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Friday, 7 November 2008

A Visit to a Chinese Doctor

Things are pretty cold here in Harbin these days. There's ice on the ground and it snowed (a little) last week. There is a cold wind blowing from Mongolia and it's a bone-chiller. I went downtown this morning with Zhang Jing because I wanted to consult with a Chinese traditional doctor. This old woman is someone Zhang Jing has known since she was a young child. She told me she can remember her father bringing her along when he went to see this doctor more than thirty-five years ago.

Going to see the doctor was an interesting experience. Her office is very small, only about fifteen feet square. She sits behind a tiny table and there is a steady stream of people going in to see her. We didn't have to make an appointment and didn't have to wait. We had to be careful to arrive before ten thirty though because she only works until 11 AM three days a week.

Her "office" is in a nondescript building in a part of Harbin quite close to the main downtown area. When we went in, Zhang Jing introduced me to the doctor, a kindly, slightly overweight woman who looked to be in her late sixties. The old woman had me sit down on a stool as she proceeded to feel my pulse. You probably know that feeling a person's pulse is a primary diognostic tool in China. She pressed three fingers against the inside of my left wrist and moved them up and down a little bit while she felt my pulse. Then she did the same thing on the other wrist.

While we were there, a number of people carrying sacks of herbs came in. The people looked as though they'd just picked the herbs themselves from a local field and dried them in their back yard. They dropped the herbs off with to another person who was working in an adjascent room, which contained shelves holding bags of herbs, similar to the ones the people were bringing in. The person inside seemed to be sorting the herbs into groups. In the centre of the room was a kind of pressure cooker looking thing, in which I was told mixtures of herbs were being cooked.

After about two minutes of feeling my pulse, the doctor said to Zhang Jing, "He has high cholesterol and kidney stones, but the stones are very small and not much of a problem."

I thought this was pretty interesting since about six months ago, I had an ache in my back and went to another hospital to have an ultrasound done. They showed me the photos. I had a bunch of tiny, grain of sand sized kidney stones which they said should not cause a problem. And the last time I saw Ron in Vancouver, he had me take a blood test and told me that my cholesterol was a bit high. To me, the accuracy of her diagnosis gave the doctor a high degree of credibility.

After she made her diagnosis, she wrote a prescription consisting of a mixture of various herbs and gave it to Zhang Jing. I asked her how much her service cost and she said to me, "Five yuen." This is about seventy-five cents.

The prescription was given to another person, who figured out the price (about $25) and handed the receipe to the person in the other room, who would later cook them for us, strain them and package the resulting liquid. We were told to come back at seven in the evening to pick up the mixture. The doctor told us to take the mixture for a month and return at them time for a follow up diagnosis.

I'm looking forward to trying the medicine and seeing whether or not I can tell any difference.

All in all a pretty interesting way to spend about twenty minutes.

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