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All the Ins and Outs of Getting Surgery in Taiwan

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

One of the scariest things I have ever done in Taiwan is have surgery. I have learned a lot of Chinese over a year of time, but I was not sure if my Chinese was good enough for surgery. Now, you might think that this is a weird question, doctors speak English right? Well, not all doctor's speak English very well, but I guess it makes life just a little more exciting.



I have had a problem with my foot for over two years. I've seen doctors in the Netherlands but all they could do was give me custom-made shoes and then it would all be over after a while. They were wrong. After two years of having pain almost every day I was so done with it, so I visited a doctor in Taiwan. I did some online research and found someone that specializes in my rare disease: Freiberg's Disease.


It all looked very promising. We went to the hospital to see the doctor, his English was not bad at all, so that was great. I had to take some X-ray pictures and an MRI. Checking in at the counter for the X-ray and MRI was a little hard, since most people didn't speak English. But with a little Chinese and giving the paper and Health Card you can come a long way.


Scheduling surgery

My doctor referred me to another doctor that specializes in foot and ankle surgery. After this doctor took a look at the photo's that were taken he told me we would schedule a surgery right away. This doctor's English was not particularly bad, but also not great. The minute he discovered that I speak Chinese he refused to speak English to me, which was really hard for me. I do speak some Chinese, but I definitely don't know any medical terms, or at least I didn't back then.


Still not really sure of what was going to happen my mom and I left the hospital. We knew what surgery I was going to get and when, but we had no clue as to where or what we needed to bring. The doctor said the hospital would call us about it three days before admission.


So, as they said, three days before admission I got a call of the doctor's assistant. She tried to explain to me in English where I have to be and what I need to bring, but I had no clue what she was saying for 50% of the time, which I tried to explain, until she hung up the phone. I tried calling the hospital in the two days following, but no one picked up because it was in the weekend.


At least we knew one thing, we had to get a PCR test on Saturday at the hospital, which was very clear. We had to wait for quite a while, but eventually we got the test. Part one completed.


Checking in

In Taiwan you have to go to the hospital one day before you get surgery. I had finally figured out where we had to be: the inpatient building, so we went there. From there on everything got a little bit easier.

We checked in at the counter and had to choose what room we wanted, for 1, 2 or 4 people. We went with the room for 2. After we were done checking in we got a whole bunch of papers we had to take to three different places in the hospital. We also got a little map with a red line and three red numbers, the places we have to go. First I had to get an EKG, this took less than 5 minutes. Secondly I had to get an X-ray of my foot, which again only took 5 minutes, although waiting to register took about 10 minutes. Lastly we had to go to the nurses' station to check in to my room. Thankfully there was a nurse whose English was very good. I did another few checks like blood pressure, temperature and a blood test. After all of that was done I could go to my room.


We didn't order any hospital food (I wouldn't know how), so we got our dinner at 7-11. All afternoon and evening we just watched Netflix and hung out in the room. Around 6 the doctor came by to tell me what time I would have surgery the next day. Around 11 the nurse came by to get me the intravenous drip, she also told me I couldn't eat or drink after midnight.



Surgery

After a night of bad sleep I woke up almost ready to get surgery. I was planned to have surgery around 11, but around 10 they came to tell me to get ready to leave for surgery. I was happy to hear this, I always think it's nicer to have surgery early in the morning, otherwise you get hangry :).


I was taken to the room where I got my hair net and where they went through the last details. I had to say bye to my mom and was then taken to the Operation Room. Once in the OR I met my doctor, his students and the anesthetist. I was pretty nervous at this point.


The anesthetist wanted to confirm with me that I would have complete anesthesia and no epidural. At first I wasn't sure what she was saying, seeing that she spoke Chinese, but when she mentioned the word 'sleep' I understood. The medical students disinfected the foot that would be operated on and I got covered in pre-heated blankets, which felt really nice. And then I fell asleep.


I woke up when I was moved from the operating table to my own bed. After that I spent about half an hour in the recovery room. My foot was very painful so I got two shots of heavy painkillers.



Post-surgery

After the surgery I was not allowed to eat for 5 hours, which was terrible, I was so hungry and thirsty at this point. Once I was allowed to eat I got my medications including painkillers and antibiotics.


The doctor had told me that I had to stay in the hospital for 4 or 5 days, which is very long in my opinion. He also mentioned that Taiwanese people like to stay longer to have someone take care of them. According to him foreigners usually discharge themselves after a day or two. And so did I, the day after surgery I asked the doctor when I was allowed to go home. He told me that I could go home the next day.



Conclusion

Over all I had a pretty good experience with the Taiwanese hospital. The doctors and nurses definitely know what they're doing and they work very carefully and neat. However, I did not always have a clue as to what they were doing because of the language barrier. I learned a lot of Chinese going to get surgery in Taiwan, and if I had to get surgery again I wouldn't hesitate to do it in Taiwan.


If you want to see more about this you can also check out my YouTube video in which I take you to the hospital!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeKw3E5q3jw




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