Monday, October 18, 2010

Beijing Hospital: Chinese Medicine Cancer Ward Prt1

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

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