Elaine’s War Story: I thought my client was going to die
By Steve Portigal at 8:36 am, Tuesday October 16 2012
Part 29 of 69 in the series War Stories

Elaine Ann, the CEO of Kaizor Innovation in Hong Kong tells a story about consciousness – both cultural and physical.

One of my most memorable research experiences was ten years ago in China. My Western client fainted in broad daylight in the middle of our Beijing field trip. We had completed field research work and were touring an exhibition. She just plopped on the floor without any previous sign that she had any health problems.

We called the ambulance and a white van came along. There was nothing on it – no ambulance emergency lights, no oxygen equipment, no CPR equipment, only a stretcher. Not knowing what was wrong with my client’s health, we (me, my colleagues and her co-workers) decided to take her to the hospital anyway.

Upon arriving at the hospital, we had to first pay for the ambulance fees in cash (this is China). Then the client was carried onto a hospital bed. I was caught in between cultures at that point as my client’s Western co-workers were dubious about the medical standards in Chinese hospitals and refused an injection from the doctor; while the Chinese doctor was quite annoyed by the Westerners’ attitude (reading their horrific facial expressions) and challenged them whether or not they really want to be helped after coming to the hospital. Meanwhile, I was trying to translate everything in both English and Mandarin, amidst all the chaos, trying to not offend either party (who couldn’t communicate directly with each other).

Finally, the client’s co-worker decided to take a risk with her boss’s health rather than risk it with the Chinese hospital, so we had to shuttle the client back to the hotel instead. (We then discovered that five-star hotels usually have English speaking travel doctors for emergencies – a handy tip for researchers doing field trips in China). In the hotel elevator, my client fainted a second time and we had to drag her off the elevator, along the corridors and into her room like a dead fish.

My client finally became conscious again and luckily we found out this was caused by a low blood sugar syndrome and happened all the time. All she needed was a candy. We had to decline her request to visit the Great Wall the next day. I really wouldn’t know how to carry her down from the Great Wall if she fainted on top of that, as it’s a defense wall designed to make it difficult for invaders to climb even in ancient times!

Seriously, I would have made the national news if my client died on our China research trip! Phew!

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