Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Japan and My Tonsils: Celebrity Doctors and The Looming Surgery

Read part 1 and 2 here.

Part 3

A brief recap: After coming to Japan almost 3 years ago I somehow caught a nasty bug that would often leave my throat in pain and me having to waste my precious sick days on actually being sick. It finally got to the point where I decided I needed to get my tonsils out at the tender age of 25. Per the suggestion of a friend I decided to see a "celebrity doctor" who I was hoping could also be my surgeon.

Besides all the advice I had taken from Dr. Phil which would always backfire hilariously, I've had very little experience with celebrity doctors in my life. I found the doctors in Japan that were simply at the normal level of popularity weren't cutting it so I needed to take it up a notch. The ear, nose, and throat doctor I decided to see, who I will call Dr. Ninki, had been featured on a couple of news programs for being super-great. Or something. I don't know. In the morning I called his office to make an appointment for the evening. I was told by the perky receptionist that because of Dr. Ninki's enormous popularity they could not accept reservations for any time after four in the afternoon. Apparently that's the designated free-for-all time. I decided to just go with the hope that I wouldn't be stuck in the waiting room indefinitely.

The place was easy to find. It was in a shopping center near the train station to which I had arrived. After entering the building, I was a bit disheartened to see that the waiting room was completely filled to capacity. There were forty people seated on an extremely long couch that ran along every wall as well as a circular couch in the center. I talked to the receptionist, gave her my info, and was told to be seated and the doctor would see me momentarily. Momentarily, eh? We'll see.

I noticed that when the nurse would come out to call a patient's name, she would always call five people at a time. This seemed strange since I knew Dr. Ninki was just one, albeit famous, guy. After a relatively brisk 30 minutes my name was called with four other patients. We were taken back to another waiting area consisting of one small couch. We were told that as our names were called we should slide down the couch so the next patients could sit down.

Let me describe the sight I beheld:

The room was huge and very busy. Thirty patients were spread throughout while seven or so nurses darted around checking on them. To my right was a row of strange machines. Patients were seated in front of them, intently breathing into hoses. Through a doorway I could see another room with people lying down with IVs in their arms. Scattered throughout the main room were more people seated with IVs. Directly in front of me was a display that had screencaps of all the television news programs Dr. Ninki had appeared on. In the center of the room were two patients seated on reclining chairs. Between them was a table neatly covered with ten copies of every type of shiny metal ear, nose, and throat checking instrument. Next to this table stood Dr. Ninki checking one patient then the other while dictating notes to the nurse that stood by his side.

After five minutes my name was called and I sat on one of the reclining chairs in the center of the room. The doctor came up to me and looked pleased to have a foreigner to speak to. He started off in English asking me what was wrong. He was very charismatic. I explained how often I got strep throat and that the antibiotics I was taking weren't working very well. He nodded and looked at my throat with various instruments. Then he suddenly stuck a tiny camera in my mouth. He took a picture which appeared on a fancy TV screen next to my head. He pointed and explained that these were tonsils and that they were swollen. I knew this already but still couldn't help but be impressed. He said he'd give me an injection of antibiotics and that I should go with the nurse. The whole encounter with Dr. Ninki took under two minutes. I didn't have time to ask about surgery but I thought I'd see him again for the injection which I nervously imagined would go right in my throat.

The nurse led me to the breathing machines. The first one was for the nose and had a hose with two small nozzles on the end. The second one was for the throat and went in the mouth. They emitted some kind of mist. At first I thought I was supposed to inhale the mist but that just made me cough embarrassingly. The nurse told me to stop breathing it in. I wasn't entirely sure how to breathe with a tube in my mouth without breathing from the tube in my mouth but I did my best. I had a feeling that these machines were just to stall for time.

After that the nurse took me to the room which had IVs hanging from the ceiling connected to the arms of people lying down on beds. It reminded me of the scene in Inception at the opium den-esque cellar. I was given a bed and the nurse stabbed my arm with the IV. Me, still expecting an injection, asked what was in this liquid that was now flowing into my arm. "Antibiotics," she said. Oh, so this is what he meant by injection. I was glad the image I had of getting a needle to the throat was wrong.

Finishing the IV, I was ushered to the front desk where I paid and received my little baggy of antibiotic tablets. I was happy to see they were an exceptionally strong dosage. Though, I was sorry that I never got another chance to talk to the doctor about surgery.

On the train ride home I realized my throat was already feeling better. When I arrived at my apartment I looked in the mirror and my throat looked noticeably improved. It was then I realized that in those two minutes I talked with Dr. Ninki, he listened better than any doctor I'd had in Japan. He really does deserve the moniker of "famous doctor".

Despite my somewhat bizarre but successful experience with Dr. Ninki, I still knew that I should get my tonsils out. I called some hospitals and found a local one that did tonsillectomies. After getting a referral from a different hospital (a convoluted process) I was able to talk with a surgeon. He looked in my throat and agreed I should have them out ASAP. The surgery was scheduled in two weeks time.

And thus ends this edition of Japan and My Tonsils. Be sure to check back for the final chapter "Under the Knifu"!


  1. Sounds like a drive through...lottsa people being served. I'm sure he's a wealthy man!!

  2. Can't wait for your next tonsil entry and all the best with your surgery. =)

  3. All the best getting under the knife. Hope you'll get better soon.

  4. Heh...I'm gonna spoil the suspense - Joe's already had the operation. All this happened about a month ago. Just hasn't written about it yet.

  5. Thanks for the support everyone! Sorry if I was misleading :). I would have written this sooner but I ended up being a bit rushed leading up to the surgery and while recovering in the hospital I didn't have internet access. Etc, etc, excuses, excuses. I'll make sure to post the last part soon. Also, I won't spoil it by telling you whether or not I survived.

  6. I'm glad everything turned out ok with Dr. Ninki. At first it sounded like he was waaay too busy to be properly handling patients!

  7. Allie,

    Yeah, I couldn't believe how well it turned out. If I ever again have an issue with my ear, nose, and/or throat I'll definitely be going back to him.