Chances in China: Part 1

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Almost 4 years ago I had the privilege to travel to Beijing, China with a group of health professionals, thanks to Massage Australia. Working in the Guang An Men Hospital, a BUPA funded research hospital, our days were very structured. Everyday we woke at 6am to start at the Hospital by 7am and work until 1pm.  After lunch we would have lectures by the Doctors (Di Fu) and Surgeons from 2 until late. We worked in groups of three throughout the day, rotating every three days into different departments, then we would all meet up for our lectures and exchange notes on what we had encountered that day, secretly hoping that when we got to those wards we would have cases just as intense and interesting. Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Acupuncture and Tui Na (Chinese Massage) were the departments. I couldn’t believe that they had an entire department devoted to MASSAGE!! I was even more shocked to discover that the Doctors are required to learn Massage techniques, Acupuncture, as well as traditional chinese medicine, all as part of their training. A far cry from the allopathic medicine we are accustom to in the western world.

(The Massage Department)

This certainly opened my eyes up to the whole concept of “holistic wellbeing” as opposed to just health, something I had never really thought of before this trip. And I put this to you. How often have you seen negative press in regards to the CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) therapies. Doctors and pharmacists, naturopaths and CAM practitioners, always seem to been locking horns in this debate. Each bad mouthing and undermining the other. This is completely unnecessary, and China have proved this!!

(This is a neck traction chair, used to supple up the neck before manipulation, and yes, I did see this being used on a regular basis.)

When patients come in, regardless of what department, they are assessed. There is no concept of privacy. Imagine a hospital room big enough for three beds and three desks. Two doctors are at each desk. The take turns at using their allocated beds for treatments and assessments. Patients are not lined up in the hall, they are standing in a semi circle around the patient being treated and everyone seems to be discussing the case. Once the objective, subjective and physical assessments had been done, depending on the needs, the patient would be referred downstairs for either a standard x-ray, MRI, or CT scan. ONE HOUR LATER, they would be back with their results. (The last time I referred someone in Australia for an X-ray it took a week for the results to come back!). Once the result were read and x-rays consulted then treatment would commence. Massage, followed my manipulation then Acupuncture. Regardless of the issue, this always remained the same. A common cold to a dislocated shoulder, Massage, manipulation, Acupuncture. Then the patient would be given a choice between TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) or Allopathic (Western) medicine. They would then make their way downstairs to the pharmacy and pick up their script, be it herbs or pharmaceuticals. When I explained to the doctors why I was so shocked and how we in the western world do it differently, they looked at me puzzled and said, very simply in broken english “but that is incomplete”.

(Learning some new fire cupping techniques.)

As far as their approach to health, you can’t really argue, the chinese are doing pretty well. However, their approach to hygiene is perhaps not what you would expect, or possibly exactly what you would expect. Let me paint you another picture. Working in the Orthopedics department one day, we were rushed off our feet. As usual there were people patiently waiting, listening intently to the case of the patient being examined by the doctors. I notice blood on the floor and follow it to the corner of the room where a man, pale as the walls themselves, is being propped up by his friend, a bandage around his hand. I calmly usher him onto a vacant bed and apply more pressure to his hand until the doctor can see him, which isn’t long. The doctor unravels the bandage and exposed the mans thumb, which has been grated down to the bone, a construction accident. The doctor shakes his head reapplies the bandage and the man and his friend are on his way, the doctor looks at me and gives a sheepish smile “we do not have the facilities for skin grafts here”, and is on to the next patient before any more questions can be asked. The next day I come back and the blood from the day before is still there, dry and crusted on the ground. I was horrified, but thought about it and came to the conclusion that we were so full-on the previous day that things must have been missed. Sadly this was the first of several instances. Another time we had a bit of a lull in patients, for whatever reason I looked under one of the beds and found that there was a stack of books with several millimetres of dust, enough for me to need to brush it off in order to expose the title, which was “SARS: A hospital guide to hygiene.” Oh the irony. You suddenly realise how these kind of epidemics spread like wildfire in certain countries.

(Cupping with one on the Di Fu’s/Doctors)

As well as helping the Doctors, we were also able to observe and learn. But we might save some of those stories for another day, otherwise we could all be here for a while:)
grat wall

Aly Curd


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