My big toe had been sore for several days and nothing I did made any difference. But it never got worse either.
I was living in China with a Taiwanese family doing private English tutoring at the time. This family owned a factory in a big industrial area outside of Shenzhen, which had its own shopping area where there were several medical clinics. A walk-by in the evening allowed me to easily see inside these places and I chose the cleanest looking one. Armed with a note in Chinese from my employer I went to the clinic on Saturday morning.
The doctor indicated for me to sit nearby him at the front counter. He looked at my toe then did a scissor cutting action with his fingers.
“No way,” I gasped.
Then it clicked. I had an ingrown toenail. I had never experienced this before, but had listened to others complain about it over the years.
The doctor indicated I follow him to the back of the clinic where he sat me down on a plastic stool and put my foot up on another one with my foot out over the edge. Under my foot he placed a plastic rubbish bin that had already been used. I watched carefully as he prepared a needle to deaden my toe.
The wee operation went without a hitch. Half my toenail was removed from the centre across to the cause of the pain. The most amazing thing about it was that all this happened without an audience. Chinese generally love to watch anything mildly interesting. Maybe everyone was at work.
I was taken into a side room for an antibiotic injection in my behind. He gave me antibiotic tablets and a note (in Chinese script) to show my employer for me to return in two days to replace the dressing.
Two days later I was not anywhere near the clinic, so I decided to change the dressing myself. What a drama trying to buy the necessary things. Not going to do that again. I had tea tree oil with me so I soaked my toe in that. I did not return to the clinic and my toe healed, as it should, with no drama.
Maybe 18 months later I had a reoccurrence on my other big toe. As I knew what the problem was, I took a Chinese friend with me to translate at the nearby clinic in our housing community. I was furious when the doctor refused to take my nail off unless I agreed to have intravenous antibiotics.
I argued, but it all fell on deaf ears. I could see no possible need for antibiotics in any form. As the pain had become intolerable and the clinic was nearby my home I finally agreed.
This doctor also insisted on having an assistant so I had to wait for her arrival. I sent my friend back to my home to get me a book as I would be there for nearly two hours. The operation went well.
The doctor said he would like me to return for a second dose of intravenous antibiotics, but admitted he could not make me do that. Correct. I did return for a new dressing however, as I remembered the hassle from my previous experience.
This time I was taken to a back treatment room where I was horrified to see such a dirty environment. I focused on my toe and with his assistant again, my dressing was renewed. Of course my toe healed as it should with the help of my tea tree oil.
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