It seems that China has not treated me very gently on this trip. April has been a tough month. The air pollution has been a pretty constant irritant, and we’ve had next to no rain to clear it away. The Air Quality index, measured as micrograms per cubic meter, typically runs at about 150 with excursions up to 200 or more. I think the US safe limit is 50. So, my eyes were frequently burning a bit and my voice got a bit deeper, and I started wearing a mask most times when I went outside.
But then, about the second week of April the air was full of these little floating cotton balls, thanks to all the Sycamore trees in our courtyard. I am quite allergic to Sycamore, and my eyes and throat both took a dive for the worse, with lots of additional coughing, wheezing, nose blowing and painful eyes. Friends began telling me my eyes looked bad, and finally I took a look at them in a mirror myself. Weirdness! Crimson eyelids and bright raccoon circles around my eyes! My white eyeballs were now a blue-gray, like a mauve. Quite an interesting pallet of unusual colors!
Clearly, it was time for advice and help. I checked in with Diane, my medical resource in California (thank you Apple FaceTime) who worried mostly about my coughing and insisted that I get a solid medical diagnosis, fast. So Matthew and I spent Wednesday afternoon (the 16th) at a Beijing Hospital where, over 5 hours we: Met with an MD, got a blood test, breath-stress test, chest x-ray, met with an eye doctor for an exam and consult, picked up all the test results at a kiosk, returned to the original MD for a consultation based on the test results, paid the bill, and picked up four prescriptions at the dispensary. All in one afternoon, and for US$65. Of course, Matt’s fluency with the Chinese language and procedures were indispensable, but why can’t we manage to have a medical care system that efficient?
The diagnosis? 1) Strong allergic reaction probably to the Sycamore, maybe (or maybe not) exacerbated by the air pollution and/or the other issues, ie: 2) Rather severe conjunctivitis, to be treated with two kinds of eye drops. 3) Pneumonia, to be treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic and pills for symptomatic relief. Stay inside and avoid significant activity for three days, then come back for a checkup.
And so for now, I’m hanging out at Matt’s apartment in Beijing, not doing much but making day-by-day progress. We should have that checkup tomorrow (Saturday) or Sunday, and I hope to be back in Feijiacun shortly after that. We’ll see.
Happy Easter everybody!
PS. Of course, this is happening at the worst possible time. The owner of the Red Gate Gallery, Brian Wallace, threw a big party at his spectacular home for his favorite Beijing artists their friends and his, and we were of course invited also. I hate to have missed that opportunity to see some of the best current contemporary Art, and talk about it, and with some of the artists who are producing it. Today I am missing an informal open studio in Feijiacun. I suspect that it was rather disorganized, but a lot of fun. A good way to meet the REALLY local artists, and to show my own stuff as well. So it goes. The gang has rented a bus for a jaunt up to The Great Wall on Monday, and I sure hope I don’t miss Thai, too! Stay tuned.