You Need To Be Fit To Be Ill In Costa Rica

I had set the alarm for four in the morning….Leo had an appointment at San Juan de Dios, the main hospital in San Jose, at six and we needed to be off betimes in order to avoid the traffic jams which render the road to the capital impassable for hours in the morning rush.

I had been optimistic. Long before the alarm went off I had been roused from a deep sleep by something heavy and hairy breathing into my ear while sharp claws raked my head.

Sophie wished to go out and I had forgotten to leave the door open.

The door opened and Sophie released, followed by the other dogs who were now feeling the need to pee after being so rudely awakened I thought there was no point in disturbing Leo by going back to bed so washed and dressed, boiled eggs for the baby chicks’ breakfast and enjoyed a peaceful half hour with a book and a cup of tea. The alarm went off as planned and Leo was ready to roll by the time that Danilo arrived to feed the livestock by torchlight before setting off.

We were lucky with the traffic. The buses were picking up the workers with an early start as we headed for the capital and although we were half an hour early arriving, the streets on the approaches to San Jose were already becoming crowded with cars and commuter buses, their exhaust fumes knocking out the scent of the flowering trees which line those routes.

We had agreed with Danilo that he would drop us at the main doors…the nearest entrance to the department we wanted…and he would then go to a car park from which we could summon him once Leo was released. We rehearsed using his mobile ‘phone and all seemed well. We were organised.

I pushed Leo’s wheelchair into the Preferencial line…eye pads, plaster casts, crutches and wheelchairs…on one side of the entrance, while the mere walking wounded waited in line on the other side. The Preferencial are admitted five minutes earlier than the others to give them an advantage in the Gadarene rush to secure the chairs in the waiting areas before the late comers arrive.

The first roadside fruit seller arrived, paying off the porter who brought his load down from the market, and was soon doing a trade with his offer of eight mandarin oranges for aproximately a quid. Looking up through the branches of the roadside trees, the moon, which we had seen the morning before like a golden orb sinking over the hills into the sea, floated in the dark sky, silvering the clouds she wore as shawls about her chilly shoulders. For Costa Rica it was chilly at ground level too, and many in the queue wore those Peruvian hats with ear flaps making them look somewhat hieritic as they stood immobile in the half light.

The doors were opened and the Preferencial launched their asault. Through the general waiting area under its glass roof and off into the corridors which link the old buildings and gardens of its foundation with the various monstrosities of clinical blocks added over the years.

The department we sought was on the right as we we entered….but it was closed and a noltice announced that it had been temporarily transferred to the pharmacy building.

Fine, except that the pharmacy building was outside the hospital grounds, two blocks away, and Leo was in a wheelchair.

Others were similarly affected, but after a swift discussion it was agreed that the best thing to do was to head off down the low ceilinged corridor that led to the original part of the hospital, turn left past the laundry and out through the gates at the rear of the complex which gave onto a park used by Nicaraguan rough sleepers, then along the road to the next block

It was a spectacle worthy of treatment by Bunuel.

The halt and the lame, with wheelchairs and a flourish of crutches, surged through the hospital and out of the back gates…where we found Danilo. The car park had not yet opened and he had prevailed upon the security guard to let him park opposite the entrance to await our arrival. Just as well…the high speed hirpling through the hospital had exhausted me so Danilo was a godsend as the horde encountered the pavement which had not been repaired since the time it was built and invaded the cycle path alongside…yet another bright idea of the San Jose council to tick the boxes of eco virtue signalling while doing sweet Fanny Adams about the basics.

At the junction traffic stopped to allow us to pass…more from bewilderment than from obedience to traffic lights…and the horde moved on to the pharmacy building…an oversized garage on two levels with offices on its periphery.

Needless to say, our department was on the upper level….accessed by a ramp which needed oxygen, crampons and ice picks to assault. Those on crutches held onto the wheelchairs, rather in the manner of the infantry clinging to the stirrups of the Scots Greys at Waterloo while the helpers doubled up to push them up to the top where all concerned stopped to draw air into their lungs….and grab the seats.

The health service in Costa Rica has more ways than one of making you fit….


35 thoughts on “You Need To Be Fit To Be Ill In Costa Rica”

  1. You must be fit indeed if you managed to get Leo safely delivered to the relevant dept. even if you had an able helper in Danilo for part of the journey. Gosh, I remember the effort required in getting my J. from one building to the next and I only had smooth underground connecting corridors to negotiate. NHS Hospital wheelchairs are not known for easy operating. A bit like supermarket shopping trolleys actually.

    I didn’t know chicks are carnivores? Why not though. But cooked eggs? Now there’s service.

  2. Bbay chicks thrive on finely chopped boiled eggs. Leo is busy raising broods which have odd feathers,,,all up on end like a hedgehog’s spines, but ruffled. They are totally useless for meat but they look gorgeous.

    San Juan de Dios is a nightmare of different levels, not to speak of the various holes in the internal roads…at least Leo had the wheelchair…the poor devils hirpling along on crutches had the worst of it.

    Currently awaiting an op for cataracts and another to correct a badly set ankle…..the work of a French hospital some years ago….the latter did not appreciate the unexpected detour at all!
    Next time he can take his electric wheelchair!

  3. I think it inexcusable. I’ve had a lot of experience since I broke a femur last July. I was in a wheel chair, or had access to one, until maybe three months ago. Then I had to assess every situation for myself. Coming into a building in winter, shoes wet. Assessing the transition from walk off mat to tile floor. Allowing myself an extra half hour or more for some doctor appointments because of the distance in miles of the corridors to their office. It’s probably the same the world around! The chickens sound lovely. As in beautiful.

    1. The chickens are exactly that…beautiful. They give Leo a lot of pleasure.
      Generally we don’t have to queue..but this time, as the appointment as for 6.00 am and we arrived early, we did.
      As always, it is the convenience of the administrators which counts…never mind the medical and nursing staff or the patients!

    1. It depends where you are. In our little town the council have made up the pavements and there are ramps at crossings… the big malls there is no problem, nor in the touristy areas of San Jose, but when we go to the central market crossing the roads can be a real pain, except that there are always plenty of gentlemen to give help…holding my husband up while the wheelchair is manoevred into the road on one side to be received by another group of gentlemen on the other. Costa Ricans are so very kind in general…

  4. What we have here must be the envy of the world because by-and-large it works and works well. Even the private sector has an element of control and in these days when municipalities are flogging vegetables at half price on the orders of the ‘Chief’ to undercut the ‘veggie racketeers’ no one wants to get on the wrong side of the supreme being!

    1. The system here is good….in our experience better than France by far. Extremely thorough, good on follow up and good communication between the various specialisms. His local doctor reckons that the only specialisms Leo hasn’t had looking at him are gynaecology and the morgue.

      Leo had one experience of the private sector here….based on American practice and a total rip off.

      Unfortunately the government here is all on the side of price racketeers….

  5. Your beautifully written and amusingly graphic account either disguises what must have been ‘a bit of a struggle’, or demonstrates more patience (or patients) than many would consider reasonable. But, when in Rome etc… All the best to both of you – regards, Mike.

    1. It was a bit of a shock! Had the department mustered an army of porters to assist it would have been appreciated, as I said to the intern on duty when we finally arrived. He just said ‘You would not believe the paperwork to sort that out…by the time it was done the building works would have been finished and we’d all be back again…’
      Normally we don’t queue, but we were half an hour early for the first appointments of the day so the hospital was closed to all except emergencies.
      It had its funny side, though, once I regained enough breath to appreciate it….the sight if all those wheelchairs, crutches and casts bursting out of the hospital and along the road had something decidedly surreal about it…a cross between Bunuel and a Giles cartoon!

  6. I need to go to the local hospital now as I am left in stitches reading this.
    The image of wheelchairs and crutch users massing about on the main roads is a good one. No wonder the traffic stopped. I hope many wore bandages and gave the impression a movie was being filmed.
    There again I know footballers who do less training than you do, I hope you thank Leo for that….:)

  7. Do you reckon a football club would pay Leo a transfer fee for me?
    It was a unique experience…may it remain so…..and once Danilo took over the wheelchair I was detached enough to appreciate the lunacy of it all.
    I bet you won’t have so much fun at your hospital…

    1. I find the idea of a football club spending vast amounts to bring Leo to their club somewhat unlikely.
      Football clubs are not run like normal businesses and he would soon end up running the whole show!
      They would not like that…

  8. It may not have been funny to live it, but it was hilarious to read. I could JUST imagine the scene.

    I hope you are both doing well despite the shenanigans..

    1. Once we were outside and Danilo took over the wheelchair I could become detached and realised just how surreal it all was! I don’t think the people at the bus stop outside the hospital gates could believe their eyes…let alone the drivers at the road junction.

      Leo has picked up a bit, luckily, as he has been in a very poor way for quite a time. Have to push him up more cliff faces…or Danilo will…

  9. So why was the designated department closed I wonder? Was there a bona fide explanation or was it just another bureaucratic attempt to put the rabble in their place and cause them maximum inconvenience? I would like to assume the first, but there again….

    An alarm clock can’t compete with an uncomfortable dog who demands relief!

    1. Building works!
      Parts of the hospital just don’t meet modern standards…but the works department tend to leap in without much warning…and perish the thought that the patients could be alerted!

      Yes…I’ve yet, luckily, to encounter an alarm clock that simultaneously suffocates you while attempting to scalp you…

  10. Good Gracious! I think we are hard done by when the GP is 1 hour 20 minutes behind in his RDVs.
    I am attempting to get a Blue Badge from the French system for parking perks. Not all that hopeful, we shall see. Very best to Leo and you.

    1. Leo tried for the blue badge…..apparently you had to be 80% handicapped to qualify which made me think that the benchmark must have been Superman, to judge by the agility of some of the badgeholders we had seen loading their cars at Leclerc.
      At the examination he had letters from his G.P. and his specialist with test results regarding the extent of his paralysis which were pushed aside as being of no importance. The female doctor asked him what he could and could not do…he said he still enjoyed gardening, though no longer able to dig or do things like potting up which was greeted with a snort and then followed the examination for which she wanted him to remove his trousers, though she could easily have tested the reflexes by rolling up the legs. Needless to say he was not wearing underpants which called down a torrent of shock, horror and ,much leaping about.
      He didn’t get his badge…so whatever you do, do not admit to gardening and wear a pair of knickers.

          1. Not being versed in mushing, do I harness the two big dogs closest to the wheelchair, as with carriage driving or do I put them up front and give the others roller skates?

  11. As always you leave me with visions that make me smile despite the hardships that you go through. Danillo always seems to be in the right place thought to give you a helping hand.
    Having just read a blog on one of my Canadian followers about a birding trip to Costa Rica, I would so love to visit but do not think it will ever happen. Have a good week Diane

    1. The birdlife is fantastic and there is now a project to promote birding as part of its tourist programme.

      We could not cope here without Danilo….Leo cannot drive any more due to paralysis and i cannot drive due to my poor eyesight. We used to use the buses, but now that Leo is in a wheelchair that is more complicated…buses can take wheelchairs but it means waiting about which Leo cannot take any more.

      I was jolly glad to see Danilo at the backgates of the hospital….my ankle did not appreciate the strain of pushing the wheelchair through the buildings as it was…the trek along the road and the fearsome ramp would have put the tin hat on it!

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