Gynecology and Surgery at Dongeui Medical Center, Yangjeong, Busan

I have been living in Korea for 10 months now and I have used Koreabridge to inform myself on everything but today I thought I would share as I just returned from my second post - op visit from Dongeui Medical Center.

WARNING: My account is LONG and DETAILS a Pelvic Exam and Post- Surgical details. You've been warned! 

Before leaving NY I had gone for a pelvic exam and they detected something.  An ultra sound alone would cost me $800 so I ignored it. Until this past July of 2013 when I felt a sudden twang in my uterus. The only other time I had used my insurance here was for an eye exam on the 8th floor of Ion City right outside of Seomyeon station which set me back 30 minutes and 10 dollars. (They have an English speaking desk assistant, and the Opthalmologist's is okay but not the Optometrist who just mimes where to look/what to do.) 

Finally, I figured it was time to check it out.  I turned to Koreabridge and other sites with numerous posts about Donguei Medical center. A lot of emphasis was placed on the great English speaking staff including one Nurse Lee. I called her and made an appointment. The ride to the hospital from Yangjeong station is about 5 minutes with either a taxi, the number 8 shuttle bus or the free hospital shuttle bus outside of Exit 4. Upon my arrival I took the stairs. One flight up and I walked into the Nurse Lee waiting for me. I'm sure it was obvious to her it was me as I am one of few foreign brown people in Korea. Finding Nurse Lee on the stair case was a God send for my nerves. She smiled in her green top, white pants and those heinously ugly but comfortable nurse shoes. There was a kindness and realness emanating from her and I was instantly calmer. Her English is immaculate and so is her banter. 
Before I read about Nurse Lee, I had read online about terrible OBGYN experiences. Nurses or doctors remarking about a patients physical appearance. Asking extremely private question out loud in front of other people. Bad bedside manner and feeling like an outsider. But Nurse Lee asked her questions quietly and quickly. I found myself answering "No babies, no blood in urine, last pelvic less than a year ago." After asking about my pain she questioned why I chose to see the female OBGYN and not the male. I told her I would be more comfortable with a female but she said the male was a surgeon. She gave me time to think it over in the waiting room but I knew instantly that from my answers she knew I might be in better hands with a surgeon, so I made a judgement call to make it easier on myself.
The OBGYN office on the 3rd floor is clearly marked. In fact everything is in English. Nurse Lee instructed me to use the restroom first then led me into the doctors office. He opened with an awkward smile and said "Nice to meet you, what can I do for you?" It threw me in its sincerity. Obviously, I was there for him to look at my hoo-ha. I murmured out some sentences until Nurse Lee took over and repeated everything I had told her before in Korean. I was nervously sweating and becoming ever more aware that I must have smelled like...well a smelly person. Perfume was in my purse but there was no time. Off to the adjoining room. Put on this ridiculous long skirt. Get in the chair. Relax your legs. Do you want the curtain? I snapped out of my spinning. There is a curtain that blocks your view of the doctor and his nurse. "Yes," I said. I didn't want to see them seeing me. 
"Im going to put the speculum in now," the doctor warned. There was pressure but no pain. Next the fingers. Next the wand. Finally I was getting that ultra sound I'd put off for so long. I turned to Nurse Lee whom I had asked to stay with me. I instructed her to tell me anything the doctor said. I heard the word cyst and instantly my body temperature soared. I started to cry. I was broken. The other nurse pointed out to Nurse Lee that I was crying and I hated her for that. 
The doctor left and as I got dressed the other nurse laughed and this time pointed out to Nurse Lee that I had left a sweaty imprint of my behind on the paper covering of the chair. By now the tears were becoming harder to quell. Nurse Lee handed me a tissue and we headed back to the doctors office. I asked them to ignore my state and give me the facts. And they did. There was no coddling. The facts settled in me like dust sinking to the floor of my soul.
Ovarian teratoma. Malignant cyst or tumor made of hair, skin, and bone. Encompassing my left ovary. Very large. Surgery. Nurse Lee calmly asked if I intended to do the removal at the hospital. I hadn't even thought I had another choice but back home I would have been much more cynical. I would have price shopped my surgery. I agreed to do it when the doctor explained he would be able to do a laroscopic surgery. A tiny incision is made, and a camera and light guide the way. It's more of a puncture wound so no scars, and I would be in the hospital 3 days, and 2 nights. He showed me footage of real surgeries he had performed.
Back in her office, Nurse Lee broke down the price of everything while I stared at her copies of English dictionaries and tried to pretend this wasn't happening to me. For the pelvic, ultrasound, and pre- lab blood work prior to the surgery I would pay 240,000W. Without even looking at me she began to fill out a paper explaining she would list me as an acquaintance of hers and get me a very small discount. Pre- lab consisted of blood work, urine sample, EKG and CAT scan. I asked for a doctors note so I could explain to my school why I would need 3 days off. 

I found myself running. Not that I was being rushed but because every test is so fast. Blood work was instant. From the corner of the room I heard "I like your tattoo." The accent was California Valley girl but the woman was clearly a Korean blood lab assistant. "It's very pretty," she continued. She'd spent some summers in Cali. Go figure. Before I can say anything else Nurse Lee hands me a cup for the urine test and then off to the next room. There the EKG room nurse tells me to lie down. She mimes that I should lift up my top. But I am not certain and she does it for me. Again I am embarrassed as she places plastic clamps on my ankles and wrist and small suction cups under my bra. I try to breathe as I watch the machine print out my heart rate. 
Finally the CAT scan. I tell Nurse lee I am taking off my earrings because I can't remember in that moment that that's what you do for an MRI. I thank her for being so kind and leading me everywhere and ask her to watch my bag as I run in for my last test. "Is there any gold in here?" she jokes. It takes me more time to figure out how to tie the wrap around top given for the test than the actual scan does. Finally I am back on the third floor waiting for the doctors note. For some reason Nurse Lee is apologetic that I have to wait. As if 5 minutes for something extra I asked for is in anyway putting me out. She leaves me for a little bit to attend what I am sure are a million other duties that don't include babysitting me. 
Total cost for visit and pre- lab work costs me 238,000W with Nurse Lee's discount. She walks me down to the first floor to pay 10,000W for the doctors note. The clerk behind the desk asks for the notes reason as many patients take the note to other hospitals. Nurse Lee explains its for my school and saves me 10,000W. As she walks me out she reminds me that I can call her anytime, and she schedules me quickly for the next week so that I can do my Summer camp, and be able to fly the two weeks after that, back to NY for vacation. 
"Your school can call me, I will not say anything to take away your dignity. I am like an eagle," she says and raises her arms over her head in a swooping motion. She compares herself to another protective animal but I am so happy to have this woman in my life I don't hear her. In front of the hospital she asks where I am going, which is not terribly far. "You saved 10,000W today, take a taxi. You deserve it."
The following week I paid 105,000W per night for a private room. To me, the cost was worth the private toilet, the extra couch for my husband to sleep on and most importantly, the privacy. But you can pay much less than that to share with one other person. Free rooms are always full of six or so old women. You have to pack your own water bottle, utensils and slippers and check in one night before surgery for an enema and they make sure you don't eat. The surgery took about two hours and Nurse Lee was with me until the anesthesia took affect. Post- surgery, in the recovery room, I had a fever due to the doctors using cold saline solution to clean the ovary and my body temperature reacting badly. I stayed in the recovery room for an additional hour. The cyst had been so large that it burst and for three days I had to wear what was essentially a tiny bottle connected to a tube draining the fluid remaining in my ovary through my belly button. 
The nurses on the 7th floor checked on me every hour - so often that I could barely get any sleep.  My blood count dropped from the loss during and after surgery so I was forced to drink an iron supplements with every liquid meal. The hospital food is not the most tasty but it costs about 3,000W each compared to 18,000W for the "American" style food they offer. And its real Korean so there was a main soup, main liquid rice and banchan (side dishes!) On the first floor there is a CGV where my husband bought his food and bought me ice cream. The IV and catheter were not pleasant either, but post- surgery it was nice not to have to get up and go to the bathroom. With any abdominal surgery they pump you full of gas to inflate your belly and make room for surgical tools. But I ended up with a distended stomach for those 3 days and no one explained it until the 2nd or 3rd day Doctor check up when he asked me to walk around and get my systems moving again to release said gas. 
During the first nurse check up one of the young ladies (most floor nurses who do rounds are in their 20's) brought two student nurses who remarked that I should not speak because my "breath smelled disgusting." I had just woken up after surgery so brushing wasn't on the top of my list. I couldn't forgive their broken English way of saying "Please, don't speak, maybe rest and rinse your mouth." I called Nurse Lee and told her the student nurses made me uncomfortable and she called back minutes later to say they would never come into my room again. And they never did. The rest of my stay was pleasant with the cable TV and air conditioner comforting me. My first post- op visit was last week Monday the doctor checked on the glue around my belly button and said it was healing well. Today, one week later, he did an ultra sound and said the ovary is completely healed meaning I can go back to regular activity. I go back in 6 months for another check up to see how everything is going. 
I will post again soon as I intend to visit the dentist and allergist there when I return from NY and I'll let everyone know if those departments are any good. I think the most important thing we should all remember is that we make our own choices here. Despite the good and bad parts of my experience I fixed the bad ones for myself whenever I had a choice by making my desires heard. Total cost for EVERYTHING (pre labs, surgery, room and food) was about 950,000W. I sincerely recommend Dongeui to everyone. Don't let the giggling nurses or staring ajoshis bother you. You are in Korea after all. 

Re: Gynecology and Surgery at Dongeui Medical Center, ...

This was very deatiled and helpful. I hope you're recovering well. Ugh, the bedside manner here disgusts me sometimes, but you did a great job putting them in their place. I would definitely report the nurse who made the sweat comments :)