The Power of the Network

Last week has been quite eventful. I owe a debt of gratitude to (in chronological order of people who helped me last week) Adeline, Shu-Fun, Li-Ching, Hui-Hwa, Hsin-Hsing, Mr. Lee, Venerable Chang Lang, Bill, Ken Shu, Hsiu-Lan and Mr. Lin. I should also point out that Hsiu-Lan on multiple occasions previous to this specific event has provided me with tremendous help. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone and that I got all the names right and spelled properly. I’m using the names as I’ve heard people introduce themselves to me. Sometimes I remember a last name better than a first name, sometimes the reverse. No disrespect is intended. Read on for the full story of my misadventure.

I had to go to the hospital because I was running out of medicine. This was my second visit to the hospital. The first time I went with Hsiu-Lan. At that time, we decided to only get the medicine that was urgent to get at that time. The reasoning was that I could maybe get on the national insurance and save money. We later discovered that I have to have lived four months in Taiwan before I can benefit from that insurance. So last week I was running out of another medicine. I wanted initially to set up an appointment with the first doctor I saw but she was booked solid. So I went to see another doctor instead. Adeline helped me with making the appointment. It turned out to be easier than I thought. I was expecting to have to speak with a secretary over the phone but I found out I can register online. So by the time Adeline and I sat down together, it took about 2 minutes to seal the deal.

Then there was the small matter of having to go to the hospital and come back. Shu-Fun and Li-Ching helped secure me a ride to the hospital. A nice gentleman named Hsin-Hsing, a volunteer at Dharma Drum, was going back to his factory the same day I was going to the hospital. So, on the way, he dropped me off at the hospital. Hui-Hwa secured a ride back for me. After I was done, I called her and then called Mr. Lee and he came on a motorcycle (or was it a scooter, properly speaking) to pick me up.

So I went to the hospital. While I was there, I was able to communicate with the staff in Mandarin and with the doctor in Mandarin and English. It was not quick or perfect but it worked. After I was back at Dharma Drum, I was so happy that this was all taken care of and that nobody had to actually come with me into the doctor’s office. Then I realized they gave me the wrong dosage of Lipitor. I had benefited from so much help but I wasted it by not checking my medicine properly when I left the hospital! Mind you, this is the first time in my life I’m given the wrong medicine. A lesson learned, for sure.

So then the question became “how am I going to get this fixed?” Rushing down to the hospital right away might not be the best option. (Looking back, I think if I had rushed down to the hospital right away, it would have been very difficult to straighten everything out on the spot.) So I sought Hsiu-Lan because she’s been so helpful, has lived at Dharma Drum for a long long time and knows a lot. I quickly found out, however, that she had gone away on business. Venerable Chang Lang offered help. She called the hospital and then the doctor (who by that time was back in Taibei) and tried to get things sorted out for me. She found out that the dosage of Lipitor I need is just not available in Taiwan. (Hypercholesterolemia is probably not as big an issue in Taiwan as it is in the US.) She also found out that the hospital’s pharmacy does not carry Lipitor in a dosage more than 10mg. She offered to try to return the medicine and buy some 40mg ones but it is very expensive and I did not have money with me at that time. I said I would have to go with her but nuns are not allowed to travel alone with one or more men. So that idea was scratched. I’m making the story short but Venerable Chang Lang spent at least 2 hours helping me if not more.

After I left Venerable Chang Lang, I went to talk with Bill (more formally, Professor William Magee). I told him of my misfortune. Serendipity made it so that Ken Shu, a friend of Bill, called him just after I told Bill my situation. Bill asked Ken if he could take me to town to see whether I could get the right medicine and return the 10mg medicine to the hospital. Ken patiently drove me to several pharmacies. We had to check on at least 4 pharmacies before we found one which carried what I needed. Once I bought it, he then patiently drove me to the hospital to try to get a refund on the incorrect medicine but the cashier was closed so it was impossible. So we went back to Dharma Drum.

Venerable Chang Lang had told me she would tell Hsiu-Lan about my misfortune as soon as she had returned from her business away from the mountain. So the day after I went to the hospital, Hsiu-Lan called me with suggestions. I told her I still needed to return the incorrect medicine to the hospital for a refund. She inquired and found that Mr. Lin was available to drive me to the hospital. So we went to the hospital. The people there had been expecting me probably because of Venerable Chang Lang’s calls the day before. Getting a refund was very easy. Then Mr. Lin drove me to the pharmacy I had gone the day before to try to get more medicine but the pharmacist had not yet received more.

So now I have medicine for a few days and then I need to go back to the pharmacy to get more. Getting all of this straightened out has been quite an ordeal. In the US, it would be a simple matter of logging into my pharmacy’s web site, filling out a form and getting the medicine shipped to my door. I would not have to depend on anyone. But here, in Taiwan, it does not work that way and I have to depend on a lot of people to get the same result. I had to rely on the power of the network.

Here are phrases I practiced a lot during the past few days: “不好意思” and “我麻煩你”

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