Having Surgery in China

It all started with a tired voice……

Around September time we welcomed a new group of teachers at MEF. They came to Jinan to meet the team and were scheduled for training at my school. Over the next few days I was involved in the trainings and was non-stop talking for 3 days (which to be honest, isn’t unusual for someone from Ireland, we talk ALOT!). However at the end of the week my voice felt tired and hoarse, naturally I put it down to talking a lot and didn’t think anything else of it . I gave it a rest over the weekend and my voice felt fine again on Monday, so I continued working as normal. Over the next few weeks the ‘tired voice’ would return by the end of the week, it would be very hoarse. Getting a dry throat can be common here in China (because the air is very dry) and I gave the old ‘drink hot water’ thing a try. (You will hear this non stop in China. Sore throat? Drink hot water. Sore ear? Drink hot water. Broken leg? Drink hot water…..this isnt even an exaggeration )

I gave it a few weeks then I went to the doctors and they told me I had polyps on my vocal chords- which can be common in teachers and singers. I was given medicine to take which was 3 tablets, 3 times a day for 4 days. It didn’t make any difference and on the second trip to the hospital they did a full throat examination, now my throat was inflamed and very red. The doctor gave me the ‘best medicine’ that was used to treat vocal chord polyps, which was 4 tablets 3 times a day, for 7 days. Thats right….12 tablets a day for 7 days! Apparently in Chinese medicine they put a very small dosage of the medicine in each tablet, so you have to take more of them and for a longer period of time. I was expecting these tablets to be life changing since I was taking 12 of them for 7 days, for someone who doesnt like taking medicine, it was the longest 7 days of my life. It helped improve my STT (student talk time) in my classes but unfortunately it did nothing for the polyps ( which I have since learnt can be very stubborn to get rid of and can take a long time )

Off I go on my third hospital visit, but this time I went to the Qilu Hospital of Shandong University as this hospital is considered one of the best in Jinan (which explains why its always so busy)

I went for another full examination of my throat but this one was slightly different, I was asked to lay down on the table as they lowered the camera down. Silly me, I thought since it was my throat that was causing the problem they would be putting the camera down there, but I was wrong. Instead the camera went up my nose and down my throat, which was far from pleasant, let me tell you. They confirmed it was polyps on my vocal chords they gave me two options, I could take the same medicine (which was 12 tablets a day) for 2 months ( and it wasn’t guaranteed to work ) , or I could have a minor surgery to get them removed. I choose the second option because I could not face taking 12 tablets a day for 2 more months- especially when it wasn’t a guaranteed solution!

Thankfully the waiting time wasn’t too long and the next week I went in for the surgery, I spent a whole day before doing tests and scans to make sure I was healthy and ready for surgery. They made a fuss around me and told me they were there to support me in anyway they could ( I should probably mention that my doctor spoke fluently in English and I also had a translator provided by my company so I was well taken care of )



The following day I went in for the surgery in Qilu Hospital, I was given a general anesthesia and they advised me when I woke up I may have a tube still down my throat but not to worry, they would pull it out when they see me waking up. I guess it was nice to be warned, they then asked me what age my students were and then I was out cold. When I woke up I did indeed have a huge tube down my throat, which they pulled out and told me how fantastic I was for waking up from the surgery all on my own….its officially being added to my list of ‘lifetime achievements’! Then something happened which confused them, one of my pupils was significantly bigger than the other and they had no idea why. They monitored me for a few hours and decided I needed to do a full eye examination to make sure my vision was okay. I tried to reassure them that I always have big pupils (which I had to type into my phone because I couldn’t speak) but they insisted on the check up. Once they confirmed everything was okay and I still have 20/20 vision (which is good to know) I was given eye drops and monitored through the night until the next day. Thankfully my pupils had returned to normal and I was discharged the next day and best of all, I felt great! As I mentioned before, my school, company and friends were amazing support through it all and I never once regretted my decision to have surgery. I spent the next few weeks resting my voice to ensure my vocal chords healed well and within 6 weeks I had claimed back 100% of the hospital fees. Now I am back to talking the ear of anyone who will listen, and I am polyp free :)