Coronavirus continues to spread through China (and some other parts of the world). Being in Kunming, we are quite far from the worst areas, but we still wear masks outside, have to go hunting for markets selling vegetables, and make do without buses, parks and the subway.
If I'm honest, I think the dangers are being over-exaggerated in our neck of the woods. So far, there have been 70 infected people in our Province of 46,000,000, so the chances of bumping into someone carrying the virus are incredibly small, let alone getting close enough to them to actually catch the infection. But science and facts often take second place to fear and rumors, especially here it seems,
We flew back to China late today. The recent Coronavirus infection is spreading quickly and we had our masks ready as we arrived (as did all the other passengers). Our Province is far from the origin of the outbreak but that hasn't stopped the locals here panicking: supermarkets have been stripped of food, parks are closed, roads are empty and we are getting strident, but largely pointless, texts from JD's school and my University (eg "..if your throat feels dry, drink some water..."!!)
JD was sent home from school last Friday with a temperature (and an official form telling us he was seriously overweight!?). His fever continued over the weekend but his main complaint was stomach pains. He had a poor appetite too but no other symptoms. By Sunday the fever had gone, but he had started a cough and was still saying his tummy hurt. The cough is now less, but he is still not eating well and gets very sleepy for no real reason.
So we took him to the hospital yesterday to get him checked out. After an ultrasound and a blood test the first doctor we saw diagnosed him as having, "an infection and bubbles in the stomach" while the second doctor said, "no infection and mild constipation". So we're still none the wiser, to be honest...!
Ma-in-law has been weeping and screaming this last week, "unable to get out of her bed" due to a bad back. I've made multiple trips across town to her 7th floor flat in response to phone calls requesting, "a glass of water from the kitchen" or "help to walk to the toilet" etc. She seems somewhat improved now since Jiajia returned from her business trip and a couple of her friends visited and gave her some attention. I'm sure she has some pain but Jiajia and I are both convinced she makes the most of it. There are clues such as the medicine she says she has been taking being on the table in the living room (how does she take that if she can't leave her bed) and signs of cooking in the kitchen. My five-year diary shows this is the third year running she's "gone ill" at this exact time, perhaps knowing that I am off work (term is over) and Jijaia is away. Suspicious timing!
Lovely to meet up with Cathy yesterday, a friend for about ten years since I moved to Kunming. She and her boyfriend were up in Kunming for some paperwork business and came to the house here for lunch and a chat. Cathy lives in JingHong, a 45 minute flight away, in the sub-tropical south of Yunnan, where she runs an English language school called "Cool School" (my original suggestion for a name). JD enjoyed playing with her, despite him still suffering with a week-long cough and sore throat.
JD has been off school all this week with a nasty cough and occasional fever. It caused particular problems on Monday with Ava in Shenzhen and Mother-in-law in ChengGong, leaving me to look after him, despite having four university lessons, to teach. Thankfully, I was able to postpone the lessons even though it causes the University staff ridiculous amounts of paperwork. It is the first time I have missed a class in two years there, so they understood. Ma-in-law was back on Tuesday, allowing me to do my normal lessons, and Ava flies back today which means I can complete the catch-up classes. JD meanwhile seems full of energy even though his cough shows no sign of improvement.
JD's been coughing for nearly 3 weeks now and so, after a particularly bad day earlier this week, we kept him off school and took him for yet another visit to the hospital. After a blood test, he was diagnosed as having a "mycoplasma bacterial infection" which requires two weeks of anti-biotics. So he's been at home for most of this week, which put a stop any of my personal work/play plans! Fortunately (I think?), his cough hasn't affected his energy levels, so we've been able to go out and play, visit a museum, go to a park, catch a local train, go on shopping trips, etc. And he's shown a fast improvement since going on the meds, so hppefully he's back to school next week.
I finished my final full term at Robert's School last Saturday, teaching for 8 hours in my socks. Yes, after over a year without any problems, my gout unexectedlly flared up on Saturday morning, leaving my right foot red and swollen. As ever, I've no clue why it has returned. I downed a lot of medicine to keep me going and, two days on, the swelling is down and I can walk again without hobbling. However, this morning I woke up feeling really dizzy - something I've not experienced for 2-3 years now. I'm hoping it's not related to my blood pressure as it was before. I'm thinking it might be the result of carrying JD around Green Lake on my shoulders yesterday. Maybe I trapped a nerve or something? I just hope it passes soon as I was really looking forward to getting some exercise done this holiday, and running/skipping with a swollen foot or while the world is spinning before your eyes isn't such a good idea. Fingers crossed.
It's my fifth weekly visit to the hospital for the "shockwave" treatment on my elbow. Regular readers may recall that each visit entails receiving 3000+ ultrasonic shocks to my right arm, of the kind usually used to pulverise kidney stones. It takes place in the aptly named, "Pain Clinic". The idea is that the blood vessels regrow stronger, eventually overcoming my aching "tennis elbow". So far, no real improvement, tpo be honest. But this is the last session before a 2 month rest to allow for some healing. Then, the doctor says, maybe more treatments will be necessary.
These posters have gone up around town, advertising the "Kunming Defense Hospital". At first I thought it was a military hospital (though a very small one, from the photo), but the name apparently comes from a poor translation of the road where it is located - "Defense Road". For me it is still something of an oddity that hospitals in China feel the need to advertise to attract patients!
Back to the hospital this morning. JD had a simple, but painful, procedure on his "jiji" (as they call it in China!), and I had the first of four treatments on a new hospital machine which, they assure me, will cure my tennis elbow in four visits. After two unsuccessful years of trying other treatments, I can only hope. I was told its English name is a "non-invasive rectilinear ballistic extrinsic shockwave machine"(!). It's similar to the ones they use to pulversise kidney stones. It is supposed to gradually induce blood vessel growth. All I know is it was jolly painful at times though not, I suspect, as painful as poor JD's visit!
Jiajia's been suffering from a hacking cough for over three months now and, despite two CAT scans and two courses of antibiotics, it remains as bad as ever. We went to another hospital yesterday for more tests - asthma and allergies this time, hence the amusing nose and mouth appendages! We returned for the results this morning, and a junior doctor said she thought it was a sore throat!? The expert doctor we had hoped to see (a friend of a customer, of course) was in a meeting. So back again this afternoon to see him and find out if it shows anything. As Ava said on the drive home "I don't think the doctors have a clue". I tend to agree.
P.S. Jiajia's been diagnosed with tuberculosis. That's put the cat amongst the pigeons in all sorts of ways. Watch this space!
"KongLong" - just one of the many words JD has has learned to say in the last week or two ...."dinosaur"! He also surprised me the other day by saying "dao" when he saw a knife - not sure who taught him that. He can also say, "digger", "bulldozer", "crane", "mixer" ...guess where his interests lie! Then, when I suggested to our Nanny in Chinese yesterday that JD might like some "xiangjiao", JD immediately jumped up and shouted, "banana!". That's the first time he's clearly "translated" one language to another.
For those following the family's health situation, basically we've all got hacking coughs; JD, Nanny, Ma, Ava and I. Mine is the remnants of pneumonia, while everyone else's is apparently a regular (if very tiring) cough. That's not stopped all the women downing antibiotics though. They are wildly overused here - bought over the counter and taken (seldom a full course) for any slight cough or cold. Highly inappropriate but, try as I might, they will not be convinced.
The cough and cold I had last week didn't improve and a CT scan a few days ago confirmed a diagnosis of pneumonia. So I'm currently on a course of antibiotics. And they're not cheap! £7.50 for a box that looks fairly substantial but only contains three tiny tablets. I need to take nine! The timing is really annoying too, with Halloween weekend being the busiest of our school year. I usually give it 100%, dressing up, screaming and shouting in the corridors and scaring the pants off all the students. I've already prepared my outfit and lessons for this year, but I'm starting to realise I won't be able to go in (and my students will miss all the fun). I still have a hacking cough and I'm getting exhausted after climbing a flight of stairs or standing up for too long. Really frustrating, but I think I need to go with head over heart. It's an infection that kills 4 million people a year around the world, after all!
Ava and I had to visit the hospital together this week, her for a possible thyroid problem, me for my failing eyes! Hospitals in China are a particularly grim place to be but, as ever, our good friend "DL" helped us bypass the queues and get seen in an hour, rather than the usual half a day. Plus these Chinglish examples on the hospital's information board left me chuckling.
Both JD and Jiajia came out in a red rash yesterday, so we battled our way to the hospital this morning (40 minute queue just to get into the car park). Thankfully we have a good friend ("DL") in the hospital who took us straight to the skin specialist who said it was probably an allergic reaction to our local caterpillars(!) who are currently descending from the trees near our house in their dozens on thin threads which are all too easy to walk into. Whilst there, I mentioned my "tennis elbow" which has been a constant pain for well over a year now, despite two injections and a course of physiotherapy. DL whisked us straight off to the top bone doctor, who recognised me from 8 months ago. He confirmed that the only long-term treatment continues to be rest (not so easy with a toddler who wants lifting and a mouse on the right side of the computer!) though he said another steroid injection would give me 6-8 weeks with less pain, which would at least help me sleep, etc. And the injection was nowhere near as painful as I made out for the photo, either!
We were treated to a visit from Daizzy and her family this week. She was in Kunming for a couple of days from Qiaojia (5 hours away by car - used to be 13!) where she lives and works as an English teacher. I did a week of training there some 8 years ago and we have kept in touch ever since. The weather was hot and warm and her daughter, "Amber", enjoyed playing on the slides with JD in our local children's park. Unfortunately, the following day was suddenly quite cold and wet and, perhaps because of that, I found myself feeling quite dizzy throughout the day (something I suffered from a lot a few years ago, but have been free of since). Hopefully it's just a blip on the health front.
If there's one area where Ava and I have particularly strong and differing views, it's health and how to deal with sickness. This continues to crop up when dealing with JD. I guess I subscribe to the western view that medicine is to be avoided unless really necessary and then only used in sensible dosages until the problem is fixed. Ava has a more "Chinese" attitude which argues that waiting for illnesses to come along leaves it too late - people should take preventative medicine, and as strong a dose as possible for it to be effective (antibiotics are sold over the counter here and prescribed for even the most common of colds). Add to that the age-old conflict between "tried-and-tested" western drugs and "supposed to be good for you" Chinese traditional medicine (...twigs and ground up animals, if you ask me!) and we have an area of disagreement which is liable to run for some time.
Case in point: I caught a cold last week. I was told to wear a mask around JD and his room was duly sprayed with vinegar!? He's been taking Chinese "anti-cold" medicine for weeks now, a bitter liquid which can make him vomit, and yet when he had a few sneezes the other day it was my "western cold" that got the blame, not the obvious ineffectiveness of the "anti-cold" medicine or, indeed, the vinegar spray. He wears 5 layers of clothes beneath his duvet at night, but windows are then opened to let in the fresh air (and the bitter wind outside). My scepticism about Chinese medicine isn't helped by the packaging, with it's ridiculous English and wildly overambitious health claims [see above and below], plus my own experience with Chinese doctors and their "cures" - visits for 14 separate ailments to date with just 2 certain successes. But "popping into a local clinic to see my GP" just isn't an option here, so I try to turn a blind eye to most strange things that don't actively damage JD's health. I'm hoping that when I do need to put my foot down it will have more impact. That's the plan, anyway!
(Sorry, these pun titles are getting increasngly obscure!)
After 8 months of daily elbow pain, an injection of ozone(!?) and seven weeks of physiotherapy I went to hospital again last week, courtesy of a "DL", a nurse friend of Jiajia's who arranged a "jump the queue and pay no money" visit to the top joint doctor there. He had a poke around and agreed it was "tennis elbow", but was concerned it had not improved over the months. He suggested the best way forward was a steroid injection to stop the pain, and a further 3 months of rest to solve the underlying injury. It's now a week later and the elbow pain has indeed gone. Quite a relief. Websites on the treatment suggest that such injections are only a temporary measure however, and I can expect the pain to reoccur in 4-6 weeks. Rest is the only long-term cure (barring an operation), so I need remember to take it easy for some time yet. It's certainly good to be pain-free at last, though.
After 4-5 months of elbow pain and two unsuccessful visits to doctors, I managed to track down an English-speaking physiotherapist in Kunming a couple of days ago. He spent 40 minutes giving me a thorough test and came to the conclusion that the elbow wasn't healing properly because of a shoulder issue that I wasn't aware of. He "demonstrated" this by stretching my left shoulder - somewhat uncomfortable - and then doing the same exercise on my right shoulder - excruciating pain!
In fact, the whole session was really, really painful. At one point, I genuinely felt one of my fingers might be about to break and I was close to tears on occasions - much to Ava's amusement! After we finished, the physio suggested I return home and apply ice-packs to my arm to stop it swelling too much! That did indeed help, though I still felt totally bruised and abused for 24 hours afterwards! I've been told I'll need at least 2-3 further sessions, so in the meantime I'll do all my daily exercises and then grit my teeth as we get nearer the next session.
A Bangladeshi hotel. A year ago today. Jiajia's been sick all week and we've been blaming the local food. I mention casually that it could, of course, be due to pregnancy. An hour later I'm in a nearby chemist trying to mime "pregnancy test" to the amusement of a Bengali shopkeeper. I finally return to the hotel room and Ava does the test. A red line shows up. We can't read the Bengali, but red means "no", right? We're not sure if we should feel disappointed or relieved and we continue to blame the local food.
A week later, we've returned to China and Jiajia wants to check again, thinking that Chinese tests might be more accurate. We try once again but it's no more accurate. Still red. However, this time Ava can read the instructions and we soon discover a red line is actually a "positive". Gulp. Jiajia's got a baby boy in her. The rest, as they say, is his story.
At the risk of the blog becoming overly baby-centric, here's another update on 朱 品 修 's progress.
Approaching his fourth month, JD has more than doubled in weight, from 3 to 6.6kg (1 stone) and stands 62cm (2ft) in his favourite socks. He has a calm and increasingly cheeky personality with plenty of smiles and giggles.
We took him for his second vaccination jab again today (the first attempt last week was thwarted by flooding). Queueing amongst hordes of screaming Chinese babies (with their huge heads and patchy hair!) JD caused quite a stir with the nursing staff and other parents... "so cute!" and "so well-behaved!" being the favoured phrases from staff and strangers alike! He had a 5-second scream on being injected, but then settled quickly once again.
My 3-week summer holiday starts next week and Ava and I are bracing ourselves for 8 days without our Nanny (who deserves a holiday too!).
We decided to take Ma-in-law to the hospital yesterday afternoon as a friend of ours highly recommended a doctor in a hospital some dictance away. Ma-in-law has had a poorly shoulder for a week which she blames on all the "baby-holding" she imagines she does (and strangely not on the dance performances she took part in last week!?). At the the hospital, we walked past the "Otorhinolaryngological Dept" in order to find the "Ache Dept" where our doctor works (I kid you not!). He examined ma-in-law and gave her an injection. Ava then mentioned the sore elbow I've had for three months now. Another examination and he diagnosed "tennis elbow", presumably from all the badminton I've been playing over the last year. Another injection for me. I assumed it would be a pain-killer or an anti-inflammatory, but it turned out to be ozone(!) and quite painful. Back home, I Googled it and found that ozone injections are a "Traditional Chinese" remedy for everything from arthritis to cancer, and not recommended by many mainstream doctors! We'll see how it goes.
On leaving the hospital we spotted a traffic policeman giving us a parking ticket despite there being no visible "No Parking" sign in sight. I asked him how we were supposed to know and he said we were two minutes late returning and there was a sign explaining it all some 500m down the road. Cheers mate!!
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