There are those days when so many things go wrong, when Murphy comes in to strike you when you are down. But as my sister Tiffany always says: “O’Toole’s Law states Murphy was an optimist.”
Probably O’Toole’s Law best explains what has been going on this week. In Chinese, “Zuinan” means “disaster” … unlike “Mafan,” which just means trouble. Maybe the past couple days have been somewhere between the two.
On Monday I was working out at the Kunming Walkng Programme SCI rehab center when one of my caregivers told me out of the blue that she had to leave immediately, as in right now, because someone from her family was ill, saying also that she did not know when she would be back.
Now, whether or not someone in her family was actually ill, or she took another job, or she suddenly did not want to work anymore … whatever, I guess I will never know. That’s because my neighbor and now good friend, Sandra Lindberg, tracked down the AWOL and forced her to acknowledge she was returning to her home in the countryside and would not, after all, ever be returning. So much for notice!
So, now I was left with my other caregiver, who suddenly became visibly disgruntled, alledgedly because she could not understand why her teammate left without notice.
Moving on to Tuesday … Tiffany, Sandra and Jo Zhang (good family friend and Dad’s translator) went off on a mission to recruit a replacement caregiver. In China, we’ve learned recently that you can readily find free-agent caregivers hanging around outside major hospitals, where local families hire them to assist with family members who are ill.
While Tiffany, Jo and Sandra were off to recruit a new caregiver, I was at the Tongren Hospital having a meeting with Dad and a Chinese endocrinologist regarding the results of my recent thyroid tests. After this meeting, I am pretty sure Dad and I are better versed on thyroid endocrinology than this particular doctor appeared to be . My experience with endocrinologists, whether in China or the United States, is that in general they appear to be pretty linear thinkers. That is, they do not generally seem to be able to discuss endocrine issues in a holistic way that takes into account the inter-connectedness and biofeedback loops that are characteristic of the endocrine system.
In any event, my thyroid function appears to have been out of whack simply because neuropathic pain induces stress levels that raise cortisol output from my adrenals that, in turn, suppresses thyroid function. Bottom line is that my local endocrinologist here said I am okay for surgery.
However, I am still not scheduled for surgery for another few weeks, as there are a lot of moving components and numerous people involved with this decision. My Dad is working with neurosurgeons in Kunming, Hong Kong and the United States to make sure we have critically assessed the many risks involved before proceeding to cut open my spinal cord.
Now, back to the Caregiver Funny Farm …
Tiffany, Jo and Sandra returned to report that they had found a excellent caregiver candidate, who would stop by the next day for an interview. They also told me that they got chased out of one recuriting area because a “nutcase” Chinese lady was accusing Sandra and Tiffany of selling Chinese children! Yes, you heard that right. I am guessing two obviously foreigh ladies walking around an entirely Chinese hospital might have raised some eyebrows … 🙂
Unhappily, I woke up on Wednesday in severe neuropathic pain, so I was unable to go to the Kunming Walking Programme rehab center … obviously not a brilliant start for me. However, I managed to get up and dressed by midday, when the remaining caregiver I had decided that she would try to take advantage of my situation and started (for 4th time in just two weeks) to renegotiate her contract … this time looking for yet another raise to compensate her for the risk that the just-hired replacement caregiver might not work hard enough! Yep, that was her line! And the just-hired woman (Xiao-Lin) had not even started work!
I’m beginning to think caregivers in all countries are pretty much a pain in the ass, but generally most seem to get on with their jobs rather than focus continuously on how take advantage of the disabled.
In the event, after about an hour and a half of an entirely circular, Chinese conversation with this disgruntled woman, I simply decided that I had had enough. After all, we have learned that we have a deep pool of free-agent caregivers here to chose from. So, I fired her on the spot and ordered her out of the house immediately before she could poison my relationship with Xiao-Lin, who arrrived on time just one hour later. So, here I am, once again, breaking in a new caregiver, who I must admit makes a good first impression.
Maybe the break-through insight here is that we understand now that we need to control the “agency” function … that is, we cannot afford to allow self-serving intermediaries to operate between us and those individuals who want work with us. In future, this will be a logical service for the Tongren Hospital itself to offer to international patients.
So Xiao-Lin started full-time this morning, Thursday in Kunming, and thus far things have been going pretty darn well. But because of the Chinese concept of “quiet diplomacy” it is sometimes really hard to tell what local poeple are actually thinking. Indeed, some days it seems to me that living in China is kind of like playing three-dimensional chess. We still need to find a second caregiver, but one day at a time right now.
For sure, I will be going out for a drink with Tiffany and Sandra this Saturday evening at Salvador’s Coffee House in Kunming center city … http://www.salvadors.cn/
And to at least close on a funny side note: I was just finishing this blog when suddenly I heard a delightful Christmas tune … in fact, Jingle Bells! Seems that when our Haier (China brand) clothes washer stops, instead of a beep, Chinese washers play some sort of Christmas jingle. It’s hilarious the first time!