Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hypertension 10: Western vs. Chinese Medical Experiences

I’ve written about the differences in the medications/treatments offered by the Western doctor and the Chinese Medical Doctor. But how is it different to use each doctor?

I saw the Western doctor every two months or so--after I made an appointment to express a concern about the prescription medication I was taking at the time. I saw the Chinese Medical doctor three times a week.

The Western doctor would take my blood pressure, weigh me, and tell me I should lose weight and exercise. He did not push me harder to exercise or diet effectively because he assessed me as someone who would not exercise or diet effectively--he was insightful. Then, after hearing my concern about being dizzy or exhausted or whatever, he would prescribe a different prescription medication. He was very nice, but had the distance you should expect from someone you see for fifteen minutes every couple of months. We did not have an intimate relationship. And the visits were fifteen minutes or less--there was no time to talk about anything personal. A sign on the wall declared only two issues could be presented, and no narcotics would be prescribed.

The Chinese doctor would check the colour of my tongue, ask how my bowel movements were, have me lie down for a while, check my blood pressure, and then stick needles in me. Visits took an hour and a half, on average. Every once I a long while she would mention exercise and dieting, but never stressed it—she was also insightful. She asked about my family and work. I told her about my mother, who I was looking after. Then I would ask about her parents, who wanted to immigrate to Canada, and I eventually volunteered help with their immigration forms, and she stopped charging me for the acupuncture), and only charged me ‘cost’ for the herbs.

I would see each doctor in a little room off their main office.

In the Western office, patients sat waiting in a holding area, reading old fashion and sports magazines. In the Chinese office there was no reading material at all. Patients in the Western office did not talk to each other. In the Chinese office, we chatted and exchanged case histories. In the Western office, I waited up to half an hour before the doctor saw me, while in the Eastern office I saw her within minutes.

In the Western office the staff were all women, busy behind their desks. Patients were generally tolerated as a necessary annoyance. The receptionist checked your name on the computer but otherwise did not much want to do with you. She did not have the time to talk with you, nor did I expect to chat with her. In the Eastern office the staff were all women, although there was one male masseuse. The staff chatted with you, remembering your first name and what you were being treated for.

The Western office atmosphere was all business--you were there for as short a time as possible. The Eastern atmosphere was relaxed and social.

I had no idea if the Western doctor had a family, children, relatives, friends or any kind of life outside the office. I met the Chinese doctor’s parents and her young daughter occasionally played in the office after school hours.

On the walls of the waiting room in the Western office were tasteful framed prints of hockey goalies, while in the small patient rooms there were wall posters of colons. On the walls of the Eastern waiting room were testimonials about the effectiveness of the treatments, notes from the doctor’s daughter about what a great mom she was, and shelves of herbal medications. There were no colons on the walls of the Chinese patient rooms, but each room had a cd player so that while you lay on the table with needles sticking out of you, you could listen to relaxing Eastern music, if you wished. There were no CD players in the Western patient rooms.

The Western office was in a large building on the fourth floor. The Eastern office was in a small building with only one floor. The Western office was all business, I did not look forward to going to it. The Chinese office was a place I looked forward to, it was friendly.

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