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A Sanguinary Tale

October 13, 2011

I think most of the people who are reading this blog post know more or less where it’s going, which kind of ruins my fun a little. So, for the benefit of those who do know where this story is heading, I have included a DVD extra in this blog post. Writer’s commentary, in italics! 

First we need a sarcastic opening, ideally mixing similar words with different modern and ancient usages. You know, for clarity:

I’m usually more of a melancholic than sanguine type, but I’m feeling absolutely sanguine about my rather sanguinary experience with the South Korean medical system. If nothing else, they sure are efficient! And boy, are they fans of paperwork!

Tangential and nonessential rant:

During my first week of work in Korea, I had to go to a doctor’s office to get certain medical tests done. I was there for maybe an hour, during which they collected enough biological information and paperwork to completely remove me from society and replace me with a cyborg replica. I think my doctor felt the itch and had to keep testing (reference!). This is a short list of just the ones I can remember: height, weight, vision, hearing, looking in my throat and ears, blood test, urine test, mouth swab, blood pressure, colour-blindness test, chest X-rays, reflexes, and then a chat with the doctor to top it off. Urine tests are awkward in a foreign language, by the way. This middle aged Korean dude just points at a cup and says “Piss! Yes!”. By the by the way, Korean nurses think a disoriented white guy holding a cup of his own urine is hilarious. Also, the doctor said there would be a “sexual test” during his list at the start, but it never materialized. Clearly he could tell I was manly and potent (vanity joke!). All of these tests were a waste of my time and money, not to mention a completely pointless exposure to radiation, because I was told the next week I needed to do it all again at a hospital.

Plant information for later:

So, at the start of the next week, the other white guy teacher and one of the Korean counsellors take a cab with me to a hospital in Ilsan. The building was an absolute maze, and we were being led around by a Korean girl who was either in a really big hurry or deliberately trying to get us lost.  Once again, I end up in a place with no idea how I got there. It seemed that each test was in a different room, but we had to keep doubling back to the first room to get more forms signed and things filled out.

The part where everyone else figures out where the story is going:

But then it was time for the blood test.

New paragraph telling the story in detail:

I went into a room where I was greeted by two nurses who spoke almost no English at all. Through mime and sign language they got me to roll up my sleeve and get into blood losing position. One of the nurses was clearly a younger junior nurse who was taking tips from the older one. I’m already not terribly comfortable with needles, add a language barrier and a trainee to that and you’ve definitely got me nervous. So anyway, she pokes my arm and starts her vampiric act of medical brutality. Now, when good nurses drain your blood, they do a little move where they switch vials midstream without taking out the needle. You don’t even notice it. However, this nurse was a trainee.

Shocking image:

The needle came out of my arm and a thin stream of blood shot out of me and across the table at an incredible velocity. Blood spattered the nurse’s face as she jumped back and shrieked.

Joke that’s actually true:

Then I heard my first English words from her: “Sorry!”. Followed by the second set of English words from the older nurse: “One more!”

Flash forward in the middle of the story:

I was later told by some members of the medical community that in order for blood to spray out of my arm like a scene from Kill Bill, she had to have hit an artery instead of a vein. Stupid nurse. I’m glad you got my blood on you. I never wished I had the rage virus more (spiteful reference!)

Back to the story:

So the newbie nurse left and the good nurse drained five vials of blood from my arm without incident. Counting the discarded vial from the first nurse, I’d lost six vials, plus whatever extra blood I sprayed on the other nurse and the table. It’s important to mention that the doctor ordered that we don’t eat food up until that point. It was 3pm and I last ate at 7pm the night before. So they told me I can go, and like an idiot I stood up and walked to the waiting room.

Actual quote:

My words to Tyler, the other teacher, as I passed him leaving the nurse’s office: “I feel a little lightheaded. I’ll be okay though.”

Back to the story, in the present tense for dramatic effect:

I sit down, and immediately I’m seeing spots. My vision is going black on the sides and pressing inwards, threatening what little I still have. All I’m thinking is “Okay, focus. If you focus, you won’t pass out”, as if I can Zen my way through not having enough blood in my body. I’m propping myself up on the couch to make for an easier fall when I do pass out, all the while I’m thinking “concentraaaate”.

Totally skippable unconscious dream description:

I remember having a really long and convoluted dream where I was dying in a hospital in Halifax. Evidently, I have the survival instincts of a heartbroken manic depressive, because all I wanted to do was give up and I was annoyed that all my friends and family were trying to keep me alive.

State the obvious:

And then I woke up and my brain realized I was alive. And in Korea. How’s that for some culture static? (callback!)

Embarrassing twist:

So I’m covered in sweat, feeling like absolute shit, laid out on the floor while a group of Korean nurses stand over me staring. They help me onto the couch and I lay down for a bit. I’m still in a daze and a bit disoriented when I hear Tyler, my oasis of English speaking whiteness, calling out to me: “Hey Kev? Uhh… your fly is down”. I would have blushed if my body didn’t need the blood elsewhere.

Typical “help me I’m lost in Korea” story that doesn’t lead anywhere:

The nurses threw me in a wheelchair, wheeled me around through a bunch of rooms, put me on a bed, pulled a curtain across, and left me alone, staring at the ceiling. I figured Tyler and the counsellor had to go back to the school to make it to work on time. I was having thoughts about how difficult it would be to get in touch with the school from there and about how I didn’t know the way home. I doubt I could quickly find my way up to the street from wherever I was in that hospital.

State that it all worked out:

It all worked out. An English speaking nurse told me that I have low blood pressure with a tall and very sexy body to supply blood to (vanity joke!), so it’s no surprise that I passed out. We made it back to the school with 15 minutes to spare. I was still sweaty and my fingers were numb, but I bluffed my way through a class of Korean sixth graders. They didn’t suspect a thing.


That’s the story I’ve been sharing with my classes. I think it’s endeared me to them as the silly Canadian bleeder that I am. As some of you know, this has indeed happened to me once before in a Toronto hospital, but the story wasn’t quite as good as this one. I think the language barrier and the bloody mishap really punched this one up. If you have heard me tell this one already, or if you just kind of knew where this story was headed, I hope the poster’s commentary made this enjoyable instead.

Tease the next post:

Next time, I tell you about how I taught a class based entirely around Starcraft and how unexpectedly well that worked. See you then!


From → Uncategorized

  1. James permalink

    “Kevin the Bloody”

    Your Viking name

  2. Allegra permalink

    Do you remember / at my blood test / di-did I bleed / or did I faint?

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