China Revisited

Acupuncture surgery in China, 1978 It’ll be 33 years this October that I went to China, and from all the pictures I see of modern China, I don’t think I would recognize some of the places. So many of the pictures I have are very special to me, especially for the time period. This one to the left is of one really interesting morning spent at a hospital in Beijing. I’m the one whose elbow is on the railing.

Many years ago I had thyroid surgery and have the neck scar to prove it. That’s the exact surgery I am watching in this hospital. The female patient came in fully dressed, bowed to us and the doctors, and lay down on the operating table. She was awake the complete operation, the only anesthesia coming from acupuncture. Needless to say, I was absolutely fascinated. When the surgery was done, she got up from the table, bowed to the doctors and us again, and went off to her room to recuperate. We were all pretty stunned.

From there we toured the rest of the hospital, which looked extremely primitive to all of us, familiar as we all were with “western” medicine. I am fortunate to have a chiropractor who believes in alternative forms of medicine, especially acupuncture. We saw needles being used for anesthesia, treatment of mental disorders, electrical stimulation for some patients, among a few things. Doctors took the time to talk with us, as did patients. One of the members of our tour group (US-China People’s Friendship Association) spoke fluent Chinese, and she was able to fill us in on anything we felt we didn’t “get” from our interpreters. These five interpreters who traveled with us were wonderful and answered any questions we had, even political ones.

Here’s the operating room we were looking into, as well as the patient:

Chinese operating room

Now a visual tour of this hospital:

Electrical stimulation acupuncture treatment

These patients were receiving electrical stimulation with acupuncture.

Hospital ward

The hospital ward looks pretty primitive.

Patient consultation room Basic patient consultation room

Acupuncture The needles really do not hurt! I’ve had it done many times, and the needles work – they let you know when they’re done working – until then, they will not come out easily.

The pharmacy

The pharmacy – and any places I visited dealing with medicines looked much like this – but with lots of little drawers. When I got medicine for cramps, the pharmacist went to a small drawer, took some herbs and ground them up, and gave our interpreter instructions for making the tea.

Hospital in Beijing

The hospital we visited – outpatient clinics, mental health wards, surgery centers.

I had brought along some Pepto-Bismol tablets, and at one point I showed them to one of the “barefoot doctors” – the term for local medical personnel after the fall of the Gang of Four, and I remember the puzzled looks on her face. She prescribed some shots, and our interpreter took the vials of medicine and found a medical person at each of our stops to help administer my shots. It was a pretty amazing trip.

And now, two of my most favorite shots, of farming in a third-world country.

Watering the fields

We stopped on the return trip from a commune just to be able to walk around. I saw these women in the fields, and only when I looked closer, did I see how they were actually watering the fields – by hand, scoop by scoop, from a small canal running along the fields.

Watering the fields

Truly one of my most memorable moments.

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