My lungs had been acting up. Started to get this restriction with respect to my breathing. It's what happens when you have spastic bronchitis. Allergies can be a real bitch.

Being in Dengfeng is not exactly a reassuring thing, when you constantly feel like you're going to suffocate. So, I made a mental note of where the hospital was. Yong told me that there was one just across the street. I kept that in mind, and went about my business with the photographer team.

The hospital across the street probably would not have done me any good had I had any sort of breathing problems. I found out later that it was a Traditional Chinese Medicine hospital, as opposed to the significantly smaller western type, or, more appropriately, "wanna be" western type hospital down the street. So, one day, just for giggles and ****s, we went there, in search of a lung specialist who might be able to help me with this lung disease I was battling for the past year and a half.

What a place. You pay this registration fee, of about twenty cents, at the door. Then, you sit in this smoke filled hallway, and wait for one of the doctors to become available. There's no line to get on; you just sort of find a room that has space, and wiggle into it. And, you watch the doctor in that room evaluate and take care of other patients. Talk about privacy.

We found the supposed lung specialist. She, from what I could tell on her poster on the wall outside her room, was one of the older ones. She was applying some sort of brown **** like substance on this kid's back, and then pasting this huge piece of tape over it. The poor kid was screaming.

He was covered in tape. I thought to myself, god, I hope I don't get this treatment. I started to think of how I would look with big pieces of tape on top of my bald head.

Eventually, my sheer size paid off. I was able to squeeze in front of the other poor bastards in the room who had come to see the doctor. She had been intrigued by me.

The exam was the typical TCM exam that I've come to know and love. Feel the pulse for ten minutes. Each wrist, using three fingers. Look at the tongue. Ask a few questions. We told her about my lung disorder. She wanted to know if I had a cough.

Well, yea lady, people with spastic bronchitis have a cough. It's part of the allergic asthma syndrome. Then she asked me if I ever had trouble breathing. Well....

She had made her diagnosis. Good heart, bad lungs. I knew I was in good hands. She wanted to treat me with this new special treatment. The brown **** like substance that she had smeared and taped all over that poor little kid's body.

I suggested to her, that I might be allergic to whatever was inside that little jar. I kind of offered to her that maybe another medicinal application might be safer for me. I was allergic to aspirin and non steroidal anti inflammatory agents, god knows what was in the brown **** in the jar. My friend Yong started to push me, telling me "Try it", as he always did with the god forsaken food that he always tried to get me to eat. I told him that I wasn't going to look good with tape all over my body. The doctor's assistant, no doubt a doctor to be in training, was busying himself by tearing off six inch long pieces of tape, and sticking them to the desk. He was eyeing my body up and down, no doubt, mentally preparing sites to stick these offensive objects to.

She then decided that there was a better, more modern treatment that would take this allergic asthma away. It wa a liquid; what she would do, is soak some gauze pads with this liquid, and tape those all over my body. I thought it was a better option than the brown **** stuff she had smeared all over the kid. I asked to see this liquid, just to make sure I wasn't allergic to any component of it. Her assistant stopped tearing off pieces of tape, and ran to the pharmacy down the hall. He looked excited at the prospect of sticking me with tape.

He came back with a small box, which contained a bottle. For some strange reason, the box was labeled in Chinese and English. I read the English half, and discovered that this stuff that she wanted to paste to me, was simple cough syrup. It contained codeine (used to suppress coughing), and ephedra (used for it's sympathomimetic properties, bronchodilation and decongestion).

I looked at Yong and told him that this stuff would work better if I drank it. The whole concept of applying cough syrup soaked gauze pads to my body, and covering them in tape, was not only ridiculous, but dangerous as well. Had she been aggressive in her use of gauze pads, the possibility of giving me too much codeine was significant. Cough syrup applied to the skin, under impermeable tape, would eventually get absorbed by the skin. The eventually absorbed dose depended upon how much was applied, and how much was absorbed. Not exactly a scientific way of administering something that was meant to be measured and imbibed.

She was excited at the prospect of curing my disease by taping this **** to me. Her assistant hurriedly tore more tape. He reminded me of a fourth year medical student who was scheduled to hold retractors in his first major abdominal operation.

I needed a way out. I basically told her that I was allergic to a component in the liquid. I asked her if there was anything else she could give me. And, there was.

The balls. The little **** colored brown balls. I had them before, but in a much larger version. The doc in Beijing gave me these large brown balls, half the size of a ping pong ball. I was supposed to swallow it. Instead, I tore it apart and swallowed pieces of it. It did seem to help. These balls were smaller.

She wanted me to take fifteen of these little balls, three times a day. I opted to take five. Just to see what happened.

As we left the hospital, I took five of these little things. Couldn't imagine taking fifteen at a time. The effect it had on me was interesting. Kind of like the effect that herbal tea had had on me last year. But not as intense.

I could feel my pulse getting stronger. Could also feel a slight headache. I got the impression that the active ingredient in these little balls was the same as the **** that caused all that trouble last year with the TCM tea. No doubt, ephedra. They use it for lung disorders, because it causes bronchodilation. It also has some adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. You have to be careful with this stuff.

I downgraded the use of these little balls to three balls, twice a day. Six balls as opposed to forty five. Six balls a day gives me a slight headache. But I press on. Got to believe they say. Forty five balls? Well, I can only imagine what havoc that would have created...

It's been an experience. One that really wasn't worth writing about. A sojourn, here in Thailand, training in Muay Thai, getting fresh air, and rebuilding my health, after a devastating year and a half of runaway allergy problems and lung disorders. I thought things were finally starting to calm down.

Until we got the phone call the other day.

My Thai girlfriend's father was found dead. Another experience, and an "education", which I haven't figured out yet if I should write about it. A journey into Asian family relationships, foreigner relationships, Asian medical care, and the disposition of the deceased.

I've been busy, and will be. I'll be back.