Tuesday, April 15, 2008
You just know it's going to be a great day when your school schedule declares it to be "Urine Analysis Day".
Yep, time for the school's annual health check.
While a full medical is not high on my list of fun things to do, I still get one every year in Australia. Unlike the one I'm subjected to at school however, it is done in the privacy of my doctor's office and with someone who has full knowledge of not only my own, but also my family's medical history. The school one is a generic, everyone has the same type of test.
To be honest, I'm not sure why we have to have them. I have asked, but was given an answer along the lines of "just because".
A problem I find with the school health check is that it is supposed to be confidential, and it is for all of the Japanese staff. For us native teachers of English (NTE) however, there are language difficulties. There is no way we can read the questionnaire and so have to sit down to answer the multitude of questions to our boss. Last year, in the staff room, in front of one of my male New Zealander workmate, he asked "Are you menstruating now?".
In my first year at the school, after answering all the questions, we had a blood test (they made a terrible mess of my arm), our weight taken, our heart monitored (and I was left the next day with a chest dotted with bruises), our waist is measured (though not our hips, which hardly gives an accurate waist to hip ratio for this curvy western woman), hearing and sight checked, retina photographed, blood test, blood pressure checked, a chest x-ray and of course the urine test.
Ahh... my personal favourite, today's namesake - the urine test. Bear in mind that all of these tests are not been done in a doctor's office or hospital, but rather within the school. The first couple of years we were handed a plastic cup and a strip of paper and sent off to the girl's toilets. We pee, soak the paper, empty the cup, and then come back, down the school corridors, passing students eager to say hello, with a piece of paper soaked in our own pee. Welcome to Urine Analysis Day. I find it interesting that it's called that rather than "Health Check Day", but maybe everyone else is equally as traumatised by it as myself, so that's the part that sticks out. Honestly, I've been having nightmares about it for the last week!
Another part of the day's fun was the TB x-ray. The machine came in a van which was driven onto school property. Once in the van, I was asked to take off my bra (because of any metal parts that are in it). I tried to wrestle out of it but not given much privacy by the radiologist. All the while I was in front of an open door, screened only by a thin curtain flapping in the wind with the baseball team on the other side.
This year, I'm seeking permission from the school to be excused from the x-ray. For personal reasons that I feel very strongly about, I am avoiding any x-rays unless in an emergency. Even though Japan has low rates of TB, I can understand and admire their reasons for wanting to be cautious. I'm asking if I can instead take a TB skin test. In my own time, at my own expense. I should get the answer on that one tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me.
Today's health check was actually quite quick and painless. I filled out the for with the help of one of the female Japanese teachers with the rest of the NTEs. We kind of just copied answers off each other. My friend laughed at how silly it was to be cheating off a friend on a health test. In the nurses room, our height and weight was measured, eyesight, hearing and blood pressure checked and then could use the bathroom in the nurses office for the pee test. All done!
The last couple of years, I've been given the all clear with just a note telling me that I should "change (my) life". Let's see what I get this year!