Viktor’s experience of studying in Japan


Viktor is a business-school graduate at the Business School in Goteborg. He needs to control his blood: if it is too thin it can lead to bleeding, and if it is too thick it can lead to blood clots. He takes warfarin. His stay in Japan became possible because of the self-monitoring device CoaguChek. Here is Viktor’s story.

I heard about the CoaguChek through one of my parent’s friends, who had found out about the device through his work. I searched myself on the Internet until I discovered the device.

I was admitted to a hospital in Lund 2∙5 years ago, where the doctors discovered a tumour that had blocked my large artery. This tumour had been growing slowly over a long time, and had slowly blocked the large artery. My body had found alternative ways for the blood (collaterals) to reach the heart. It turned out that I was disposed to having blood clots, and had several clots in both thighs and in the artery. Therefore, I am registered for lifetime treatment with warfarin, which is why I have to do weekly P-K tests. Additionally, I have diabetes, which is why I take tests so often.

I am a business-school graduate and my course has a Japanese emphasis. The programme includes one visit to Japan during the spring term and a 3-month trip in the fourth term, including studying in Sapporo (Japan’s fifth largest city). As soon as I got to Japan, I wanted to find out whether there was a hospital nearby and what to do if anything happened.

Language barriers

The first thing that I read in an information brochure, and which was later confirmed by students at the school, was that one cannot get by speaking only English in the hospital. A description of symptoms and course of action have to be given in Japanese. And even if you believe that the Japanese doctors can speak English, I can assure you that that is not the case! Additionally, every hospital visit has to be paid for (and the cost is high). I had very little money to spare during my stay, even though I could claim back the money from the insurance company when I returned home.

Furthermore, we had lectures every day, and were deducted points from the test for every lecture that we missed. Even though no one missed a lecture, I would have been forced to without the CoaguChek.

Additionally I would have had to pay for travel to Sapporo (45 minutes just to get there), after which I had to find a hospital, wait, and then find a Japanese person who could communicate in both Japanese and English to explain what I had to do. And I would have to do this once a week?! With the CoaguChek device, it still would have been possible for me to go Japan, but the difficulties would really have been endless with the weekly P-K test. After I had taken the test, I would have had to get to the hospital in Sapporo to send my result to my hospital at home, after which the result would have been sent to me. By the time I got my result it would have been time for my next test. Now, however, I get the response directly.

Need for correct information

It was very difficult to get the CoaguChek. Staff at the hospital unit had promised that all English-speaking hospitals in Japan understood what kind of test it was that needed to be taken if they were shown the test-taking slip (which is supposed to be international). However, I found this statement to be completely untrue. I think that it is exceptionally poor that hospital staff can give out information that can make such a difference without having any foundation for it.

Today I continue as a business-school graduate and work in a little design store. I study full time at school and work for about 20 hours per week. The only place where P-K tests are available is at the specialised unit at my hospital in the outskirts of the city; I couldn’t take the tests in the city, which is closer to me. The P-K testing unit is only open Monday–Friday between 0900 h and 1500 h, when I am not really available. To get there, I would have had to sacrifice either 1 day per week of school or work. It takes me about 15 minutes to get to Sahlgrenska by tram, and then I would have to have waited approximately 45 minutes to be seen. The test takes, all in all, no more than 2 minutes. Now I have the CoaguChek device I can do it at home or at work.

So I have gained half a day during the week.

Author: Viktor