• by Wes Lang
  • Special To The Japan Times


One morning, you wake up feeling kibun ga warui (気分が悪い, under the weather) and slightly darui (怠い, lethargic). Rising out of bed, you take two steps forward when the world goes dark and you taoreru (倒れる, pass out). In a panic, your roommate calls ichi ichi kyū (119, Japan’s equivalent to 911) and the kyūkyūsha (救急車, ambulance) whisks you off to an available byōin (病院, hospital). The isha (医者, doctor) runs a few kensa (検査, medical tests), and welcomes you to the world of nyūin (入院, hospitalization). It’s hardly the best start to the day, but what happens next? Well, based on what happened to me, it’ll go something like this.

A kangoshi (看護師, nurse) places you in a kurumaisu (車椅子, wheelchair) and wheels you to the byōtō (病棟, hospital ward), where you’ll be shown to your byōshitsu (病室, hospital room), which will typically be shared with three other kanja (患者, hospital patient). You’ll receive a quick annai (案内, orientation) and be asked to fill out a monshinhyō (問診票, medical history form) and other dōisho (同意書, consent forms). After a bit of rest, it will soon be meal time, delivered to your bed by a herupā (ヘルパー assistant) with the phrase “Shokuji desu” (「食事です」, “Here’s your meal”). If you don’t have your own shokki (食器, utensils), then you can ask for some as kashidashi (貸出, on loan).

Once lunch is settled, the kangoshi will come and ask okawari nai desu ka? (お変わりないですか, has anything changed since I last saw you?) Be careful not to confuse this with okawari (お代わり, a second helping of food)! Instead, just answer with kawari nai desu (変わりないです, no change in my condition) or in the affirmative by stating your shōjō (症状, symptoms). In addition you may be told netsu wo hakatte kudasai (熱を測って下さい, please take your temperature) with a taionkei (体温計, thermometer), for which the terminology kenon (検温, measure one’s body temperature) may also be used.

There may be a few other kensa scatted throughout your stay, including checking your ketsuatsu (血圧, blood pressure), saiketsu (採血, a blood exam), rentogen (レントゲン, X-ray), shindenzu (心電図, an ECG), or chōonpa (超音波, an ultrasound). If kusuri (薬, medication) is necessary, the yakuzaishi (薬剤師, pharmacist) will give you some kōsei busshitsu (抗生物質, antibiotics) and warn you about the fukusayō (副作用, side effects), which may include hakike (吐き気, nausea), zutsū (頭痛, headache), shibire (しびれ, numbness), or jinmashin (蕁麻疹, allergic rash). Kusuri can also be administered via tenteki (点滴, an intravenous drip) that requires a hari (針, needle) into the ude (腕, forearm).

Depending on your condition, you may be allowed the luxury of the ofuro (お風呂, bath), for which there is a sign-up sheet that is hayaimono gachi (早い者勝ち, first come, first served).

Then, just when you think you can relax, the mid-afternoon brings menkai jikan (面会時間, visitation hours), so mentally prepare yourself for omimai (お見舞い, hospital visitation). There are usually kisoku (規則, regulations) regarding kinshisareteiru (禁止されている, prohibited) gifts such as hana (花, flowers) or namamono (生物, raw foods), but good old-fashioned egao (笑顔, smiling faces) should help hagemasu (励ます, cheer you up).

If you ever need anything, the naasukōru (ナースコール, nurse call) button is one click away. Look for the orange and white kanji for yobidashi (呼出, to call or summon). Feeling itai (痛い, painful)? Ask for some itamidome (痛み止め, pain medication). Got kayui (痒い, itchy) skin due to shisshin (湿疹, a skin rash)? Some kayumidome (痒み止め, anti-itch medicine) should do the trick.

At precisely 6 p.m. comes yūhan (夕飯, the evening meal), which consists of usuaji (薄味, bland) food akin to what you’d find at kyūshoku (給食, school lunch). The portions they serve, however, may be a bit tarinai (足りない, insufficient) for shinchintaisha no hayai hito (新陳代謝の速い人, people with a high metabolism).

A final post-meal checkup from the kangoshi will be followed by shōtō jikan (消灯時間, lights out) around 9 p.m. At six the following morning the routine starts all over again, with the inquiry “kinō otsuuji arimashita ka?” 「昨日お通じありましたか?」, “Did you have a bowel movement yesterday?”) As you can see, it’s definitely hayanehayaoki (早寝早起き, early to bed, early to rise).

When you’re kafuku suru (回復する, healed), it’ll be time for taiin (退院, be discharged from the hospital), where all you’ll have to do is worry about is the kaikei (会計, payment of a bill). After all, it’s kenkō daiichi (健康第一, health first).

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