Thank You...A Million Times Over

June 29, 2016
I just got out of the hospital after being in one for 55 days. It was scarier than anything I've ever dealt with before. Not having control of my body and being in severe pain was terrifying, but I was able to get through the worst of it because of all of the amazing support I received. I cannot believe how much people went out of their way to help me. My students' parents really surprised me. I knew that they liked me, but I am utterly blown away by how much they have done and continue to do for me. We haven't even received final confirmation of which classes we will teach next year, so they've done what they have without even knowing if I will be their child's teacher again. Other teachers at my school also stepped up and helped me time and time again. Some teachers I barely even knew visited me and kept me company in the hospital. That really meant a lot to me because I needed visitors to distract myself and to keep my spirits up.

Getting through the rest of my recovery will not be easy. I wanted to write this post to remind myself how lucky I am and how people really do care.


* Like I said, I was in the hospital for 55 days. That is a long period of time, but crazily enough, I had a visitor or group of visitors almost every single day, and I didn't expect that. Of course my close friends visited several times, but I made some new friends out of this experience. I looked forward to receiving guests each evening. It was truly the best part of my day because I could speak in English and just talk about other things besides my back problems. Also, being in a Chinese hospital for that long had its own set of challenges. It was nice to have other foreigners empathize with my situation and help me deal with culture shock.

* My friends and acquaintances helped utilize their connections so that I could get second opinions about my condition. Three of my friends have mothers who are nurses, so I would send them pictures and relay what the doctors at the hospital told me. It felt good to have their input because I don't have a medical background, not to mention the slightest clue if what I was being told was legitimate. A student's mom helped me in this respect because she used to be a nurse in one of the top hospitals in Shanghai, and my friend's fiancee (a practicing doctor in Shanghai) took a look at the wound on my back when I was having a complication. Hearing from others really put me at ease, but it also helped me know which specific questions I should ask the doctors concerning my recovery.

* My school supported me by finding a replacement for me. At first, I was getting asked a lot of questions about my class. It's not that I didn't want to help because of course I did, but I was just in so much pain and very worried about my situation. In the hierarchy of needs, my health had to come first. It was a relief to know that my class had a long-term substitute and that the other first grade teachers were helping him manage the responsibilities. I could relax a bit knowing that my class was being taken care of.

* During my stay at the hospital, I had three main doctors, a surgeon, and a wound specialist. One of the doctors gave me his personal phone number and said I could message him with any concerns or questions. I'm not sure if he did this out of the goodness of his heart or if he was told to do this, but I'd like to think it was the former. Regardless, having his personal number helped me immensely. I only got to see my doctors for a short period of time each day, but I would think of questions later on in the day, so it was great to be able to communicate with someone and get answers to what I had asked. That doctor also had to talk to my bosses at my school and explain about my condition to them in Chinese. Another thing he is currently doing is that he is cleaning my wound for me once a week for free. Again, I think he might just be doing that to help me out so that I don't have to wait in a long line in the outpatient building.

* I need to give a big thanks to Rachael. Who would have ever thought that a blogging friend would eventually be a person kind of in charge of my life?  Before I had the surgery, the doctors made a big deal about finding someone to sign for me. By sign for me, I mean that this person would be the one making the calls if something were to go wrong during my surgery since I was going to be put under and couldn't speak for myself. At first they weren't going to let a non-Chinese person do it, and they tried to encourage me to get one of my bosses from my school to sign. The bosses at my school did not want to do it, nor did I really want them to, so eventually they agreed to let Rachael be in charge. She had to get my parents' phone number and get in contact with them if there was a decision to be made. The surgery was invasive, and thank goodness nothing went wrong, but I'm glad I had a plan in place just in case.  Rachael also was the only friend to stay overnight a few times in the hospital. This girl is a true friend--she even put lotion on my dry, cracked feet. If that's not love, I don't know what is!


* Rachael also started a fund for me by messaging the other teachers in the primary and middle school about my situation. I get very weird and embarrassed about this type of thing, but Rachael knew me well enough not to ask my permission and just went for it. If she had asked me, I would have said no, but in the end I was glad to have some cash to help pay for food. I also had some money leftover to go towards the cost of the ayi who took care of me. Sometimes I'm guilty of not letting people help me when they WANT to help because I feel bad, so it was a good thing that Rachael took matters into her own hands.

* My Chinese co-teacher has also been a God-send. She sent me adorable video messages from my students, gave me a card from the class, and visited me in the hospital every Sunday. She helped me out by taking my bank card to the finance office so that we could pay my hospital fee. I couldn't physically walk to the office myself, and I sent two of my American friends, but they were gone for an hour and fifteen minutes and came back muddled and frustrated without having paid the fee. It's not their fault--it was a complicated process even for someone who spoke Mandarin! Thank goodness my co-teacher took care of that for me because I was getting really sick of hearing that I owed money 10 times a day. Now that I've been discharged, she has also been helping me get to and from the hospital so that I can get my wound cleaned.

* I put my close friend Scott to work. He did a lot of the "behind the scenes" stuff for me. I felt like I made him my personal assistant, and he told me it was fun--like a scavenger hunt. He packed clothes for me to wear in the hospital, did my laundry, cleaned my apartment, got me reading material, returned my library books, and fetched items from my classroom that I needed. He had to go to the bank for me several times to help wire RMB into my account so that I could pay for everything. The most important thing he did for me was to get my new room ready for me. I'm not currently in my regular apartment, so he moved down towels, toiletries, a water dispenser, clothes, and other personal items. I'm sure this took him hours, and I really am so grateful. Scott was also super understanding when we had to cancel all of our summer travel plans, and the best part is that I told him to find another travel buddy to go on our trips with, but instead he is waiting for me to heal so that we can go together next summer.

* One of my bosses did a lot for me, too. He helped secure a bed for me in "one of the best hospitals in all of China." I guess it took him multiple trips and almost his entire weekend. He gave me permission to stay on a first floor apartment since I live on the top floor of an apartment with no elevator and cannot get to the top floor on my own yet. He had to visit the hospital and talk to the doctors about my condition and was in charge of getting all the paperwork for my insurance. Trust me, there was quite a lot of it. He was able to get my medicine and answered hundreds of my questions.

* My surgery and hospital stay ended up costing about $30,000 USD. I had to pay for everything up front and did not have the money. If it weren't for my dad, I wouldn't have been able to cover the costs, and I don't know what I would have done. Yes, I will get about half of that money back from my insurance, but it's really scary to think about what might have happened if I did not have his financial support. Of course, I'm going to pay him back, but I think I'm more worried about that than he is. In addition to my dad's support, the director of the primary school got permission to give me the leftover Charity Fair money to help defray the costs of my surgery. That's exceptionally good news for me because I'll be receiving almost $5,000, which leaves me just owing about $10,000 of my own money. Since I wasn't able to work and have not gotten paid for several months that will be the money I'll be using to survive on over the summer.


* Some of my friends back home offered to take care of me all summer if I could fly back to the States. A few of my friends even downloaded We Chat so that we could talk. We have been messaging ever since, and even though they can't be here to help me, it is helping me knowing that they care!

* Other friends that work with me in China have really been there for me as well. They brought me meals, kept me company, messaged me throughout the day, gave me reading material and DVDs as well as useful items that I needed and didn't have. My friends washed my hair, helped organize my room, picked up groceries for me, and massaged my legs so that I wouldn't get a blood clot after the surgery. One friend even offered to buy a flight home for me on a plane that has a bed in it. A different friend helped me get the back brace I am required to wear each time I stand up for at least the next three months. Two friends helped pack up all of my belongings and busted me out of the hospital and then helped me settle in. Another girl bought me some makeup, just to cheer me up. I could go on and on.

* My liaison is seriously the best. She backed me up ten fold and explained to my bosses why certain things that went on at the hospital really upset me. This wonderful person fought to try to get me my full bonus even though I missed some work, and she just had my best interests in mind. She even found me some crutches to use for when I start walking around again and gave me some perfume she wasn't going to take back to the UK with her because she knows I can't take a shower for another month. I know that I am very fortunate to have a person like my liaison looking out for me.

* My students' parents also went above and beyond anything I ever expected. They found ways to help me when I didn't even ask them for help. They gave me fruit baskets and flowers and sent me encouraging e-mails telling me that I was not alone. Several parents visited me in the hospital and some of them even brought my students. One of my student's parents sent me a get well song that his son made for me that had me tearing up. A student's mom had her ayi bring me meals three times a week in the hospital. My co-teacher told me that one of moms even offered to let me live in her house over the summer so that her ayi could care for me. My students' parents have been helping me get to the hospital and were going to try to find a college student to help me over the summer.

* Also, thanks to all of you guys for your sweet blog comments, tweets, and get well wishes on Instagram. It's nice to think that I had so many good vibes being sent my way from all over the world.

As you can see, this whole ordeal has been rough for me, but my goodness... I have some kind-hearted people in my life. I will never, ever forget what they have done for me and hope that when I am well again that someday I can pay it forward. 

How have people in your life surprised you in a good way?
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