Emergency Medical Treatment in La Paz: Cheap. Easy and Humane!

2013 April 26

Chances are that once in your life you have been to the emergency room . And that experience in most cases was slow, irritating and expensive. At least that has been my experience back in California, and  most people I know say the same, well except my OLDER sister Delia in Shreveport where she says the care she gets every time she falls off her horse and  breaks another crucial part of her body, like her neck, and back, is excellent with no waiting.

It is so amazing the medical care here, even after 12 years I continue to be amazed. So after the clamor died down over the weird, smelly, bearded man on my terrace (see yesterday’s post) we headed to Fide Paz hospital. It actually has a long name including the words Especialidades Medicos, but it’s nickname is Fide Paz, named for the fraccionimiento (neighborhood) where it is located.

My beloved had checked the Spanish/English dictionary to make sure he  knew the word for wheelchair  (silla de ruedas) so that when he went to ask for one, he could get the point across in one try.

When I arrived inside they asked if I had an appointment, I said no, but I needed to see Dr. Gaxiola,(Ramon) so  they  rolled me into his office. I waited no more than ten minutes while the doctor finished up with another patient. Ramon  examined my foot, and wheeled me into x-ray. He also told me he had asked the orthopedic surgeon Francisco Camarena to wait a few minutes while I had an x ray. I was not parked in a hospital corridor to wait for hours for the tech to get to me. The x-ray tech was right there, the films were put up on the light board and Francisco and Ramon looked at them, pronounced my bone broken, discussed the best thing to do, gave me my options.I went with their first option of a cast, not a walking cast, because the break was such that if I walked too much I could damage ligaments.
So back to Ramon’s office, a nurse came in with a bowl of warm water.

“OH how wonderfu1” I thought, “They are going to soak my foot in warm water.”
Not so lucky for me,  it was for soaking the bandages. Francisco knelt down, and made the cast using some new material that looks like a white ace bandage. It is actually fiberglass.
It hardens quickly once it is wrapped on the leg and foot. Both docs worked together, one holding my foot in position and one wrapping.

Well at least I had a fresh pedicure!

DR Diaz (our internist) popped in to wish me a Happy New Year and prescribed Tequila.
You can imagine the scenario in the US: the wait in ER, the wait for an x-ray, the wait to have it read, the wait for the cast and the multi-thousand dollar bill.
Including the driving time, and the time it took to go to Chedraui (local super market with a good pharmacy) to get the prescription, I was back home 2 hours after leaving. And the bill was $3996.00 PESOS ($300.00 US) That was for two docs, the x-ray and the medical supplies! And it will be reimbursed by my medical insurance.

The ER was the easy part.  Getting out of the car and into the house, changing to pajamas, and using the toilet all became hurdles.
I was in terrible pain that evening. And trying to get in the gate with the too-big crutches was awful. I fell backwards, and hurt my broken foot, and could not get up. I lay on the ground feeling miserable and thinking that in a split second my life had changed and not for the better.

I summoned all of my energy and strong will and using the car door, heaved myself up. I leaned against the car door while Ira went and got a rolling office chair  to use as a wheelchair.

At bed time, I managed to get into our low, platform bed and lay on my back with the dog’s head on my shoulder all night. He was protecting me. Or comforting me. His tiny breaths were comforting, if not as sweet as a baby’s!

Next post: The Coat Hanger, the Crutches and a One-Legged Bath.

Dear readers, I though that this had been posted ages ago. So I am posting it now.

My cast came off the second week of February, and I have slowly regained my balance, and ability to walk. I still have pain and some slight swelling, but I  am well on my way to  a complete recovery.

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