Very Sick in China: The Yangshuo People’s Hospital

I was feeling off on the climbing day, and more off the next day when we went to beautiful Xingping for hiking. I felt like the hikes were pretty light, but struggled anyway, mask on in air filled with firecracker smoke.

By the time we got back to Yangshuo and our hostel, my body was so achy and tired that I crawled into my bed, foregoing the idea of dinner.

The next day, I never left our room.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be into a cement-walled room with no outside window, but the light stayed dim, the cement insulated against sound, and the damp was ok because of the warm weather. Jia brought me steamed buns and fruit to eat in between her bicycle adventures. I slept a lot and took my temperature.

I had a fever, climbing: 99, 100. Also dysentery.

“If I still have a fever in the morning, we should go find a hospital,” I agreed to Jia.

In the morning, I hit 101.3 and so Jia looked up a place while I found a blog post on what to expect.

The Yangshuo People’s Hospital was only a ten minute walk away. But I was pretty lightheaded, so sought out a chair as soon as we arrived– in the emergency room, on the advice of our innkeeper Lili.

Lili’s hospitality extended not only to leading our climbs as a paid expert guide and arranging dinners for the climbing community, but also apparently to helping with hospital visits. She’d arrive within half an hour in case we needed help navigating the system.

But with enough annoying questions at the nurses’ stand, Jia was doing a pretty good job. She shuffled me to payment counter (5 kuai), into an office to translate a doctor’s basic questions (what hurts? What degree fever?), back to the payment counter to get a receipt for a blood test, into a blood sampling and IV drip room with seats like airplane chairs lined up to host those receiving fluids (cartoons on the big screen), back to the main hall to hand off the sample to the lab and find a chair to abate my nearly fainting.

It was all very efficient. Nobody was waiting to be seen. An ambulance pulled up, unloaded an unconscious man with a bloody face, wheeled him into an operation room in the course of two minutes.

Lili appeared in the half hour wait for lab results. She greeted various doctors and kept me in my seat while Jia checked on my blood (not infected) and received further instruction.

“You have to get a shot,” she conveyed. “In the butt.”

“What? Why? And what was the blood thing about?”

She shrugged. Lili motioned to the appropriate door. I didn’t understand anything and wasn’t mentally functional anyway, so just followed.

All told, I ended up with a doctor visit, blood test, shot, ten days’ tincture, nine days’ antiviral pills, and some other pills I that didn’t come in a box. Respectively, I’m to take 10 mL, 4 pastilles, and two capsules at every meal for the next week or so.

It cost under $20 USD and took about an hour including the walk. Jia held my arm on the way back because my vision was kind of spotty and crosswalks are optional.

It’s a travel day. Jia’s mom is flying in to Guilin and getting picked up by a cousin who will stop to get us in Lipu on the way to the family farmstead. So I lay flat most of the day, take dutiful medicine doses, and slowly pack. Around six, Jia and I take our packs and head to the road.

I’m not great at standing, so I put down my pack, squat, prop elbow on knee to hold my head in my hand. We only wait a few minutes before a blue SUV appears, Jia’s mom hopping out of the front seat to greet us, take my pack, offer me her chair so I can lean back. And off we go.

Reclined in the front seat, I watch Yangshuo’s distinctive cliff stacks silhouetted on a hazy dusk. I chew down a bread roll from Jia’s mom’s flight (western food) to fill my perpetually emptying body. Chinese rap plays on the radio as the cliffs fade into rolling hills.

A cousin younger than us drives into the night, speeding like somebody familiar with the way. The roads go from two-way paved, to thinner paved, to thinner, until I am bracing my sore neck against the ruts in the dirt road.

A sweet and tangy smell overwhelms the night, drifting in through the air ducts and then through rolled-down windows: orange trees, blooming, to all directions. And below the trees, an endless chorus of crickets, cicadas, and frogs.