So here we were, 24 hours before flying to the Corn Islands for a Christmas ‘vacation’ and Andrea just got admitted into a Nicaraguan hospital with Dengue Fever! Can someone please remind me what use mosquitoes are to the planet again? This is certainly not a pretty disease, but fortunately Andrea is strong and healthy and will fight her way through it – if one thing comes out of it, we will definitely be wearing mosquito repellent going forward. I had been very blasé about spraying myself and usually only did it once I had been bitten, mostly for itch relief. Andrea was a bit more conscious about putting it on regularly. We didn’t bring any mosquito tablets with us to Central America, but that’s only for Malaria, not Dengue!
On Tuesday when I came home from Spanish classes I found Andrea upstairs working from bed, totally out of character for her. She was complaining of feeling nauseas and a little feverish. No major deal at this stage due to her having felt like this on a few prior occasions in the US. We even went out for a few drinks that evening, although she did make a few comments regarding not feeling 100%. I was starting to get Malaria thoughts going through my head, leading to me googling the heck out of it. Some things sounded similar and some didn’t make sense so I said nothing about it, plus I didn’t want to put Malaria thoughts into Andrea’s head, not yet anyway. The next day she was similar, but again not all day and not too bad, just a generally groggy feeling with a slight fever, nausea, a headache behind her eyes and a sensitive skin feeling on her back. I mentioned going to be checked out and after initially dismissing it we decided to visit a local pharmacy where they spoke English. We bought a thermometer and asked where there was an English speaking doctor. By now it was after 5pm and the doctor wouldn’t be back in the office until 3pm the following afternoon, no big deal, at least we knew where to go the next day. We were now down to a little over 36 hours before our flight to Big Corn Island and I was getting concerned.
Thursday morning came around and Andrea commented that she had slept well and felt much better, so after showering she headed downstairs to get breakfast and start work. No sooner had she logged into work she was lying down on the couch feeling all of a sudden much worse than the previous 2 days. This sucked now! I headed off to the Euro Cafe to ask the American owner where there was a good doctor and he referred me to the same Dr Blanco as the pharmacy the previous day. We couldn’t wait until 3pm so I demanded Andrea get up as we were leaving – this did not go down so well due to the very bad nausea she was suffering from. In the end, after eating a little we managed to get a taxi to Dr Blanco’s clinic, but unfortunately there was no one that could look at Andrea at that time. We were referred to a clinic around the corner where we met a nice Nicaraguan doctor who spoke no English, but did have a guy floating around the office who managed to interpret for us.
The first thing she mentioned testing for was Dengue Fever! After some initial tests she was pretty sure that’s what Andrea had, but with only a slight temperature and marginally low blood pressure we would have to wait for the blood tests to come back an hour later to be sure. And sure enough that was it – at least we had a diagnosis but knew that this meant being admitted to the hospital for around 4 days! This was not a fun thought as at this point we could only imagine what the inside of a Nicaraguan hospital might be like. The doctor wrote up a report of her findings that we were to hand to the reception of the Emergency Room. I could see in Andrea’s eyes that she was very scared, both by the diagnosis and the thought of spending time in a foreign hospital where we’d already been told they probably wouldn’t speak English. I didn’t feel much better as I had no idea what Dengue Fever was and how serious it could be, although I thought I remember a friend in the US say he had it before and we’d met a group of people in Costa Rica who knew of a guy who contracted it. Neither had good things to say about it.
The hospital was only just out of Granada, on the road to Managua, so after a short taxi ride we were handing the paperwork over to the ER receptionist. The hospital was just as I’d imagined! We completed some paperwork and were then called into a consultation room. I’ll leave the rest of the blog to Andrea as she’s the one that got to experience 2 nights in one of the poorest hospitals in Central America.
2 Nights and 3 Days in Hospital Amistad Japón
I wish I could eloquently put into words the “out of body” experience I have had the last 3 days. I’m still not out of the woods with the Dengue Fever, but I’m feeling much better since we demanded to leave the hospital this morning. As I was lying under my mosquito net, I jotted down a few observations that I thought were interesting.
1. I’m in a female only room with 5 other patients. There are all much older than I am and one is near death. She has barely moved for 3 days. I’m glad she has family to look after her, because the doctors only check on her once a day. Nothing is private, there are no curtains, no call buttons. My bed has a manual crank so I can sit up and lie down. I can’t crank it on my own with my IV bag. I feel like I’m chained to this bed because the cord isn’t long enough for my hand to lie flat beside me.
2. The same bed pans are used for brushing your teeth if you are not able to leave the bed. Luckily, I could use the sink, but there is only running water at certain hours during the day. I used the sink at the nurses station because I needed Wayne to assist when brushing my teeth as I was holding my IV bag in my hand (no rolling stands to hang it from!). They told us it would cause contamination and to go else where….are you serious? There are stray dogs in the hospital and my Colgate is going to contaminate the sink!!!!!
3. My “neighbors” daughter spits on the floor and whips it with her shoe. I have never witnessed anything like it. This was not a one time event – this was normal practice for her (and her mother, but she was ill so she gets a pass!).
4. The staff are not very helpful, especially because I can’t speak Spanish. They toss pills my way and they ignore my IV bag that didn’t drip for hours on end. Dengue Fever was the least of my health concerns as I worried about needles in this place.
5. You don’t want to be in this hospital alone. The staff will not do anything to help you. Your family caregivers are expected to give you a bath, change your sheets, provide all your food and water, and provide your toilet paper….I’m serious! I didn’t have toilet paper the first day as we didn’t know it’s not provided in the hospital. The bathrooms are a disgrace and there are no sinks to wash your hands. There are not flushing levers, they have been replaced with fishing line. The caretakers also bring their own Lysol to keep the floors clean.
6. While Wayne was out locating a hotel for him since we were checking out of our house, the other family caregivers were very good to me. I was silently crying when one pulled a chair near me, reached her hand under my mosquito net and held my hand as I continued to cry. I was scared! Another time, a caregiver stripped me down and held me while I peed. OMG! I wonder if Wayne would have done the same for their family members…I think probably not!
7. I’m covered by a mosquito net with red ink that looks like splattered blood. The net is held up by 2 IV stands and tied to windows near my bed with shoe strings. In the children’s ward, the nets are held up with sticks retrieved from the trees in the courtyard.
8. There are stray dogs that roam the hospital which is a series of rectangular courtyards with rooms surrounding them. They never came in my room, but there was nothing stopping them from entering.
9. Standard issue equipment for a patient is a bed sheet, and only one. If you are lucky enough to have Dengue Fever, you get a mosquito net too. There are no pillows, no gowns, no covers.
10. Wayne was in trouble twice during my stay. The first was for taking pictures of me in the hospital. It is not allowed and he was asked by security to refrain from taking the pictures. Unfortunately, we don’t have many to share of this horrifying experience. The second time, Wayne was resting his feet (shoes on) on my bedside table when a nun asked him to remove his feet. But, did she just see my neighbor spitting on the floor? I guess feet on the edge of a table is far worse than spitting on the floor!
11. I don’t know how I survived 3 days in this place. I pity the people that have no other options. We’ve since found out there is a state of the art private hospital 20 miles down the road. Now I know why there were no other westerners in this place. I’m sure they speak English at the other hospital too.
12. On the third day, I knew that there was no way I was spending another second in this place. I threw such a fit yelling the only words I knew – I don’t think they are all Spanish!!!. “Salida! Fini! Mi Casa!!” I think they got the message, but they just ignored me. I showed the aide that I wanted this IV out – she refused! I thought I was going to die – I was hysterical. We chased down the only doctor that spoke English and I gave him an earful. My IV bag had not worked for 15 hours, there’s no running water to wash my hands, no soap, no one checks on me, I can’t tell anyone if I have a problem because I don’t speak Spanish! He didn’t want me to leave as my blood work had not come back yet. I didn’t care what the results showed – I was leaving. They agreed to let us “abandon” the hospital and we had to show our paperwork to the armed security guard before we could exit.
I’m so thankful this experience is over. Wayne and I wish we had plenty of money to donate to this hospital. It’s so sad and depressing for these patients and our hearts truly go out to them. I also pray I don’t have any long term effects from my stay there. I’m still worried about those needles!
I guess the mosquito wasn’t finished after sucking my blood as she moved on to Wayne and now he’s suffering too, but there’s no fear of him checking in to Hospital Japon.
December 20th – December 22nd 2012