The University of Iowa

There’s always a rainbow at the end of a storm.

November 1st, 2018

I have been slow to post recently because I have had a lot going on recently. After Chuseok ended, I started feeling a pain towards my tailbone that prevented me from sitting, sleeping on my side or back, and walking long distances. I thought I had just bruised my tailbone somehow, so I went to Yonsei International Care thinking I would get some antibiotics or something minor. What I was not expecting was for the doctor to tell me that it was an infected cyst and I would need surgery. I decided that before I rush into this, I wanted a second opinion. I talked to CIEE office and then to Mrs. Kim and Mr. Sung, who works at another hospital closer to my house. I wanted someone familiar there with me while I went to get this looked at again. The next day, I went with Mrs. Kim to Konkuk University Medical Center, where they also took me that I needed surgery. The rest of the day, I followed them around as they drew my blood, did an x-ray, and got everything ready for my surgery, which was now scheduled for that Friday. Not only was I feeling so overwhelmed by the sudden news of surgery; I would also miss the Busan International Film Festival which I had been looking forward to all semester. Mrs. Kim tried to comfort me and took me to lunch. This would be my first time staying overnight in a hospital and also my first time being in a hospital in a foreign country. Of course, I was scared, overwhelmed, and didn’t know what to do.

On Thursday, I went to the hospital to check in. That night, I talked to the surgeons, the anesthesia nurse, and a lot of nurses. The anesthesia nurse informed me that I would be getting a spinal tap the next day for the surgery and the surgeons told me how the surgery would happen. I had to stop eating and drinking after a late lunch that day. I was so grateful for the support of my boyfriend’s family and the nurses were very kind and understanding. I spent the first night alone in a hospital thinking about what would happen the next day.

Sorry for the blurry picture, this was hours before the surgery. 

On Friday, they told me that I would have surgery in the afternoon. So that morning I waited around and talked to Mrs. Kim when she came. Before surgery, I talked with my mom for a bit and my boyfriend until I was asked to prepare for surgery. I got in a wheelchair and was rolled towards the surgery room. I laid on my side as one of the studying doctors took my hand to make sure I was still. I think he could tell that I was nervous, so he kept patting my shoulder until after I got the spinal tap. After that I couldn’t feel anything below my stomach. They let me listen to classical music as they started the surgery. Afterwards, I was rolled on the back to a room where they made sure my vitals were okay for a little bit. They also put a bunch of warm blankets over me which felt very nice. Then I was sent back to my room where I was not allowed to get up for around nine hours. After that night, everything started to look better. I was no longer in pain and I felt relieved that the surgery went well. My CIEE counselors came to visit and brought me cake along with a card from some friends and chocolate that they brought me. Mrs. Kim brought me coffee and stayed with me for most of the day until I was discharged. I went to sleep at their house and they took care of my wound. The next few days I stayed there and mostly rested. I was so grateful for all the wonderful people that helped me through this difficult situation. On Monday, I went back to the hospital for a check-up. The doctors said everything went well and I would need to continue to come to the hospital almost every day this next week to change my dressing. I needed to change the dressing twice a day, so Mrs. Kim helped when I didn’t go to the hospital.

My first meal after surgery. Fun fact: Koreans usually eat porridge when they are sick or unwell.

When I returned to school, I needed to bring a special pillow to sit on to relieve pressure from my tailbone area.  I missed a week of school, but all the professors were understanding. Sadly, the following weeks were midterms meaning most of my time was spent studying. The next two weeks was focused on me healing, studying, and getting closer with friends who were concerned about my health. During these past two weeks after the surgery, I felt exhausted and busy running from the hospital to school; however, the support I have gotten from the people here is amazing. I am so grateful for the people I have met here who even after only knowing me for about two months have done so much to cheer me up. Special thanks to Mrs. Kim and Mr. Sung; CIEE staff; all the friends who were so caring for me; and my family and friends in Iowa supporting me as well.

Two weeks after the surgery! Enjoying my time in Seoul once again!

Now, I am almost fully healed. I no longer need to visit the hospital and midterms are almost over (after Wednesday). I am back to exploring fun adventures (that I will share in the next blog) and have grown so much closer to the people who were with me during these rainy days. Now, even though the weather is getting colder, I am feeling happy to be here and ready to move forward with this wonderful experience. This post is really meant to tell you if I can get through this bump in the road, there should be nothing to stop you from studying abroad!





Taylor Wertheim is an Italian and international studies major at the University of Iowa, pursuing a minor in Korean. She will be spending an academic year in Seoul, South Korea, on CIEE's Arts and Science program.