So for the last year and a half, my health has been terrible. In November of 2019 I got really sick very suddenly. Almost passing out on the subway sick. Fuzzy hearing and loss of vision for more than a few seconds sick, and not in the way those of us who are chronically anemic know. It threw me, considering that up until that point, I was rarely ill. I joked that I had a titanium immune system. I was lucky. Then I ended up having emergency surgery in Korea.
When it all kicked off in November of 2019, I was having a bunch of very scary tests (when your lymph nodes play you, you’ll know). Thankfully everything came back all clear – nothing out of the ordinary, but no real reason for the pain, symptoms I was experiencing. No underlying cause. Just a very stern word from my doctor about taking it easy, managing my stress levels (I work in a rich-area Kindergarten… no stress will happen when hell freezes over), and being very, very careful about catching anything as I was now considered susceptible to everything. They suspected glandular fever.
The next few months I took my doctors orders and tried my best to be very careful, both my mum and my elder sister have had glandular fever, so I knew that I’d feel tired for a bit as my body recovered. But the fatigue never left. I was constantly exhausted after work, all I did was sleep. My weekends were spent sleeping or staying around the house. Going outside or doing anything required planning, not only for the activities, but how much it would take out of me afterwards. Before this, I thought I was understanding of and empathetic towards my friends with chronic illnesses, but experiencing even a fraction of what they have to endure for multiple years with no end in sight, sure showed me.
Somehow I still managed to do some things, even with everything going on both with my health and the rest of the world. Doing the KTO Wellness Supporters program reminded me to centre my health as Priority Number One, because I’m notoriously bad at not doing that, and I finally got to see more of Korea, if only little parts of it. Though I definitely paid for trying to do too much with that plus a full time job.
Other than the constant exhaustion, Nothing much really happened other than the odd flare of pain/dizziness or ‘episode’ similar to the first time I needed to go into the hospital. I didn’t think much of them as they went away by themselves (or I just gritted my teeth and bared through it), which obviously wasn’t great for a lot of different reasons… And then at the start of March, I ended up in the ER in the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. Awaiting the results of a COVID test so I could have my first emergency surgery in Korea (and hopefully the last).
The intense pain was caused by a very aggressive ovarian cyst that had necrotised my right ovary. Thankfully it was a very easy removal job, and they took both out, plus part of my cervix that the cyst had also got it’s grubby little tendrils on. Routine, fab surgeons, I love all of them <3.
The cost of emergency surgery in Korea:
As South Korea doesn’t have a Free At Point Of Use healthcare system like the UK, I thought I’d include a little about the cost in this post too. Korean healthcare is nowhere near as expensive as America, but it isn’t cheap for some things either. I have National Insurance which I pay into monthly on a 50/50 split with my employer. Insurance however, doesn’t cover everything.
The initial cost that we paid when I was discharged was 1,000,000won. We put this on my boyfriends card as he has the ability to pay in monthly installments for things and I don’t. The person at the payment desk did say that the cost would be adjusted once they’d run everything I’d recieved as part of my care against what was covered in insurance. My emergency surgery in Korea ended up being around 650,000won, and they adjusted the amount on the payment plan. That 650,000won covered the cost of surgery, a CT scan, sonogram, x-ray, all the medication, care, and a bed for two days.
Prevention! For those of you reading this with ovaries and cervices, then I strongly suggest you get your Pap smears and sonograms regularly. The NHS suggests every three years for those with uteruses/cervices/wombs from 25-49 years of age. Under Korean Health Insurance, (NHIS) the biennial free health check cervical cancer screening is covered for free for people with cervices/uteruses/wombs over the age of 20. Also, talking to or going to see a doctor when things in your body don’t feel right is important. Don’t do what I did and think that it’ll ‘just pass’.
I’d also definitely suggest getting comprehensive insurance if you’re travelling. Sure many places have wildly more affordable healthcare than the US, but it’s best not to take chances. When I first traveled to Korea as a student, I took out a gap-year insurance policy that covered me for pretty much everything but white water rafting and skydiving, as I didn’t want to tempt fate.
I’m mostly healed from surgery now, and getting on well physically. Mentally I haven’t quite processed things and what they will mean down the road yet, but I’m just going to take it as it comes.