Living in Japan is a perilous affair. Just one look at the inhabitants will tell a visitor to beware, dangerous heat seeking bacterium of potentially nefarious origin lurk around every doorway waiting to catch an unaware immune system dormant. Countless numbers of my National Geographic quality pics have been ruined by paranoid mask wearing individuals – none of which can be salvaged by the Elizabeth Taylor lens or the indispensable crop feature.
Add to this paranoia of 10 plagues the concern about “The Big One.” Earthquake. Japan sits on several ever shifting tectonic plates which have doomed the island nation to catastrophe at some point in the next ten years. We’ve witnessed 3 small ones since our arrival. I believe that the more of these the better. Any pressure release off the plates keeps “The Big One” at bay in my book.
Being a family of nomads, fears specific to a particular geography I have found to be overblown. The scorpions in Arizona provided mindless entertainment for the cats. I neglected my parental obligations in protecting my children by choosing not to invest in black lights for illuminating the hallways at night so that the sleepy night walkers could easily identify the now incandescent glowing army of scorpions guarding the bathroom doors. Who knew scorpions glow in the dark? As far as I know, no one died while visiting our house in Arizona. Nor did anyone get attacked by a wild cougar during our sojourn in Seattle.
Although skeptical of the Nostradamus type predictions of Tokyo’s demise within a certain time frame, I did find it prudent to investigate the appropriate emergency procedures regarding earthquakes and medical emergencies. Living in a foreign country with the vocabulary and grammar of a toddler presents numerous communication obstacles in an emergency.
The Tokyo American Club conducts a yearly orientation every September for newly arrived foreigners outlining basic information on assimilating to life in Tokyo. Although the thought of sitting through a two-day seminar encouraged me to drive nails through my eyeballs, the threat of missed opportunities from a purposeful lack of information due to my own laziness forced my attendance.
The first two presentations scared the Hell out of me. Earthquakes. The first guest spent a month without power, water or food after the earthquake in Kobe while across the bay life went on as normal. We were told to be prepared to walk to the airport in case of a big earthquake 60 miles away. It wouldn’t have been complete without scary video (Click here for scary video) and there were lots of them. I bought three emergency back packs for $300 dollars each. The contents of these back packs will allow our family to survive, injured, on fire, with 4 broken limbs for several weeks. It will take us that long to walk to the airport which for mysterious reasons will be functioning normally.
Our next presentation was equally uplifting. Medical emergencies. The timing for this presentation was appropriate as I was on the verge of a medical emergency immediately following the earthquake presentation. Truthfully, I was already an old pro at the medical system given that one of the Clampetts had already suffered a broken toe. I sat back as the English doctor took the podium. The World recognizes the inferiority of the UK medical system versus the prestigious American Ivory Tower epicenter of all medicinal knowledge – I doubted he would tell me anything of value. I raised my American flag and pulled out the IPhone – time to check my email. I’d already vetted the closest hospital. Thing I and Thing II kept me up on the latest advances in ER procedures and locations. Between that and 18 years in Big Pharma- I doubted he could tell me anything about healthcare I didn’t know. Yawn, stretch.
Dr. Dr. “Japanese Hospitals can turn you away if you arrive in an ambulance. For any reason – if you are afraid you will be turned away- take a cab. They can’t turn you away if you arrive in a cab.”
That got my attention.
A hospital can just turn you away because they feel like it? I’ve heard of reasons like full or understaffed- but no reason? So take a cab?
Dr. Dr. ” Also, something you may not be used to where you come from. The hospital Emergency rooms aren’t open 24 hours or on weekends- only certain hospitals have those hours.”
Just one issue-One only needs an Emergency room on weekends or in the middle of the night. Thankfully Dr. Dr. provided hand outs with the ER listings. Offspring #1 has been to the ER so many times I had to rotate between them in order to avoid Child Protective Services. I think Spouse may have even been interviewed by them when Offspring #1 accidentally broke Offspring #2’s arm but that was such a long time ago it hardly even counts now….
As hard as it is for me to admit, I went straight home, hair on fire, and re-wrote my emergency plan. The hospitals were re-mapped according to which ones had 24 hours emergency services. I double checked our family physician information for the cell phone number. Didn’t he tell me to call him on his cell phone in an emergency? Yes he did. Good. That meant I was completely covered. Ouiser’s Type A Emergency Check List was completed and “X”d.