Yeah, I know. Two weeks ago I wrote about an *abandoned hospital*, last week I wrote about an *abandoned crematorium* – and now another abandoned hospital again? Bit much about pain and death, eh? Well, I guess it’s Halloween week, so it’s about time for another story about horrible Japanese doctors… and I still had an abandoned hospital on hold so dull, that I can easily stray and rant again without taking anything away from the location’s (non-existing) glory…
Japanese Doctors Suck! (Part 3)
I am a huge fan of A Clockwork Orange. Well, depending on my mood. It’s not the kind of film you pop-in randomly to have a good time. But when in the right mood, it’s kind of a perfect movie; with one of the best original scores ever written. Anyway, one sequence that stuck with me and probably most people who watched it, is the Ludovico Technique, where (spoiler alert!) the main character Alex has his eyes held open while watching violent movies, listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and having medicine dripped into his eyes to condition him against his own violent behavior – a sequence that most likely set the development of eye surgery back for decades, because, let’s be honest, if you ever saw it, you won’t want to have eye surgery. Ever!
Wearing glasses was natural to me for all my life. I got my first pair before I started to remember things, probably when I was three or four years old. They were part of my body, a life without them was unimaginable to me – especially after watching A Clockwork Orange for the first time as a teenager. (I think by now you can guess where this is heading, so you might wanna skip to the next subheading if you have a weak heart and a strong imagination!)
In late 2012 I finally decided to get rid of my glasses after more than 30 years. Living in Japan it became quite a hassle to replace them every other year, and surgery could actually save money in the long run. Big mistake! As you know I wasn’t a big fan of the idea in the first place, but even less so after I found out that LASIK (for 350.000 Yen, at one point 4500 USD / 3600 EUR – currently about 30% less thanks to Dishonest Abe and his vicious circle) wouldn’t work for me and the only alternative was ICL (implantable collamer lens, basically an in-eye contact lens) for a whopping 730.000 Yen; but a bird kept whispering into my ear that it would be great thing to do. I should have known better as that little bird was what we call in German a Seuchenvogel! (Literally “bird of pandemic diseases”, describing a person who means nothing but trouble and brings bad luck to others.) Since I don’t lead a lavish lifestyle I was like “What the heck, it’s only money…” Big mistake! I grew up with computers and if learned one thing in my life it was “Never change a running system!” (And of course “Save often, save early!”, but that’s not an option in life…) I should have listened to my gut feeling, instead I changed the running system. Well, I allowed the running system to be changed by Japanese doctors…
At first everything went fine. The clinic claimed to be the most experienced in Japan, the staff was super nice, everything seemed great and exactly what to expect when you spend that amount of money on a single bill. I did a couple of very sci-fi-ish tests and exams, they ordered the ICLs to my very specific specifications and a couple of weeks later I went in for surgery. Though quite reminiscent of the famous A Clockwork Orange sequence, the fascinating and extremely interesting procedure was executed with almost no pain – my eyesight improved massively in comparison to before, but it wasn’t as good as with glasses. Not a surprise, only a few hours after surgery like that. Bad news came with the first checkup the next day. While my eyesight on both eyes got better, their chief of medical staff told me that the ICL in the left eye could cause problems down the road as it was too close to the lens of my eye. A one percent chance it would have to be replaced, nothing to worry about. And I actually didn’t worry, though my right eye was way better than the left at that point. “Period of adjustment”, I thought. Big mistake!
The next day I felt like the vision of my right eye had dropped a bit, but the regular checkup had a different result – according the examination my view was better than ever. Although I was quite irritated that the left eye all of a sudden was the leading eye with much better sight, I didn’t worry too much. 48 hours after a surgery like that things can still improve massively, right? Well, I guess theoretically yes, but not in my case. After three days of decent view (not as good as with glasses, but good enough to see and read everything without major problems) the left eyesight dropped gradually to a point where it was pretty much useless for both near and far – and the right eyes was decent at best. And by decent I mean having to up the font size to be able to read text on a screen. Luckily the one week checkup was close, so I still didn’t worry much. Period of adjustment…
During the checkup after one week it turned out that there was a problem with one of the lenses. They didn’t know for sure, but the doctor on the next day would; 50% chance though that I would need corrective surgery. Well, I didn’t worry much, whatever would get the problem fixed was fine with me. (And that’s such a Japanese reaction…) So I came back the next day for an unplanned check – and it turned out that the clinic might have chosen the wrong ICL size, causing the collamer lenses in my eyes to rotate. Very rare case, of course, but there were two ways to fix it. One was corrective surgery with a small incision, correcting the angle of the lens to match up my astigmatism. The other was to replace both lenses with bigger ones. Since those lenses are made to order and it can take up to 2 months to get them, I chose Option 1 to get the problem fixed right away. But unlike the first (pain free) surgery, the second one wasn’t a good experience, not even a decent one. During the first one I was blinded by a light, by my bad natural eyesight and a constant stream of water, and fascinated / distracted by the procedure – during the second one I could exactly see what was going on in the corner of my eyes: and it was a lot more painful! Really, really painful, despite anesthetics. But it was successful and my eyesight right after the surgery was better than before. Still not as good as with glasses, but almost as good as on the day after the initial surgery. Pleased I left the clinic with two new regular checkup dates, happy that the problem was fixed and not worried at all. Big mistake!
When I woke up the next morning my eyesight on both eyes was almost as bad as before the second operation – corrective surgery turned out to be pointless as the lenses started to rotate again. The doctor of the day (by then I had talked to five or six different ones throughout the various examinations and surgeries…) offered additional corrective surgery, which I declined – what’s the point when the eyesight goes bad within 24 hours? So he promised to get bigger replacement lenses as soon as possible – which meant 6 to 8 weeks since they are made to order in the States! Yay… A third round of surgery for the price of one. Could have done without it… (So if you have expensive health insurance and you are upset, because you pay so much and never use it – be glad! Be grateful for every single hour, every minute that you are of good health! Believe me, you don’t want to get your money’s worth from something like your health insurance!)
At that point I actually started to worry, because while my eyesight wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t good enough to enjoy the daily pleasures. Watching TV more or less turned into “listening TV”. Reading a book was impossible and enjoying travelling was out of the question. For 6 to 8 weeks! (Hence no urbex in 2013 until March… Writing articles for Abandoned Kansai was possible though, thanks to font size 18 and some photo sets I selected months prior.) What pissed me off about that situation almost more than the fact itself, was the reaction of the few Japanese people I told the story. “You shouldn’t get upset and wait and see how it turns out.” First of all – I didn’t get upset and actually thought that I was a pretty good sport up to that point; waiting for hours, coming in additional times, going through the pain and anxiety of additional surgery, … And second: I wish I would have been able to wait and see – instead I had to wait without being able to see (properly) for several weeks! Thanks to variable font sizes I was able to work, but my precious spare time was basically rendered useless for quite a while… At least the clinic paid for glasses (!) to lessen the restrictions, but those took a week to make, too – and the lenses kept rotating, so every couple of days I removed one of the eyeglass lenses as my sight without it was actually better… until the sight was so bad, that the lens improved my eyesight again. Nevertheless I did one urbex day trip during that time, which included the *Nakagawa Brick Factory* – where I couldn’t see any details, totally relying on the autofocus and guessing the correct brightness. Yes, I was definitely massively visually handicapped during that exploration! If you still like the photo set, I guess nothing can beat the combination of dedication, talent and pure luck. :)
A few weeks later the lenses arrived from the States and a third round of surgery was planned. The problem with those implantable collamer lenses is, that they are made to stay in the eye. They come rolled (folded?), the surgeon makes a tiny cut to the eye, inserts the lens, unfolds it, puts it into position – done, next one. 10 or 15 minutes per eye. Removing those lenses though is a bit like getting a model ship out of a bottle… without breaking the bottle, of course! Already anxious due to my bad experience during the second surgery (the correctional one) I wasn’t expecting a smooth ride, so when the surgeon asked if I had any last questions / requests before he started, I asked him to refrain from playing Beethoven during the procedure – of course I was the only one in the room who got that joke… and so it began! Years prior my boss (not a doctor!) “diagnosed” an airsoft injury as a sprained ankle – it turned out to be a *fractured ankle and a torn ligament*, and when I first put weight on it again after a day in bed I almost passed out. Imagine that kind of piercing pain not 1.5 meters away from your brain, but a few centimeters away – not lasting a few seconds, but on and off for more than an hour. All while you are fully conscious witnessing somebody operating on your eyes through what might best be described as a rather translucent milk glass pane. They say that giving birth is the worst pain in the world, but I’d like to hear the opinion of somebody who gave birth and had eye surgery with again not really working anesthetics – and please remember, my procedure didn’t end with holding my own newborn baby in my arms! Now, two and a half years later I remember two things vividly – me slightly bouncing in that chair due to uncontrollable spasms caused by pain towards the end of the procedure… and eternal gratitude that they didn’t play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, parts of which I still consider the most beautiful piece of music ever written.
(The new lenses fit well, everything healed perfectly and I am enjoying very good eyesight without the limitations of glasses ever since – in this case the journey definitely was NOT its own reward…)
The Hospital Exploration
When I presented an exterior shot of the Tochigi Hospital as the Photo of the Day on Facebook (make sure to Like and Turn On Notifications to not miss exclusive content!) a couple of weeks ago, people seemed to be impressed by its rather intact façade – interpreting it as a sign for the superior respect Japanese have for abandoned buildings. Which is not entirely true in general… and especially in this case, because the Tochigi Hospital was not much more than an empty shell. At first I thought somebody did a really good job cleaning out this place, leaving behind only a few items. Then I realized, and later confirmed in the comments sections of Japanese blogs, that the hospital was never finished. It would have been impossible to remove all the flooring, wallpapers and fixtures the way it looks now – and if not impossible, it would have been cheaper to demolish the whole thing. I don’t know to which degree the building was finished, but I am pretty sure that it never had an elevator, wallpapers (maybe some tiling?) or a proper parking lot, now a wild sea of green in front of the hospital. The “remaining” objects in the building most likely were dumped there or brought by temporary squatters. The most common items, by the way, were spray cans – so much for the respect people showed this place. There was just little there to vandalize in the first place…
Since I don’t mind construction ruins, I actually enjoyed exploring the Tochigi Hospital – and as far as concrete shells go, this was one of the more interesting ones, mainly due to its unusual exterior, but also thanks to some interesting design choices inside, causing intriguing shadows to be cast even on a terribly humid, overcast day without direct sunlight.
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