So I finally went to the doctor today. He was a nice guy, about my age, Asian-Australian and quite funny. He was a good looking, hip guy, probably Indonesian ethnically, with an earring and nicely groomed, pointy sideburns. We talked about what’s and he said, “You have a bad cold an I am not going to give you anything because I have no reason to think it is bacterial.”

Then he listened to my chest and was shocked. “Do you have a history of asthma?”


“”Well, your breathing is very asthmatic. It’s quite distinct. Are you short of breath?”

“A little.”

“Ok, good. It sounds like you would get of breath climbing the stairs.”

“No. Uh, do I have asthma now?”

“Probably not, though it is quite common for people who have never been asthmatic to become so in Beijing due to the air quality. Most likely, your cold has in fact become a bacterial infection in your lungs and possibly your sinuses as well, causing temporary restrictive airway disease [I have some of these names a little wrong], which will go away when it goes away. That also explains the excessive discharge of dark-colored mucus. I changed my mind. You are getting antibiotics.”


“I think you should have a Ventolin inhaler too in case your breathing becomes more labored. And you’re too sick to get those vaccine boosters we were talking about.”

So there you have it. I am taking antibiotics, I now have a Ventolin inhaler and I may have asthma. But probably not.

He asked me a few more questions, we discussed vaccines and the fact that we are both trialing spouses. He came here for his wife to finish her PHD in Chinese studies or something and they have only been here three months. “How are you finding Beijing?” I asked.

“Great,” he said. “I love it here. It’s really reinvigorated my passion for medicine.”

“Really. How so?”

“Oh, I was in private practice in Sydney for 15 years and getting a little bored. You see the same things over and over. Then I come here and see all kinds of fascinating cases – things you only read about in case studies or see once a career back home.”

“Really? Like what?”

“Oh, TB, malaria, lots of pulmonary embolisms because of all the heavy travelers, even medieval stuff like leprosy.”

“You’ve had cases of leprosy in this hospital?”

“Oh yeah.”

“You know what Dr. Gundeson, I don’t want to hear any more about what you see here.”

He laughs, we shake hands and I head down to the pharmacy to pick up my meds. I actually was feeling quite a bit better from the jump today though my head is still totally congested and I am in fact short of breath.

But the weekend is here and tomorrow is the last day of soccer for Jacob and Eli and I will be out there screaming at the younguns in two languages.

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