Last Friday night during a drunken night on the town, due to some unfortunate combination of an intense storm and being sufficiently inebriated, I managed to loose my footing on some rather steep and slippery steps whilst attempting to enter a bar.
Becoming a human toboggan of sorts I painfully glided down at a speed that would have given those cool runnings kids a run for their money!
Although probably a contributing factor I thank god that I was drunk at the time, because based off how painful my back has been in the past week I’m glad the event itself is nothing more than a hazy memory.
Anyhow I awoke the following morning finding myself completely immobilized by the pain of bending my spine in the slightest, the only thing within reach was my mobile phone which despite it being the wee hours of the morning I used to call my fellow neighboring JETs to come to my aid.
What followed was a long painful morning of icing the red angry lump that had become my spine. Consuming a fistful of painkillers by around 1pm I finally worked up the courage to get out
Now the annual Kobe JET leavers sayonara party was on Saturday evening which i certainly didnt want to miss, so I stupidly powered though the pain, smashed a ‘couple’ beers and partied though the night (an action my doctor later condoned).
Alas Sunday evening rolled around and I found myself in a such great deal of pain that I seeked the aid of an all knowing and powerful veteran JET sir Andy who took me to visit a nearby chiropractor.
Now my real issue at the moment is that the KEC have been insanely slow at organizing National Health Insurance (国民健康保険 Kokumin-Kenkō-Hoken) Cards.
Although all my medical treatment will be subsidized eventually, without the card on hand I had to pay the full price up front, to be later refunded the difference once I receive my card.
However this is no help to me in the short term when money is tighhttttt!
Monday morning I grit my teeth, ingested another handful of painkillers and limped my way to school only since I felt obliged as I had an ICP (basically an ALT exchange program where a dozen or more neighboring schools ALTs all visit one school for the day) I unfortunately ended up in a classroom teaching the Macarena which although did my back no favors was certainly meccha fun!
Tuesday morning I eventually admired defeat and after writing a several paragraph long speech in what i presume was barely comprehensible Japanese I called my JHS and explained my situation to Kyoto-sensei (the vice principal), profusely apologizing and asking for Byokyuu 病気休職 (sick leave).
Now this was something I was hoping to avoid as I had previously heard many horror stories from former JETs who took sick leave only to later find that their school had deducted the time off from their Nenkyuu 年休 (annual leave).
Although according to my contract I am entitled to 20 days of Nenkyuu and 20 days of Byokyuu actually taking the latter can cause friction in the office.
This is because Japanese people simply do not ever take sick leave, in Japan gaijin are the only ones that ever do, I believe this comes down to a huge cultural difference in opinion of what leave is for. From a western perspective vacation time is spent on holidays and sick leave is spent when one is too ill to complete their regular duties at work.
This is not how shit goes down in Japan, taking things just because your entitled to them is not kosher in the Japanese thought process, alas if a Japanese employee takes a day off work for whatever reason they will always use their annual leave regardless. Since I am kind of outside this process however I being gaijin I am entitled to exercise my right to take byokuu, I emailed my predecessor who informed me she had handled being sick the Japanese way and simply taken nenkyuu when she couldn’t come into work, so I became worried that my school would not be sympathetic to my twisted spine.
Alas once again I attempted to goto work on Wednesday in order to not aggravate the situation, I was sent home by midday after it became clear i could hardly walk, much to my surprise being firmly told my my OTE to not come back until I was better as health is more important than work. I was soon handed directions to an English speaking hospital from Kyoto-sensei, with the work X-RAY written across the map and sent on my way.
Despite feeling that my back was slowly recovering over the week, the thought that I was walking around with damage to my spine was too much to bear. Alas I eventually caved and headed to the byouin 病院 (hospital) the following day.
Although quite the trek from most JET apartments, for Kobe ALTs Kobe Kaisei Hospital is perhaps the best choice if you find yourself in need of medical aid. The reception staff speak some English and the computers on which you can book your consultations are mostly in English. Furthermore I’m not sure if this is always the case but the specialist I saw spoke fluent English which was very reassuring.
Anyhow after 2 hours of siting in various waiting rooms at the hospital I was eventually called over by a nurse, who escorted me to a tiny closet of a room. Inside I was given the classic hospital gown to change into and some Japanese slippers. After I had finished the wall on the other side of the
room closet reveled itself to be a door leading into a large X-ray studio.
Now contouring myself into the wide array of poses the doctor required of me, when my understanding of his instructions in Japanese were elementary at best proved to be quite the challenge.
However i overcame this hurdle simply by allowing myself to become a limp human rag doll to be physically adjusted by the doctor to get the shots.
Now having had X-rays prior to coming to Japan due to a dodgy back, I was quite surprised at the sheer amount of shots from different angles that were taken. Back home I had 2 X-rays done to assess an issue in the same area, however in Japan apparently they needed 6!!! Needless to say I’m sure I probably have a healthy green glow now and perhaps a couple RAD-X are in order =p
Following the doctor X-RAYs attempt to microwave me, I was sent on my way to yet another office where another doctor basically told me my spine is perfectly heathy. The pain was simply a result of sever muscular bruising, I was just being a little bitch and needed to man up.
To add salt to the wound (no not literally) he gave me a back brace ward of attacks from students who upon noticing my trouble walking up stairs have taken it upon themselves to poke me in the spine whist chanting daijoubu 大丈夫 (are you ok).
So the next day i was back at school, rocking my uber hip back brace which was ‘very’ visible through my shirt, its not to hard to guess that I was the coolest kid at school. All I needed were some Buddy Holly glasses and braces and the set would have been complete.
No the kids were not understanding or nice about it, they were shit heads because well….. there kids. Luckily my co-workers were slightly more understanding 😄
All in all this whole exercise cost me a couple man 万 (10,000¥), so if you find yourself in need of medical attention before you get you insurance card, well expect that.