In my four years in China I have had three experiences where I thought either my friends or myself were near death.
The first instance came about a month after I arrived in rural China. Not surprisingly I was struck with terrible food poisoning, which I tried to ignore. After running to the bathroom every fifteen minutes for 2 hours, I was still trying to claim that I was just fine. I knew that in rural China the last place I wanted to be was their filthy health clinic.
Before arriving in Longzhou I had met a grad student in Beijing who had informed me of an experience he had in rural Yunnan province. The nurses at the hospital had tried to re-use a needle, and warned that using a new one would be too expensive (he wisely spent the extra $.80).