Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Trip to the Hospital

Before writing about May 1's Carnaval, I ought to write about that week's pre-party at the hospital.

Upon arriving in my house after dance practice, my stomach started hurting a fair bit then filled up with gas like a balloon. I elected to see what the public hospital was like, with my posse in escort (Lee, Susan, and Michael).

We entered the waiting area, and I was quite grateful not to have to figure out how to say "triage" in Spanish. Since no one was at what I assume was the front desk, Michael took me back into the screening area and put me on an empty bed (I am unsure whether permission was obtained or not). Several people came through and asked me the same questions over and over. I learned a new word ("pupusear"- it means what it sounds like it means), and my posse learned quite a bit more about my bowel functions than they probably cared to. After recording my symptoms, one nurse said, "Okay, who's responsible for you." We all looked at each other for a moment, then proceeded to elect Lee as my temporary guardian. Then a new doctor came in and shooed Lee and Susan out so they could "interrogate" me. Michael was allowed to stay for translation purposes. The doctor was evidently unaware that he speaks no English, except for a small vocabulary of cuss words and phrases from TV like "Prepare for the next battle!" which he utters randomly like a broken wind-up doll.

I was then ushered into an observation area with 5 beds. I was given bed #4, which smelled faintly of vomit. I considered myself lucky for not receiving bed #3, which had long black hairs all over it. Since there was no television in the room, I was pleased that the waiting area was opposite the main nurses' desk, with a busy hallway in between. I passed the time hanging out with an IV in my arm watching people go by, talking about their various problems in Spanish and Miskito. I also enjoyed contemplating the double doors that opened into the waiting area, which had window panels that, instead of glass, had old X-ray sheets.

A nurse came up and informed me that they would need a urine sample. I was given a test tube to pee in, which is an irritatingly small target area that cannot be hit without either constricting urination to a mere drip or peeing all over your hand. Fortunately for Lee, I was able to pull up and fasten my pants one-handed, though I briefly considered saying "Hey Lee, can you hold my pee?" purely for comic value.

On the way back to my bed, we swapped the urine sample for materials for a stool sample. Instead of the comfortingly sterile, quintessentially American plastic "collection hat" and little bottles with spoons attached, it was a little piece of cardboard and a little paper bag. I came to understand that I was to defecate in the toilet (which still had the leftovers from someone else's stool sample), then scoop up some of the probably tainted product with the strip of cardboard and put it in the little paper bag. I decided that I could settle for a less than fully rigorous battery of tests.

And so we languished for several hours in the observation area. Since it was hot, the nurse gave Lee a large piece of cardboad and admonished him to fan me vigorously. Lee passed the time playing games on his new phone, while Michael informed me of his progress based on the noises the cell phone was emitting. Lee then plucked out the tune of Happy Birthday note by note on the phone, probably to the annoyance of the patient in bed #1. I found myself contemplating the drastic measures taken by our friend Danilo, who had once given up, pulled out his IV, and walked out of the hospital.

A doctor with a motorcycle helmet in his hand came to my bed and introduced himself as the surgeon. He invited me to recite my litany of symptoms, which I was getting quite good at. He informed me it was probably not parasitic, then breezed out. Forty-five minutes later, the nurse came back with the test results and informed me that it was in fact parasitic. Happily, the surgeon had already left and avoided losing face. The nurse handed Lee the prescriptions. He said, "Shouldn't you give these to her?" "NO!" he replied. "She is SICK. She will rest while YOU fill the prescriptions."

I suppose that's the perk of having a person responsible for me.

Susan had already given up and gone home to bed. We seized the moment to follow her fine example.


  1. You didn't mention this in our phone call!! Is the medicine working?

  2. OMG, as someone who has been sick in a foreign company in a questionable hospital (though not as rustic as that one, by the looks of it), I TOTALLY get this! Beth and I were in the hospital for...well, I really don't know how long. Anyway, it was some sort of intestinal something something. I have questions...did they put the IV in your hand? Did it hurt really bad? I found the IV comparison pretty drastic. In the hand, and anytime they'd pump meds into it, it hurt like hell.

  3. Yes, they put it in my hand. It was excruciating.