Again: Call the Friggin’ Ambulance

(Continued from this post.)
This happened twice more in Japan. The first time in Japan (second overall in my life) was more life-threatening, but the second time was more frustrating. Ready to again be amazed at human stupidity?
We’ll go chronological here.

February, 2008. I was teaching at an English school in Japan when some chest tightness began to set in. My breaths became shorter and less satisfying, so I used my inhaler, which didn’t do much. I’d had plenty of hydration that day, and my usual medicines weren’t helping. I did all I could do, so it was time for medical intervention.

I went downstairs and told the school’s manager that I was struggling. I’d recently had a chest cold, and I was afraid the medicine my doctor gave me hadn’t done the trick. The attack ramped up, however, and I grew more and more afraid. Soon, I asked the woman in charge, named Toshi, to call an ambulance. I needed the ER.


She followed my request with exactness, except for one change: she called her brother who owned a family practice clinic. She left for his house and came back with some medicine — I’m guessing oral steroids or some kind of bronchial dilator; the name was Japanese, and this was no time for me to be like “Wait, doctor, do you think that maybe….” I took the pills and informed her that I still felt the icy breath of the Reaper on my neck.

The next step was to put me in her car and drive me somewhere. “To my brother’s hospital,” she said. I felt comforted, somewhat. Surely the hospital would have an oxygen tank and some emergency meds for me. Except, no, she said “hospital” meaning “family practice clinic,” which turned out to possess neither of those things.

They were at least nice enough to lecture me on the Japanese cultural importance of removing my shoes as I entered the building, despite me–you know–running out of
oxygen.  Trivial, compared to the monumentality of not removing one’s shoes at the door.  “Here lies Heath.  Still wearinthose shoes.”



They finally called a real ambulance — which I’d requested about an hour earlier, at this point. I got in the back and was unconscious by the time I got to the hospital. I was in a coma for a day, having gone into the ICU around lunchtime on Saturday and awakened around the same time on Sunday.

Before I woke up, they were preparing my wife for her husband of only 8 months to never wake up, and for the alternate possibility that I’d be a vegetable. Yeah, so ah, she was more than a little bit distressed.

Lesson Time:

Things probably wouldn’t have even progressed to this horrifying point if Toshi had done what was asked of her initially, which was to get me to a hospital.

She thought she knew better, however, and her actions almost resulted in my paying with my life.

So if you think you have a better idea than calling the ambulance that someone cries out for, I’d recommend calling the ambulance first, and then try to roll with your helpful ideas.  Those ideas, in this case, were so helpful that they almost got me killed.