• Katie Trojak

Hospitalized in Shanghai

The entrance to the emergency room at the international hospital in Shanghai

I definitely should’ve gone to the hospital before then, I know.

In my defense, I really wanted to spend my last night in Shanghai with my friends and I don’t regret it. But I realize I should’ve gone to the hospital.

And the cost of not going was having a blood infection in a country where I didn’t speak the language, thousands of miles from any home I knew.

My last week at camp, the directors gave each of us one full day off to relax or go into Shanghai or do whatever we wanted as long as it was away from the kids. So on Thursday, I went into Shanghai with a few friends who also had off that day to see things I hadn’t had time to see yet.

Jing’An Temple, the Jade Buddha Temple, the Bund, and a whole day filled with seeing the major sites of the city. It was a spectacular day.

Jing'An Temple, one of my favorite sites in Shanghai

I wore sneakers, of course. I might be insane enough to wear heels most of the time, but I wasn’t going to on a day like that.

There were cuts all over my legs from mosquito bites and camping mishaps. For some reason, the bugs just loved me and my legs did not look pretty. But that wasn’t actually what did me in. No, I had survived cuts and bumps and scratches and dirty lake water all to be done in by a blister.

I think I got it from my sandals and it was just on the edge of my ankle socks when I wore my sneakers that Thursday, so the dirt from the city was constantly rubbed into the blister all day.

Fun image, I know.

My legs hurt when I was hanging out with my friends that evening, but I played it off with a joke thinking it was from the long day. It wasn’t until after I made it back to my bunk and found the energy to shower that I noticed it was swollen.

The next morning wasn’t any better and the blister now looked dark and terrible, so I went to the onsite nurse. She and I were friends after how many times I had come to see her. I even had a bad looking cut that was probably a little infected from the dirty lake water earlier in the summer.

This cut was shaping up to be worse, I could tell from the looks of it that it was probably already infected.

The amazing nurse disinfected it with wondrous Chinese disinfectant that didn’t hurt at all (compared to hydrogen peroxide), then put antibacterial cream on it and wrapped it up.

I figured everything would be fine. My ankle was still 2-3 times its normal size, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

I did all the activities my last day at camp, including animal run and candle ceremony, even though my ankle was swollen and kind of killing me

I even decided not to sit out of Animal Run, the camp wide Friday activity, because it was my last day of camp and I really wanted to play.

So I ran around the camp for 40 minutes, running from kids as I was chased, then with my team to catch other counselors. I felt mostly fine to do that, but it was probably a horrible, horrible idea.

The next morning, my ankle looked terrible. The cut was black, the skin dying around it, and still very swollen. Even writing this, it sounds gross but it was worse than the words I’m choosing to use.

I could add a photo of my ankle right here, I have it, but trust me, you don’t want to see it. And I don’t really want it on my blog.

My friends made me show the director, who was immediately very worried. Everyone said that I should go to the hospital, but I wanted the time on that day to have a good last day. I wanted to say goodbye to Shanghai. I wanted to say goodbye to everyone I became friends with at camp.

So, I convinced everyone I would be fine. I promised I would go to the hospital the next day. I promised that my friend, the one I had dragged to China with me and the one that was leaving camp the same time I was, would take me to a hospital.

I also called my parents and, in a lighthearted tone, explained what was going on. I hadn’t told them any of this so I didn’t want to worry them by dropping it all on them just then. They were still worried, of course, but begrudgingly allowed me to go along with my plan of waiting one more day for the hospital.

The directors found me an international hospital, I wrapped up my ankle, and we were good to go.

That last night in Shanghai was a lot of fun and I’m glad I had that time with my friends. We went out and saw The Lion King live action movie at an English cinema, we walked around Shanghai, then went to Bar Rouge, a world famous club overlooking the stunning Bund.

The view of the Bund from the back of Bar Rouge in Shanghai

Even though I should’ve gone to the hospital, I’m glad I didn’t. I would’ve missed those last hours with friends that had become my family.

The next morning I felt even worse because not only was my ankle worse, but I had barely slept at all and I was saying goodbye to the place that had become my home away from home.

I said my tearful goodbyes, got on two buses and the subway, met up with my friend, and we drearily got breakfast at a random train station.

By then, whether from sickness, tiredness, or sadness, I didn’t feel like eating.

Eventually we got a Didi, the Chinese equivalent to Uber, to take us to the international hospital the camp directors had found for me. I think I fell asleep in the car, but I really don’t remember that much because I was so exhausted.

I have very few pictures from the hospital, but I find this one so funny because my friend is so exhausted as I check in and the hospital worker is just totally judging him

I really owe my friend one; he stuck it out with me as we arrived, checked in, and waited in a hospital room. Actually, I owe him several. It was a wildly dramatic summer, but he had my back most of the time. He even reminded me to sign the forms and held my hand when they had to take my blood.

It was so easy to check in. I just told them my name, what was going on, and other information. They all spoke English, since it was an international hospital, which was the biggest blessing.

The receptionist showed me to a room that had an automatic glass door. I just hit the button and it opened, letting me in. My friend settled himself on the chair in the corner and I sat on the hospital bed in the center of the room.

I had never been in a hospital for myself before. Sure, I had been there several times for various family members and have watched terrible experiences with doctors happen, so I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be there, but I had never been had to go for myself.

I probably would’ve been freaking out had I not been so exhausted or if I had eaten something that morning. But it was all happening in a daze.

We didn’t wait very long before a nurse and doctor came in to look at me. They looked at my ankle with the dark cut and swollen skin, and at all the other cuts up and down my legs.

They were really confused, at the time it looked like I had literally been attacked by a tiger for all the scratches on my calves. I had to explain that they were all fine, it was only the one that was causing the issues.

Jiahui International Hospital in Shanghai, where I went when my ankle became infected

All they needed was a glance before they decided I needed to get blood tests done. The nurse even brought all the equipment in before I had to stop her. It was 4pm and I hadn’t had any food that day. I didn’t even know if I had dinner the night before.

I was definitely going to pass out if I didn’t at least have some crackers before they started stabbing me with needles.

They gave me some time to eat, then inserted the needle into my left arm. It took them several times and that’s when I grabbed my friend's hand. I like to think I’m brave, but I don’t love large needles being stuck into the crook of my elbow over and over.

Drawing blood doesn’t actually bother me, though. The whole seeing the blood and watching it fill vials is totally fine. I think I got over it when I ran blood drives for the Red Cross at my high school, and thank heavens for that.

Then the nurse said they had to leave the needle in my arm for a while in case they needed to do more tests. I’ll be honest, that part I was a little less than fine with.

My friend just being himself, joking around with a scarf he had bought; he seriously loved that scarf

I was so tired, my whole arm was sore, and the needle hurt. But I laid there for an hour or so, chatting with my friend, eating some more crackers, and just chilling. He fell asleep for a bit, but I don’t blame him. He was exhausted, too.

The nurse came back and began to speak, but as soon as I realized I wouldn’t be needing more blood tests, I asked her to take the needle out. It slid out of my arm and I was able to focus more on what she was saying.

I had a blood infection. It was minor, but it was still a blood infection.

In a perfect situation, they said, they would keep me a day or two in the hospital. I immediately began to protest, and they understood that I didn’t really have time. My flight was leaving the next morning. Luckily, I could take my treatments with me. All I had to do was sign that I would be responsible enough to take the medicine they were giving me.

However, if the medicine didn’t work or the cut/swelling/terribleness of my ankle got worse, I would have to go to another hospital because that meant it was more serious than they thought.

Luckily, that never happened.

One of my discharge papers, written in both Chinese and English

They gave me disinfectant swabs, cream to put on the outside of the cut, and two different types of antibiotic pills to take several times a day. I called my parents and they gave me the okay.

My friend and I left the room, took my papers to the pharmacy room where I was given the medicine, then went back to the reception desk to pay the fees.

It was all so fast, efficient, and translated into English which was a lifesaver. I don't know if I would've been able to get through it all if it wasn't.

I'm pretty sure my travel insurance even reimbursed us for the fees.

By the time we left the hospital, the sun was starting to leave the sky, but it stayed light enough for us to take another Didi back to the train station where we had left our luggage. It took us forever to find our way around the station because it was one of China’s largest transportation hubs and we did not know where we were going.

Thank heavens for google translate and helpful inquiry desk personnel.

But after the day we had, it was kind of nice to get lost in the complex, wander, and make jokes about everything. We had so little time at camp to talk, so now my friend and I were catching up and having the deep conversations I was used to having with him. It was fun.

My friend and I grabbing dinner at the transportation hub; maybe not the best meal ever but definitely good enough for us that night

We picked up our bags, got dinner, then took another Didi to the hotel we were staying at, near the airport.

The rest of the night consisted of lounging around, repacking our bags, and wandering for a few miles trying to find a convenience store.

I took my pills and cleaned my cut religiously for a few days, and everything quickly cleared up. I should’ve been more regular with the antibiotics after that, but I was regular enough that my ankle was completely fine in a week.

Just 5 days later, I was healthy enough to be hiking up a karst (a kind of mountain) in Yangshuo (a gorgeous area outside of Guilin). I’m so thankful and lucky that I didn’t have to put off any of the adventures I had planned.

One of the many stunning views from that hike up a karst in Yangshuo

So, maybe I should’ve gone to the hospital earlier. And my friend Alex, who was in Belgium at the time, was freaked out when I called her from the hospital room. I had told her nothing about what was going on until that moment. And everyone else gets freaked out when they hear about it for the first time when I tell the story now that I’m back in England.

But it wasn’t really that bad. I got my time with my friends, everything ended up fine, and I was so lucky to have access to a really good hospital that spoke my language. I was even too tired to be really freaking out about what was happening.

It is quite funny though, because I still haven’t been to a hospital for myself in the US or UK, both my primary places of residence.

I’ve only been admitted to a hospital in China.

Make sure to subscribe to my blog and like on Facebook so you can be updated when I post more about my travels or living in London. I’m going to be writing and posting more about my time in China and South Korea, including what it was like to visit Shanghai every weekend, biking along the old Xi’an city wall, and visiting the demilitarized zone on the border of North Korea. I’ll also be writing more about what this semester in London has been like and living in my first real flat. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to shoot them my way!

The flight that took my friend and I away from camp in Shanghai and on to our next adventure in Guilin, China


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