In the last 24 hours, I’ve gone through my own personal hell. I can honestly say that this has been one of the most traumatic experiences I’ve ever had and, even now, I’m still unsure what to feel and how to react.
For those of you not in the know, when you apply for an E2 Visa (that entitles you to live and work in Korea as a teacher), one of the first things you have to do when you get here is go for a medical test at the local hospital. You give them some of your blood and some of your urine, and then go for a chest x-ray, visual test and hearing test.
The only thing I was worried about were the results of my hearing test – My hearing isn’t as sharp as it should be and has been getting worse in the last few years.
Yesterday, though, just after finishing my last class, my co-teacher got off the phone and pulled me aside.
“Ceri,” she whispered, “that was the hospital with the results of your blood test in the medical check. They said you tested positive for AIDS.”
“What?” I asked, thinking I’d misheard her.
“AIDS. A-I-D-S. Do you understand?”
I can’t begin to describe what I felt at that moment. It was a bit surreal, kind of like having an out-of-body experience.
I remember my body shaking all over and feeling completely numb.
All I could think was: This couldn’t happen to me. There must be some mistake. Where would I have got it from? Have I been that risky?
Although my rational mind knows that victims of HIV/AIDS are now able to live long, happy lives, at that time all I could think was I’m going to die.
My co-teacher told me that my blood was being taken to the bigger hospital in the city to be looked at and examined again in more detail and that those results would be ready in the morning.
She drove me home in silence and, all night, I sat alone in my apartment, in a strange new country, with the knowledge that I had just been told I had an incurable, life-ending disease.
I spent the night googling everything you can imagine about HIV and AIDS, attempting to come to terms with what would be my new life. The fear inside me was so big that I felt physically sick.
I racked my brain with how I might have caught this and narrowed it down to two ex-partners.
There was the American I fooled around with but never slept with. He never wanted to have sex with me and gave strange reasons that always confused me. But then I read that HIV and AIDS was unlikely to be contracted from just fooling around.
And then there was the most recent lover. He’d told me he’d been tested right after we started hooking up, and was healthy. But we were both ridiculously stupid and never used protection (Something I’m usually so careful about).
I can’t begin to describe how it feels when someone tells you you have AIDS. We all think that it would be a truly awful thing but the actual feeling of having to come to terms with it is something else entirely.
I didn’t sleep well all night, and when I did, all my dreams were revolved around the disease.
This morning I continued my google research until the phone rang.
It was my co-teacher again.
“Ceri, the hospital made a mistake. Your test results have come back negative.”
It was only then that the tears began to flow.
“You mean, I’m okay?” I asked.
So how the hell could a mistake like this possibly occur?
Apparently there was a mix-up with the data, a nurse read my results wrong, and then contacted us before consulting anyone else.
Needless to say, you should have heard my co-teacher this morning. She is fucking livid with the hospital. All morning she’s been shouting down the phone to them that they owe me compensation for the emotional turmoil I was put through.
“This is her first time in Asia. She’s away from everything, she’s a guest in this country, and this is how she’s been treated?”
She even filed an official complaint with the directors at the hospital and is apparently waiting to see what compensation they’re going to offer. All I have to do is say “Yes” or “No” to whatever they offer.
At the end of all this, I’m so happy to hear this news but, to be honest, am still a little shaken. This whole thing has affected me more than it should have – Probably because I haven’t even been here a week yet and am still trying to adjust to it.
If it wasn’t for how amazing my three co-teachers are (especially the one who’s been through this with me), I’d be seriously considering getting the hell out of here.
I know I shouldn’t judge a whole country but this hasn’t been the best welcome and, now, I’m kind of homesick.
Here’s hoping a trip to Seoul to see one of my best friends over the weekend will put things into a more positive light. Right now, things are still a bit shaky.