Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Medical care

One of our big concerns about living in Belize has been, "what if one of us gets sick?" Many of us have had this conversation, along with upsetting stories of previous care. We pay insurance premiums in the States, but they don't transfer to Belize. We're on our own down here. Well, out of the blue, a problem caught us unawares and had us having to use the Belize system.

Art has been having problems with dizziness and then developed a pain in his leg, along with swelling. He tho't he had a charley horse or pulled muscle. When this didn't get better, but continued to get worse, I nagged him into seeing a Dr. I'd seen Dr. Sanchez in San Ignacio previously for a couple of very minor issues. He's a lovely, caring man, trained in Cuba. He's a family practioner. He sent us to Belmopan to the Imaging Clinic for an ultrasound as he feels they do a better, more professional job. We had to dashed there, get the ultrasound and then get back to San Ignacio before 3pm, when Dr. Sanchez closes until evening hours. As he suspected, Art had a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) in the back of his leg. There was a lot of hassle finding an internist available who could admit him to the hospital, but the Dr. found Dr. Manzanero was actually at Loma Luz hospital right then. We dashed up there (it was now 7pm) where Art was examined and admitted. Now we had heard scary stories about how expensive Loma Luz was, but hey, this wasn't any time to quibble. We needed help. They immediately started him on a blood thinner and pain killers.

I hated to leave Art in the hospital, but it was really late, we'd had pouring rains and we hadn't been prepared for him to enter the hospital. I dashed home, in the dark, and I have to tell you, when it's dark here it's really DARK! The road up to our place was about a 1/2 mile of slippery, gooey, muck. It was the worst I had ever seen and I was alone and it was pitch dark out. Hey, I'm a tough old, ex truck driving, broad, so I plunged up the hill. I made a real mess of the road, but our trusty Toyota truck got me thru again. I was home and able to take care of Bailey and get ready to head back to the hospital the next day.

Tuesday was long and tiring. It rained gently all night, which is worse than a driving rain because it just creates goo instead of washing it away down to the base rock. I was able to get down the hill, going sideways at one point, but trudged on. I was worried that Paslow Falls Rd would be flooded, but thankfully, was just giant puddles.

I won't bore you with the details of our day, but will just say that it was really long. The nursing care at Loma Luz was terrific. The nurses were caring and cheerful. Art told me they took enough samples to drain half his blood, which meant that they were doing every test immaginable to get all his levels. I don't think he minds my saying he is also diabetic, which might be a causing factor for the clot. Art felt better than he had in days. The medications he was given seem to have an immediate effect, reversing most of his symptoms. The really difficult thing was that the Dr. doesn't come in until 6pm and it turned out that they had emergencies, so he didn't come in to see Art until about 9pm. By that time, I was about asleep and Art was ready to run screaming into the street. Finally the Dr. came in, gave us the reports, all of which were very encouraging, prescribed medication and sent us on our way. We went down to the pharmacy, which is part of the hospital, got the meds, at which time she presented us with the bill. Take a deep breath! This is where it gets scary and they have to admit me with a heart attack! We had to give them a $500bz deposit when he first checked in. Ok, give us the worst. What? We now owed a total of $7.89bz. My gosh. Are you sure? There was an amount there for the Dr. Do we owe that separately? No, that's included. That covered the stay, the Dr., the meds and the lab work. We could have cried tears of relief.

Our trip home, now at 10pm turned out to be even worse than mine the night before, but we made it! I made a huge mess of the road, just putting the peddle to the metal and grinding my way up, but who cares? It was so good to be home, together and know that, for now, we're ok.

We discussed having to fly back to Oregon to get medical help and still might have to resort to that for more serious concerns, but for now, we have much more faith in the Belize level of care. I guess that's the clue. We felt genuine care for Art's problem, how we were and what needed to be done. All along the way we only saw kindness and concern. I have to add that Loma Luz is by far the cleanest hospital in our part of Belize, but by U.S. standards, it would be horrible. Everything looked as tho' it was a garage sale find, but the walls were freshly painted and things seemed relatively clean. There isn't a lot of shiny stainless steel or machines going beep, but we did find compassion and knowledgeable help. It's not the U.S., but that's not all bad. Blessings.


Dave + Dianna Rider said...

Thanks for a great posting.
We've used the Corozal Hospital for a couple of minor emergencies. The initial approach by the medical staff each time was way different than would be done in the states, but the end result, we were adequately taken care of.
Yours was more serious, of course, but the end result is what really counts.
I'm sure your story will be of help to people considering moving down here.
Thanks again.

Bill and Debra said...

Wow..what an experience. I hope Art is doing well.

sandy a said...

that's great--glad he is doing better!