Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beijing Hospital: Chinese Medicine Cancer Ward, part 2.

Wednesday, continued:
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.

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