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….




Emergency Ward 10

san juan de dios

 

My husband returned from hospital today.

He was taken ill on Sunday last….he has a foul nasty now -after years of diagnosis, misdiagnosis  and stabs in the dark – known as CANOMAD and has had attacks from time to time over the last thirty years.

While it might sound like a variant of rabies the easiest way to describe it is that if he catches a ‘flu’ bug, instead of his antibodies attacking the bug his antibodies attack him, destroying the nerve sheaths and rendering him paralysed.

It starts in his lips, progresses via his tongue and throat and if not treated in time would paralyse his lungs….so we have to live near a hospital that can treat him with immunoglobulin – the only treatment known to medical science – which costs an arm and a leg.

Thus at three thirty on Sunday morning we were belting along in a CAJA (Costa Rican national health service) ambulance which swooped down the switchback curves of the road to the capital at a speed far in excess of that proposed for the conditions  – which was fine until we hit- in every sense – the intermediate town.

With a view to winning the elections the outgoing mayor had installed speed bumps on the main road through  the town centre.

‘Bump’ is not an adequate description…think Big Dipper.

Our driver had not passed that way since the bumps were installed so we hit them at a speed which achieved a fair semblance of lift off, Leo flying into the air from his stretcher and descending with an audible thump while I picked myself off the floor and extended my vocabulary by listening to the driver’s commentary.

I wish I had written it down….certain phrases had an almost biblical intensity, with use of the ‘selah’  at key intervals.

Unloaded at the Emergency department, into a scene which Cecil B de Mille would envy…patients, family of same en masse, Red Cross staff trying to reclaim their wheelchairs and stretchers, cleaners wielding mops, catering staff in hairnets distributing coffee while nurses, doctors and medical students produced organisation from chaos.

Luckily my husband is an inpatient at the hospital, so his dossier was available, diagnosis made and treatment ordered – as soon as there was a bed available in the Emergency department – no good looking further as the hospital was full to bursting point.

Bed finding was the speciality of a senior female doctor who bore a great resemblance to Granny Giles – without the hat.

grandma giles

She stalked the wards and corridors in search of prey…and pounced.

A gentleman in his sixties, safely esconced in a bed, was complaining loudly that no one would bring him a coffee.

Granny Giles studied his file and summoned a porter.

Get this gentleman back in his own clothes, give him a coffee and send him home by ambulance. If his lungs are strong enough to bellow like that he can bellow at home….

So Leo’s treatment commenced…

On Monday he was transferred to another ward….and I discovered the visiting system….

First, you have to obtain a visiting card. This card resembles a zoo entrance ticket in that it firmly forbids feeding the inmates.

Then you have to turn up at visiting hours: for anyone who remembers the NHS of the fifties and sixties this springs no surprises.

But this hospital has its own way of running things. There is a check point where staff make sure that no illicit pork scrachings, booze or sticky sweets are being smuggled in – and the queue runs outside the hospital and round two blocks.

Unless you are a pensioner. In which case you wait on specially reserved seats and are let through first to many cracks about age before beauty and give the young ladies priority to have the  time to titivate themselves…

Thank goodness for Danilo who held the fort while I took the bus to the capital…a three hour round trip apart from the visiting. Alone, trying to close up the sheep in the dark, I would have been pushed to the limits.

Still, daily life went  on regardless so late in the week I ‘phoned my mother to get her shopping list which would go online to Tesco and in due course be delivered to her door.

After close consideration of the merits of gammon as opposed to a beef joint business was concluded and mother got down to the events of the week.

Mother in Southampton, when on form, can give Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells a fair  run for its money and she was loaded for bear.

Sport mad, she cannot watch cricket as she will not pay for Sky but she was up to date with the news.

What’s all this about the West Indian Under 19 team running about naked?

Mind boggling gently I seek further particulars.

Well, they’re not wearing anything and the umpires are letting them!

How do you know…you can’t watch the match on the box.

They’re talking about it on Test Match Special….they’re running out men wearing no clothes.

Who is doing the running out?

Someone naked. His name begins with M but I can’t remember it…

A  cup of tea later I attempt to unravel the mystery.

It appears that the West Indies Under 19 team’s bowler ran out an opposing batsman in a way which was within the Laws of cricket but which was deemed unsporting.

The thing is called a Mankad– after the first chap to try it in the modern era.

What mother is thinking of is a Mankini…..

mankini_70576

I agree that players wearing mankinis might well encourage audiences…but what I would like to know is how mother discovered the mankini…