The dangers of being friendly (while running).
Before stepping out for a run this morning, Joanie said to me (as she usually does): be safe.
It's been too long since my last run. Delayed by a mixture of icy showers and early morning outings, I haven't had the chance to hit the pavement in almost a week.
But today was a perfect day (or so I thought) - blue skies shimmered overhead and a chill crisped the autumn air. Leaving the hostel, I headed west along the main thoroughfare, clothing and eyeglasses shops already open at 8:30am, passing through a pedestrian way buzzing with people and street-food vendors serving dumplings and stewed noodles.
Along the way I’d been smiling and saying "Ni how" (hello) to people I'd passed. Once in a while I’d receive a hello in response, but usually it's a blank stare or look of bemusement. No matter, I’m just trying to be friendly and blend in as much as a 6'3" skinny American running in central China can.
I feel like a cultural ambassador, a roving mayor passing on good will and friendship with every step.
A little further and I was running down a street in an industrial area. Seconds after passing an elderly woman and her daughter sitting outside their ramshackle home my world tumbled.
With a smile still on my face, I didn't see the ping-pong sized stone under my left foot and twisted my ankle with a thwacking pop.
"Crap" (and other expletives) surged through my brain as I caught myself before face planting. I stumbled to a cement ledge to inspect the damage. I couldn't put any weight on my ankle and was miles from the hostel.
Luckily, boy scouts taught me more than how to light a cigarette (BS motto: Be Prepared) and I had the hostel's business card with its location written in Chinese and cash for a cab.
I hobbled for two blocks to the nearest busy street and caught a cab back to the hostel. Once there, I hopped up the stairs (no elevator) and talked to the staff about a seeing a doctor.
I’m lucky that my Dad is a podiatrist (not to mention great father) who agreed to a video consultation (he didn’t actually have a choice as I stuck my foot up to the screen before he could say hello.) He didn't think it was broken but I decided to go to the hospital just in case.
Most likely, no one at the Luoyang People's Hospital spoke any English and one of the hostel staff who wasn’t working at the moment offered to come with to translate.
I've visited hospitals throughout the world and in a way hospitals represent a country’s benchmark of the population’s health. This hospital was similar to others I’ve visited: bleak white walls stained with dirt, cigarette burns on the floor and lacking that antiseptic cleanliness that makes us squirm.
Step 1: An $0.85 registration fee to see the doctor, in my case an orthopedist whose office was on the 2nd floor.
The elevator was located next to the stairs and an attendant who we’d spoken to earlier, suggested taking them as it was faster than waiting for the elevator. Maybe he suffered from short-term memory loss or nearsightedness and couldn’t see me hopping around on one leg.
Step 2: We met with the doctor, a plump woman in a yellowing lab coat who asked a few questions, scribbled a note in illegible Chinese and directed us to the x-ray room back on the 1st floor.
Good to know doctors everywhere have terrible handwriting.
Step 3: We went to the x-ray area and waited in the hallway learning prepayment (100 Yuan – around $18 USD) was required. After paying, a shiny steel door emblazoned with a yellow nuclear symbol slid open and a balding man in his 50s beckoned me in.
The Hospital's X-Ray room.
He directed me to a wood gurney and as I sat it slid away and I nearly fell off. Once situated, he placed my foot, focused the x-ray light and stepped into a steel box. The rest of my body was fully exposed to the sterilizing x-rays.
The tech reappeared and adjusted my foot to take a side view. With no warning, he pushed down on my foot ankle so my arch rested against the table and held it there as he adjusted the x-rays focus. Pain screamed through my leg but as soon as it started it was finished and I returned to the hallway to wait for the processed prints.
Up to this point, despite the unpleasantness of the hospital’s atmosphere, I was impressed by the service. Maybe foreigners are treated better or the hospital wanted to show off their (and China’s) high standard of care, but there was almost no waiting. At an American hospital I would have waited hours for the same services.
The hostel employee came with to translate said that children and the elderly receive care at a discounted rate but everyone else pays the regular price - which while still cheap by American standards had gone up (the cost for an x-ray increased nearly 40% since last year).
After a few minutes the x-ray was ready and then we had to wait around 10 minutes to get a reading. As the doctor was asking questions and reading the prints random people sauntered in and out of the examination room to stare.
Getting my X-ray read.
I’m happy to say nothing’s broken, just banged up. The doctor advised a week of rest and prescribed a mild pain killer and an herbal spray that Joanie calls “sore sauce ” (because it smells like soy sauce) that reduces swelling and is used by the dancers in the HT Chen company.
Outside the hotel with the translator (aka super nice girl who works at the hostel).
Me and a nurse.
Joanie thinks this whole episode might be an act of G-d, a message I need to slow down, let her sleep in and give her blisters time to heal.
Whether it's divine intervention or not I’ve learned my lesson: running and smiling are a dangerous combination not to be practiced casually.
Shabbat shalom and rest well, I know I will.
And if you'd like to check out the sat view of this fated run, Click Me