This is NOT a pregnancy test. It was my flu test. Last week I got sick. I went to worship practice rehearsal on Saturday evening, and about halfway through I lost all of my energy and became very tired. After rehearsal, I came home and went straight to bed. Sunday morning dawned, and I was not feeling well. Val was concerned so she told me to stay home and get better. So I did the first part… but not the second.

My symptoms worsened as the week progressed. I had a fairly low-grade fever (only 99.4) but it was constant with lots of sweating, and wouldn’t go away. I was starting to cough. It got so bad that I segregated myself in the other room; however, with paper-thin walls and only 450 square feet, there wasn’t much I could do to stop Val from being woken up at night from my coughing. Wednesday came and went and we decided that it would be best for me to go see the doctor. Thursday morning we contacted my friend Daniel and he found a nearby hospital that spoke English. Truth be told, they call it a hospital, but it was more like a clinic. Here’s my clinic story.

We arrived at the clinic and we were asked to wait. Then a nurse came and took my vitals and asked me a few questions. Then we waited some more and eventually were able to see a doctor. As my friend Daniel put it “he is a very kindly doctor”. He was. He put me very much at ease, and he spoke English fairly well: that was very helpful. He asked me a few questions and then I went back into the waiting area. Almost immediately the nurse came and told Daniel something in Japanese and beckoned us into a little room. Turns out this was an isolation room, in case I had the flu. It looked like a little storage closet with a couple of chairs in it, and resting on the table was the container pictured above. I was going to get a flu test.

The flu is a serious thing here in Japan. In Canada, if you have a fever, sore bones, and nausea/vomiting… you have the flu. There’s usually no real need for concern, so you stay home and if it doesn’t improve after 3-5 days then you go see your doctor. But here if you think you have the flu you go to the doctor right away. And they have a test for it! I wondered: why? As I reflected on the population density here, it occurs to me that you could catch the flu from your neighbour in another building. The apartments are so close together here that sometimes it seems you could open the window, stretch your arm out, and touch the other building! But I digress.

The nurse enters the room and Daniel leaves. She doesn’t speak English so speaks to me in Japanese. I nod. I have no idea what she said, but I don’t really have a choice in whatever is going to happen, so I might as well make it as painless as possible for her. She pulls out a swab, but not the type that I’m used to. It was much smaller. She indicates that she’s going to use it. So I open my mouth (after all, it’s a swab). She moves in for the kill… and it goes up my nose. Now for any of you who might be interested in what that felt like: it kind of tickled the back of my throat in an irritating way, then that feeling transitioned to something immensely uncomfortable as she gave a very thorough stirring of my “nose water” (they don’t say “snot” or “booger” or “runny nose” in Japan, they use a word that translates as “nose water”). “How would you like your nose water Mr. Bond?” “Stirred not shaken”.

Well, I was definitely shaken, and not stirred by the thorough mixing that had just occurred in my left nostril. I was taking a deep breath and thinking, “Ok, really glad that that’s over with”, when suddenly up the right nostril it went. Yup… second time’s the charm, right? Not quite. The right nostril was the one that was clear at the moment, and as a result was much less… dry. She seemed to work much harder to get the desired result, and I worked much harder not to go into a coughing fit. Thankfully I didn’t have a third nostril, so when she was done, that was it. She took the swab and put it into some liquid (I’ve no idea what type). Then she poured a bit of the liquid onto the device shown above.

I explained that we don’t have that test in Canada, in a desperate hope that it would make me look like less of an idiot for opening my mouth at the beginning of the process. Shortly after that, I had x-rays done of my chest. The test took 10 minutes to mature, and it turns out that “cont” means I do NOT have the flu so I went back out to the regular people.

I picked up my prescription, paid, and left. In case you’re wondering: I have a cough suppressant patch (replaced daily), allergy pills (take 2 at each meal), antibiotic pills (take one at each meal), a phlegm reducer (one taken at each meal) and a pill to clear my sinuses (one to be taken before bed)… So I’m well taken care of…

And that’s how they make sure you don’t have the flu here in Japan. Turns out I have bronchitis. Now, time to get better!

(Picture source)