My grandmother had her left breast removed yesterday afternoon and is now camping out at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, a towering behemoth of health care as well as neglect (though because of population and shortage of health staff, there is not much to be done). My grandma was lucky and went under the knife far more quickly than anticipated, as it seems much of Taiwan seems to be waiting for some procedure or other, but the doctor came and informed her that she is to be discharged this afternoon. They need the bed, he said, you’re going to be in pain either way, so why not choose home?

Though I could see my grandmother’s fill with doubt and fear – what does she know about nursing her own gaping wound, I see his point. The hospital – all hospitals, it seems – is filled with people. My grandma is on the tenth floor, yet on my way down in the elevator, we stopped on every floor and always, a crush of people waited to get in, to get out. Walking down the corridors, I couldn’t help but peak in every room, and just like a run-down hotel in a good location, they were all filled. People both old and young, upbeat and down-trodden. Life and not so much life.

   The hospital’s main building.

The hospital’s seal. The word is rong and it means “glory and honor.” Rongming (榮民) is the phrase for “veterans,” meaning, honorable people who served their country.

The hospital’s lobby with a giant Taiwanese flag, just in case patients wake up on their way in or out and forget where they are.

I got a kick out of the young nurses in their clean, white uniforms and their little hats, pinned to their hair. They are all very nice, soft-spoken young women, often cowed by the doctors.

The motto on the nurses’ carts. Is this true? I think so.

                       Chinese IV.

My grandma’s older sister, bending over to whisper something. When I asked U.S. medical students interning in Taiwanese hospitals what the biggest difference was between health care in the U.S. and in Taiwan was, they replied, “The role of family.” Taiwanese hospitals let families take a much bigger role in a patient’s wellness – but I think this has more to do with the culture as well.

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