well.
Tu Si Zi 30
Xu Duan 10
Sang Ji Sheng 10
Bai Shao 15
Shang Zhu Yu 6
Huang Qin 6
Sha Ren 3
Bai Zhu 10
Shan Yao 15
E Jiao 10
Gan Cao 10
And one more I didn’t catch
Si Ni San was a formula base for most infertility cases. With Dang Gui added for example. One case a female had tried for pregnancy for a year. After a fallopian tube test using iodine in the uterus and x-ray the fallopian tubes were diagnosed as blocked or not fully open. Si Ni San was used with a variety of other herbs including Tu Bie Chong, which is wingless cockroach and is seen as a blood activating herb. A 21 year old who was suffering from infertility was treated on the ward. She had an issue with her fallopian tubes. Si Ni San was used again but in this case Wu Gong was added. This is “centipede” and is regarded as a toxic herb usually prescribed as 5g. In her case she received 50g! All the young intern doctors thought it was crazy and said they wouldn’t never prescribe that much, but the experienced Doctor Xu Run San thought for this patient that it was fine. More about this well know doctor later!
There was a particular endometriosis formula that was used made up by the department called Nei Yi Wan:
San Qi 3
He Shou Wu 12
Ze Lan 10
Huang Bai 10
Jin Ying Zi ( I think) 10
Shui Zhi 10 ( which is leech)
This basic formula was researched on rabbits that had their fallopian tubes degraded. When Si Ni San was administered there was a positive result in the fallopian tubes functioning.
I spoke to Doctor Wang Qing who researched the formula. It’s available here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20112494 Journal of TCM, Vol 29, Dec 2009, No.4. It was interesting for me to see a research paper in action in a hospital. Previous to this I have looked and read dozens of these types of articles and wondered if they were actually utilised and useful in daily reality. She told me it took 2 years to do and here it was used in the hospital.
Another herbal tip I picked up was for the use of food medicine. I actually got it from a doctor in the oncology department who was prescribing for a patient who had wanted treatment for her irregular period.
A 43 year old woman was having the bleeding part of her period for 20 plus days with dark blood, dark clots, pain in the lower abdomen with sharp spasm and lumbar pain. Tongue was dark, yellow coat, dry. Pulse choppy, deep and lower jiao. The following formula was prescribed to Tonify blood, Qi, move and activate Blood
Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang modified:
Tao Ren 10
Hong Hua 10 In Australia this is proscribed. Use Dang Gui (more) or Chuan Xiong (more).
Dang Gui 10
Chuan Xiong 10
Shen Di Huang 10
Shu Di Huang 10
Bai Shao 15
Gan Cao 6
Chai Hu 10
Wu Yao 10
Ye Mu Cao 10
Ai Ye 10
Bu Gu Zhi 10
Yin Yang Huo 10
Then she added this food medicine and herbs:
Dang Gui 20 g
He Shou Wu 15g
Cooked for as long as you can with 2,3 eggs after they have had their period, for 2 weeks duration. Not sure over how long for overall time frame. I guess until results seen. Here the hard boiled eggs are cooked with the herbs and absorb all their qualities. It never occurred to me before that this may be possible! Might be a useful treatment for anemia for example too.
In addition on our busy first week in the hospital wards in the mornings we also went and checked out the city in the afternoons and looked at some of the famous sites around.
On Tuesday the group of us caught a long warm day sunset bus to Tiananmen square. Having our Chinese professor on the tour, Xiang Xin, meant not having to think about direction, stops and bus numbers. I slid the window open and stuck my head out to observe all the slow rolling traffic, seeing the occasional “A” number plate official black car (all Audis) buzz through the gridlock impatiently.
Tiananmen square is vast and impressive. We arrived on the flag ceremony and people crowded behind the line of soldiers. Even more impressive was the fact the square was on lock down due to the official beginning of the Asia games. Red and blue lights and heaps of military everywhere. Opposite to where the perfect Chairman Mao’s face looks out from a giant poster were the largest , longest and clearest outside plasma TVs (most flat TVs in Australia are plasma) showing tanks and marching soldiers. My favourite being the red mini skirted white machine gun holding soldiers.
Wednesday afternoon and we crowded in to a small Chinese medicine store our professor showed us. Here we could by electro machines, blood pressure monitors, needles and everything. All expensive to the Chinese, but cheap to the Aussie dollar. Highlights were half a metre long acupuncture needles and pig acupuncture models. Vowing to come back to buy more stuff I have no memory of where it is…Afterwards the professor took us to a restaurant she knew near by that had great dumplings. We feasted for cheap and drank beer and toasted our great tour guide and revelled in being in China and at the end of a long degree. Gumbai!
Thursday we went to Wangfujing shopping area. Again impressive. Pitt street mall times a lot wider and add three blocks long. Here we checked out where we could get camera stuff and buy western stuff maybe a little bit cheaper. Also we found the foreign language book store for TCM titles. I got a book on glass cupping techniques, palm reading and the I Ching and TCM. Later, when speaking to a Chinese woman, I mentioned this book. Awkward pause. I ching can be pronounced to mean I love you!
Later the China Japan Hospital treated us to a cultural evening. This was a cabaret restaurant. I was impressed by the face changing dancer, kung fu guy who threw a needle through a pain of glass and the girl who spun a huge 100 kg barrel on her legs. Then she got a member of our group to climb in it and spun the both of them. Later as more food arrived a delicacy turned up which turns my blood cold just to think of it. Pork or beef thigh bone cut mid way and cooked. Presented standing on the bare knee joint, meat and sinew in strings along the bone, with a plastic drinks straw stuck in it for sucking the liquid marrow from within. The gurgle slurp at the end, as though drinking the end of a satisfying milkshake, really was too much for this vegetarian and my innards loop at the memory of it: a round table with ten people gurgling down bone juice!
On the weekend we went to the Great Wall and Ming Tombs. The Great Wall is the correct use for the term “Great”. All I have to do when things are difficult is remember this structure. I cannot believe the cleverness, length, breadth and construction of this true monument made so long ago. Hilly, scrub that goes on forever in the middle of nowhere and bang you build a wall. A wall that’s high, massively thick, follows the hill and continues beyond further than the eye can see. So impressive and great!
Ming tombs. This is where the Ming emperor was entombed. I was impressed by the nature of it and it’s purpose. The scale and idea. Afterlife looked after with gold and objects needed. Such as a chariot. The whole place was empty though and then the details become relevant. The pattern on the walls, the imposing lion heads on the giant doors, shiny after thousands of hands rubbing it.
Where the emperor was buried a pile of money was swept up. As soon as this was done more Chinese began enthusiastically throwing their cash there. Amazing.
Outside we looked at the top of the hill like tomb and the structures placed there. A giant obelisk, now stained red during the rise of communism, marked the top of the tomb and lined up perfectly with a mountain some distance in front and behind. Interesting how great nations like Egypt had similar ideas and ways of doing things. The afterlife and it’s power to shape the Earth and it’s people.
Beijing Hospital: Chinese Medicine Cancer Ward, part 3
Master class with Dr Wan.
We went around the ward and spoke to a couple of patients with Dr Wan and then found a room and met patients one after the other. I was inspired. This doctor was very calm, friendly and absolutely the most busy person I’d seen in the hospital so far.
Here’s some of the patients and cases we went through and an idea to why people were seeking Chinese medicine:
The first one was a 61 Y/old breast cancer patient with a high risk malignant tumour operated on in May 2010. Now seeking Chinese medicine as unable to afford the 20,000 Yuan per treatment for western medicines privately. Receiving Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy.
Herbs given to Tonify Qi and Promote Meridian (basically to support the body) through IV drip:
Zhi (toasted/fried) Huang Qi 30g
Wu Wei Zi
Chuan Xiong 10g
Chi Shao Yao 10g
Di Long 10g
Rou Gui 10g
Du Huo 10g
Gu Sui Bu 10g
Bu Gu Zhi 10g
Yin Yang Huo 10g (Horny Goat Weed, Increase Estrogen, Regulate Ren Mai Channel)
Huang Bai 10g
The following patients were consulted in a room with a large table with 12 chairs around it. The doctor sitting at one corner and 3 or 4 intern doctors sitting around studying.
The following case I found to be absolutely shocking. It was discussed as plainly as I write here, but the consequences are a book of emotions.
49 Y/old, Right breast cancer. March operation removed 6x5cm tumour. After operation 6 cycles of Chemotherapy. Since then operation not cleared cancer. Spread to Lung and Lymph. Tomoxafin (Chinese chemotherapy drug) given after surgery. Herbs given to treat general side effects of muscle and joint stiffness and sometimes pain, irritability, feels fever. However patient had previous history of cysts and has fibroids on ovaries now. Due to toxic nature of Tomaxafin another side effect with this previous history is cancerous cysts to ovaries. Doctor recommended removal of ovaries.
Further the patient lifted her top to show the operated right breast. Under a few large plasters which were removed a scar could be seen that was slow to heal, with fluid build up under the skin. Radiotherapy not being available at this time because the fluid build up would influence effectiveness.
Tongue was normal, but the Liver pulse was big and Spleen pulse was thready and deep.
A diagnosis was reached of Spleen Xue from the muscle and joint pain, Spleen not transforming fluid at the scar area and Liver pulse being big.
Modified (a lot) Chai Hu Shu Gan San formula was prescribed to Harmonise the Spleen and Liver:
Chai Hu 10
Bai Shao 15g
Chi Shao Yao 10g
Dang Shen 15g
Bai Zhu 10g
Fu Ling 15g For Damp, fluid
Zhu Ling 15g For Damp, fluid
Dang Gui 10
Bo He 15g
Da Zao 10g
Mu Dan Pi 10g Clear heat, help liquid absorption
Zi Cao 10g Clear heat, help liquid absorption
Fang Fang 10g (Hornet’s Nest, which I thought could only be used externally…)
Mu Gua 10g used for thousands of years to treat arthritis and leg edema ( not to be confused with Papaya or Pawpaw which share the same name spelling).
Si Guah 10g Loofah sponge
Qing Pi 10g
Ze Xie 10g
Another patient had esophageal ( the muscular tube which food passes down) carcinoma of 5cm (middle stage). 3cm being early stage. This being squamous carcinoma.
Signs and symptoms:
Difficult to drink water, on liquid food diet, emaciation, right chest and back pain, vomiting/ thick sticky phlegm, dry stool, constipation 4/5 days
Herbs were prescribed to reduce side effect of inflammation due to radiotherapy in this area.
The treatment principle was:
Descend Rebellious Qi
Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang (heavily modified, almost completely different!)
Xuan Fu Hua 10
Dai Zhe She 30
Zhu Ru 10
Bai Zhu 10
Fu Ling 15
Chen Pi 10
Wei Ling Xian 10
Bai Ji 20
Shan Dou Gen 6
Gua Lou 30
Yu Jing 10
Ji Nei Jin 15 ( chicken innards!)
Hopefully this gives you and indication of the massive turn over of patients, the style of treatment and how herbs are prescribed. Members of the public arriving for consultation every five minutes in the “make do is best” environment. Most striking for me was how in this environment people are happier. We sat knee to knee with patient, doctor, fellow intern, family member and Chinese interns just studying near by. People came in and out of the room, the door was open. Everybody was reduced to just being human with no barriers. Spirit, camaraderie and existence without barrier. It reminds me of the London Blitz stories. Strangers sleeping next to each other in the London Underground to avoid destruction. Good will and human understanding stories abounding in times of difficulty. This Chinese hospital is at the forefront of an unseen, unknown blitz on human existence and at the rough, cutting edge between illness and death at close quarters everybody chooses good will, help, kindness and a smile.
I totally forgot to mention the intern doctor that looked after us on this day. It was the first of my exposure to the sweet and cute that is heart warming and incredibly endearing for how a lot of the young women I’ve met act here! All her explanatory stories to describes herbs and their names revolved around true love and meeting of parted love. Here’s an example. Bai He is Lily Bulb. The story revolves around a boy who meets a girl. If you want to express your love for the girl buy her lily flowers. Why? “Bai” translates as 100 and “He” means together or harmonious. She will be very impressed when she gets these flowers if she truly loves you as it means 100 years of harmonious life together…Imagine accompanied by laughing, sweet thinking looks and occasional self English corrections to get the pronunciation right. So sweet!
Bai He is used to Tonify the Yin and enters the Heart and Lung. Calms the spirit and is seen as a herb for women to a certain extent. For example it is used in a formula for menopause relief. I wonder how many bunches can I get for 100 Yuan ?
50 tongue inspections in 2 hours.
Yes we toured the whole ward and checked pretty much each patient’s tongue. The mission was to examine and see what cross overs or similarities for cancer in diagnosis of the tongue were. We also received a run down of each patient we met, their disease, signs and symptoms, treatment and treatment signs and symptoms. On reflection I am amazed. Cancer has no discrimination of age, health and sex. We all understand this is, when confronted with this it is an astounding reality that still totally confuses me. More horrifying is to hear of metastasis from one body part to the next. The liver then lymph and then perhaps bone. Cruel and random. I saw mainly people with Lung cancer, smokers or not. All surviving with a lot of self respect. One patient who I met had gastric cancer. What ever they ate (liquids) would go straight out, through a gastric tube attached, through their neck. They were getting all their real nutrients through IV drip. What drove this person go through this extra painful ritual? A combination of massive determination, self respect and culture. Determination to function a normal daily life, to feed oneself to stay alive and the cultural notion that dying hungry would leave your spirit to the realm of hunger as a hungry ghost. I saw one patient always pacing the ward, perfect deep black combed hair. Others joking, playing their favourite music, laughing, holding hands. All looking up whenever you walked in to know what was going on, who you were and what you were up to. Human spirit magnified. A smile and a laugh meaning a magnificent amount.
The most common tongue colours were dark to purple, some were red reflecting the heating nature of radiotherapy. Usually most tongues were coated in a thick fur. Tongue coat is a natural process of the body for the tongue. A heavy coating on the tongue denotes lack of Qi movement in the body. If the body’s energy isn’t strong enough to continue this natural process it just builds up. A good way to diagnose was to track this tongue coat ( as this the quickest part of the tongue to change, tongue colour itself takes longer to change for example). Less coating after herbs administered showing a nice result as energy moved around the body a bit more. What I further learnt though is that stomach cancer usually shows no tongue coat as the energy of the stomach is directly impaired and no coat can be produced. Many tongues had teeth marks on the sides showing Spleen Qi deficiency.
Thankfully in this hospital system the IV drip in the patient’s arms also contained the nourishing range of herbs needed to help with nausea, fatigue, joint pain, diarrhoea or constipation. And to help their appetite and to supplement their western pain medication with herbs that treat pain form the TCM theory point of view. I guess to further prove this point one patient we met was a Chinese Western trained medical doctor. They had chosen to supplement their treatment with healing herbs.
Just like all the plentiful and fried food available here I am still digesting everything in China from my first week. In this update I will give you a review of a brand new hospital experience and provide a daily insight into a dynamic, and a moving week.
Smog cleared. Clear blue sky: I feel like the world has opened up and anything is possible in a new country and a new city that hasn’t been explored! I was orientated around the hospital and got to grips with how things would be done!
Firstly this giant white structure changes pace from the street on the other side of the fence. There is a step up in external building cleanliness, to some degree, which is quite pleasant. Also the space opens up from the crowded street and thirdly the sun isn’t blocked and it bathed the main entrance and front garden next to the giant Buddha statue. As the Sun reflected off the white building and tiles in this open space an entirely refreshing positive frame of mind developed for me.
First week I’m in the oncology (cancer) ward.
The ward structure is sort of like an H, from above, with a central admin area flanked by two rows of rooms with 60 beds (full, with 3 to 4 new patients each week). Each 3 metre by 5 metre room has 3 beds, sometimes 4. Behind admin are storage and walk in toilets with a shared trough for hand washing etc. The condition of the ward could be expressed as well used (not squeaky clean)! Operational procedures could be stated less than perfect: open windows, overloaded used linen bins, a black rubbish bag used as a bin on the side of the ward, and nurses administering shots without gloves from one patient to the next. Beds one seat space between. At no stage did I ever see a curtain pulled between patients for privacy. As the sun streamed in during the morning shift it was doable. A few times I reflected that at end of the day and at night time how I wouldn’t want to be there at all, even as a spectator…
However there were plenty of nurses and on this ward and there was one doctor for every 5/6 patients. Almost one a room.The attitude and manner of all involved working was a joy to witness. Nurses easily joked between patients. Doctors spent time in conversation with patients. One doctor, later on in the week, I was particularly inspired by was extremely busy with one patient after the next. Some patients she wrote a herb prescription for were not even on theward: one was the daughter of one patient who sought help and who also brought in the info for a diagnosis for her husband who was sick with esophagus cancer. This doctor dealt with everyone of them in a calm manner and a smile. Truly admirable after seeing so many people and working out so many cases. However when it came to lunch, there was no compromise. Thank goodness for her and us!
Back to Monday at 8 am our group of 4 waited anxiously as nurses and doctors busied past. I had no clue of what to expect and how we would do things. I was very nervous to what condition the patient’s might be in and the level of illness I was to be confronted with. An intern doctor hurriedly introduced herself and we followed straight into one of the rooms. We met one of her patients who presented with stomach cancer then we took tongue and pulse inspections. After asking a few questions of duration of illness, occupation, signs and symptoms we sat down and discussed the patient’s case. After cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy the patient was being treated for the signs and symptoms of fatigue and constipation brought on by the treatment. According to the individuals TCM constitution this was treated by herbs administered through IVF drip with saline. This was the procedure for all patients. I must admit I was heartened and disappointed at the same time. Here we could see TCM herbs in everyday hospital action benefiting patients. However this was only to supplement the Western procedures. I was hoping to see herbs for reducing tumours in use. However I was told these were not used as the patient had to be stronger to be able to cope with these types of herbs, and they were prescribed afterwards to help with remission. How to describe this? Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the most beneficial in treatment as they are proven with their results from a Western science world perspective. Yet everyone knows how damaging this porcess itself can be. Chinese herbs are still in trial from a western science point of view, even though they have been used for thousands of years. The thorny issue being that it is very difficult to trial TCM theory with Western science double blind control analysis. Why? That’s a whole subject but basically TCM theory is that each person is administered to individually and differently and it’s not the same for each patient, which is what Western science dictates.
Anyway, we saw two patients and I was exhausted by lunch!
Each day was different, with no set routine laid out for us. It was spontaneous. Today the head doctor showed us around a few of her patients. We saw a few more patients as this very thorough doctor drilled down each case, but with no chance to discuss or reflect. Quite soon we were presented with patients of the most serious nature and this was very confronting. All my personal feelings rose to the surface but in a professional situation you can’t let them go. It’s only now that I can cry as I write this. The human with a basic existence to fight to live is a powerful phenomenon. Struggling to speak an individual will put every ounce of effort to say a garbled word and the fight is almost done. The strength and power to live is phenomenon. The care of family and loved ones is phenomenal. Why we have to survive like this: who knows? But it is so powerful. God bless.
Today an intern doctor took us. She described a few herbs in story form, drew some pictures to go with it and we were told that was the end of the day (9am). Thank goodness for my own small miracle. Our group went straight to the massage by blind masseurs place we saw on the bus the day before and we each got massage for an hour for the equivalent of $10 Aussie dollars.
Update on the rest of last week soon, working on pictures
I’ve seen a few serious cases that moved me already from a TCM point of view but before that I will give you the inside details of one of Beijing’stop five hospitals.
The China Japan Friendship Hospital is a big grouping of white buildings with a daily intake of five to seven thousand patients. There are 500 beds dedicated toChinese medicine in the hospital and this is integrated with Western medicine. For example a cancer patient would receive chemotherapy and radiation treatment but also Chinese herbs for the signs and symptoms from this treatment: nausea, constipation or diarrhea.
The main building is about 12 stories high with most of the other buildings half that. Coming in through the main entrance you see pediatric emergency, emergency, trauma section and then the main entrance. Here the hospital gets divided up into the main departments over roughly 5 large buildings. Then there are the special wings. The international medical areas where overseas patients are accepted (more expensive). Then there is an area for the high ranking communist party officials that is restricted and is unknown area, yet to be discovered…On one the south side of site there is a large ornamental garden with an old Chinese style building with walkways and water flowing though. Its artificial but as I gazed from a fifth floor window yesterday there was a Chinese man fishing in it.
The entrance where I come in on the third gate is chaotic with drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians easingfor a place. I often check left, right andbehind when I go in any direction. It feels very busy and very alive and I am often excited at this moment as I think of all the learning and experience I’m about to get thrown into. I stride in tall with my white coat and I feel very proud. It’s taken me four years to experience this moment and I amin the very privileged position to see directly and without hindrance into the lives of everyday people. People in a world a way from my own and I know that this six weeks will disappear so quickly!. Every step I take feels important and I can feel that even in the way that I walk into the place.
Right now it’s raining and that’s a good thing. It’s early evening on 10th of the 10th, 2010, Beijing.
This city is a pretty impressive in many ways. Firstly the rain is washing out the smog of the day, which I think is making my eyes sting and definitely made the Sun struggle orange through the impressive pollution at mid day. There’s road dirt everywhere. In Australia that’s the term for the dust made by traffic. As engines idle, start and stop the gritty residue is pumped out into the atmosphere for our lungs to filter clean!
I’ve been mesmerized by it actually. The traffic here is a mix of rust and dust, scootering and hootering. A slow constant pace that is hypnotic and also engaging as you wait for the next most overloaded bicycle or scooter to surprise you. In a day of constant queuing and negotiation for the basics in shops, the constant draw for me was to stand out on the step and look and watch my new surroundings entertain me.
Coming into Beijing International terminal three at 5 am was also impressive. Walking and waking up from the normal tunnel exit from a plane to be engulfed by a giant structure curving way up high in pristine white was great. Now that seems a million days ago but it was only this morning. In the time that has passed I have opened my Bank of China account, transferred cash, waited in line half a dzoen times, obtained a travel pass, eaten food from the street (I promised I wouldn’t) but ended up eatingseaweed soup, delicious, while sitting on a dirty chair on a dirty table next to a sewer grate… brought Beijing Beer from a mega super market while shop assistants called out the products they where holding and negotiated public transport .
What is theBeijing vibe? Well nowI sitting here in my room with the window wide open, slowly drinking a Beijing beer and listening to rain and traffic. Outside a wide and broad street facing red neon sign on the roof informs Beijing that the building opposite is a hotel and is open for business too. It illuminates the large willow tree in front and the cars and scooters pace themselves constantly in the glow in front of that, the rain adding to the reds, purples and headlights. Beijing is impressive in it’s human endeavour to use materials to maximum use. More value at less cost, which I heard are the negotiating terms for purchasing here too. I’ll be in the hospital tomorrow. More Beijing vibe then.