Hangnails and dirty streets don’t mix, and I’d just happened to be working in one of Shenzhen’s oldest and poorest village areas, colloquially referred to as a Cunzi or cun. Looking back on it, it should’ve been a no-brainer that biting my cuticles and petting Cun dogs would eventually catch up with me.
Small clinics are scattered all over Shenzhen with at least a couple in every neighborhood, and conveniently enough there had been one just down the block from my primary school. I had figured this would be pretty simple to get taken care of… Just a couple pills and some gunk drained out, then I’d be back to playing with lockjaw in no time.
The only issue with that theory was that it turned out to be 100% wrong. Pretty much the opposite of quick and simple, the doctor there informed me that I’d need to be put on a regiment of IV treatments for at least 3 days, and in addition to coming to get hooked up twice each day, I’d also need to drink mashed up roots mixed only in hot water several times throughout each day. The IV treatments made it sound much more serious than I’d expected, and I started to get a little nervous about coming out of this with all of my digits as I’d watched the doctor prepare the IV bag. Only after being led into a large seating room as varied as an inner-city ER waiting room, sans stabbings, did I realize that the severity of my treatment was due more so to cultural differences than it was MRSA. After getting seated in front of multiple TVs all playing soap operas, they hooked in my IV and told me that the bag would take roughly 45 minutes to drain fully. The nurse then gave me a clip board of take-out menus and walked away, leaving me with plenty of time for people watching.
In the time that I’d been sitting there, I’d watched quite a few people finish or start IVs, and I couldn’t help but notice how many were there for simple colds. I guess I’d known this already just from working alongside Chinese teachers for years and witnessing them leave during a free period to get an IV rather than call out sick, but damn… there must’ve been ten people with the sniffles there at any one time, coughing openly as they got fluids pumped into them. Anchored by my IV nearby one woman who was hacking away in my direction, I remember hoping to leave the clinic healthier than when I’d arrived.
Besides the people with common colds, there was a woman had to have been a prostitute, which are prevalent in the cun’s and gnarlier than their dogs, and I’m not above guessing fingers aren’t the only infected area an IV can treat. What had really floored me though was when a younger guy was brought in by his friend, who’d fireman-carried him to a seat as a he groaned and clutched his face. Had he been hit by a car? Did he have a ravaging fever? Nope. He’d gotten drunk last night, and merely had a bad hangover. I mean, I’m not gonna say it doesn’t make sense to knock off a hangover with some saline and glucose, but whatever happened to just closing the curtains and sipping Gatorade all afternoon?
It wasn’t long before my IV had finished, along with the curry chicken I’d had delivered in, and it was my time to go. The other appointments went about the same, and by the second day my finger was more or less back to normal. All in all, the culture shock had been worse than the infection.