A very kind friend of mine–one that made me some ginger and lemon tea and happens to speak Japanese–offered to take me and another ailing colleague to the clinic this morning. We arrived shortly after 9am and put our names on the list to be seen by the doctor (numbers 17 and 18) and then sat in the lobby of the clinic for the next hour-and-a-half watching various television programs and commercials, and contemplating the machine that accepted used slippers from those leaving and ejected new ones to those entering the clinic–one of the many things in Japan that has no market in America.
After awhile the nurse said, "Kureesateru-san" and it was my turn. My friends and I sat in another hallway on small stools outside an open door until it was our turn to go in. I sat in front of the doctor, an older gentleman with a face mask who actually spoke a little English, and he asked few questions then checked my throat and nose. "Ahh!" he said as he looked up my nostrils, "You have inflamed sinuses from allergies." This seemed very wrong to me since I don't really have allergies and the onset was quite fast and there a number of people sick at HPAC. But I didn't really know what to say, how to argue with his medical training. After going back to the lobby, my friend suggested we go back and try to better understand. He said that I probably got allergies after coming to Japan (maybe?) and that the stress of the move (he seemed not to realize I didn't just move) kept them from appearing (unlikely, but maybe being busy at HPAC could count). Regardless of his diagnosis or reasons for it, I agree that my sinuses seem to be inflamed, and that perhaps I also have a cold which won't go away, and I'm happy to try something other than antibiotics first.
The next step was to acquire the prescribed nasal spray. The pharmacy next door welcomed us. After handing them our prescriptions and health insurance cards, we waited for a much shorter time on their cushioned benches in front of another television. My previous trips to a different pharmacy had always resulted in a little confusion when they asked me if I had a little booklet. No I didn't it; and the matter, being filled with confusion, seemed to drop there. In retrospect perhaps they had given me one; I don't remember and probably threw it away. But this time I realized, with the help of my friend, that this little booklet is a medicine passport, with stamps for every prescription one has filled. If only I had known! I could have been accruing stamps every time I went to the doctor. And maybe even trying to get more of them and more interesting ones, filling my pages with a history of prescriptions.
But for now, there is only one. It is for a nasal spray that should at least reduce the inflammation of my sinuses and hopefully help me recover. The doctor said I'd need to use it every morning for a month. I'm hoping things improve before then. The doctor mentioned that he'd been having problems with allergies for the past 5 years, that it is something common to the city life in Japan, that in rural areas it isn't such an issue. Perhaps so. It takes a small leap of faith to trust in a foreign medical professional's advice, but I'm happy to try for a bit, and there is little else I can do. The human body is the human body, and he knows the ailments of Japan far better than I. So hopefully, a step to health.