Ouch, my foot! A medical adventure in South Korea

There was no denying my foot was not the right size or color. I propped it up on my desk to get a better look. Yup…not looking too hot. Apparently a good night’s sleep doesn’t cure everything.  As a pretty active child and a ice skater I had my fair share of sprained ankles and other relatively minor injuries; this no doubt seemed slightly concerning.

“A hospital! Really? Can’t we just stop by a pharmacy or something, get some bandages?”

My coworkers suggestion alarmed me. I pictured the U.S. emergency rooms that seem so familiar in my mind, though…have I ever even been? Lots of sick people, and hassle and….it’s only my foot! I just need a compression bandage!

Nevertheless, a few minutes later found me in Spencer’s, a manager and do-it-all-guy within FEU’s international office. (My helpful coworker had to teach class).  There was no talking him out of it–to the hospital he drove.

About 10 minutes later we pulled up at a small, clean hospital. While almost all the chairs were already taken by waiting patients, the atmosphere was calm and it took only a couple minutes to provide the necessary information(date of birth, alien registration card, medical concern) and join the queue.

The next hour passed rather quickly as Spencer and I discussed topics ranging from fashion (his particular area of passion and expertise) to the pending elections in our respective countries. (He is fully Korean but studied in the States and has impeccable English). Finally an assistant called my name and I hobbled into a doctor’s office, Spencer following.

“Sit down,” said the doctor in English,  after I awkwardly stood for a moment too long. He was seated at a desk behind large computer screens.  I sat down on the stool and pointed to my foot. He looked at it and addressed Spencer with a cascade of Korean. He poked different points–feels fine there, yes that hurts. His next cascade of Korean was an order for an x-ray.

I left his office and waited about 15 minutes for an x-ray. After the x-ray, taken by a young competent guy who knew quite a few English phrases (‘foot like this’, ‘sit that way’)  and a few more minutes of waiting, the doc welcomed Spencer and me back into his office.

He stared at the x-ray. Felt my foot some more, and indecipherable Korean once again poured forth. Spencer managed to summarize:”you broke your foot. you’ll need a cast.”

“what!? no?! ME? Impossible…but I walked home last night. And I’ve managed OK this morning…it’s just swollen.

The doctor, showed me the images and wrote “avulsion fracture” on a piece of paper. He instructed me to look it up on my phone. Ahh. Google reveals an avulsion fracture does not mean my bone snapped in two, just a piece separated. I can live with that. The doctor says a soft cast. Only three weeks. Ok. Possible. Doc says to come back for check-up in a week.

Spencer and I leave the office. Another younger man wraps my foot and gives me crutches.

Using my new crutches I awkwardly make my way to the front desk, where I pay. Around $40, once my insurance is applied. I’m not sure what this would cost in the States, but I tend to think that’s pretty great, considering I had X-rays and all.

When I go back for a check-up the next week it only costs around $3.00USD.  The doctor remembers me and scolds me for walking around on the foot. (‘But it doesn’t even hurt!’ I protest. )

Conclusion:  Though injuring one’s foot is a frustrating inconvenience (all I want to do is hike and play and go be in Seoul)-it was an interesting experience to see this small part of the Korean health care system and I feel lucky to have access to such competent, affordable care.

The pills Doc prescribed. They come individually wrapped–he said one set for each meal. Figuring out what they are was an adventure in itself, but possible due to my Korean-American coworker(Mina) and knowledgeable mother.



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