The previous post shared information about the beauty and fun we had in Honduras. But as I alluded to in that post, we also encountered some medical situations. I will share the information about both of them in this post.
The first situation involved Geneva’s health. She began feeling poorly back in El Salvador. It started as a cold or maybe the flu. But then it didn’t go away. We read all about the flu epidemic in the USA, but we weren’t encountering that situation in Central America. When her fevers stopped, we hoped the other symptoms would also clear up. But they did not. She was still very tired through out the day, sleeping entire days and nights at a time. She was coughing deeply and furiously for hours on end and she had terribly congested sinus cavities, ears and chest. The coughs became painful and on the 40th day of being ill, and she finally agreed to locate medical care.
We found a terrific facility in Siguatapeque, Honduras. This was a private hospital with full services and walk in appointments for consultations with a doctor. We drove through the gates and checked in with the guard and explained that we were there for an “emergencia consulta”. He took down our plates and passport numbers. Then we found our way to the grassy parking lot and settled in below the beautiful pine trees.
The waiting area was empty at 5:00pm but the doctors are available until 9:00pm. And as a full service, seventy bed hospital, the emergency room is always ready. We were able to meet with a doctor right away. Dr. Jennifer Altamarino spoke both Spanish and English so we were relieved. We were explained the situation, medical history and symptoms. The doctor did a thorough exam and then ordered blood tests and a chest x-ray. The x-ray room was spotless but the thin lead sheets nailed to the back of the door were interesting. After reviewing the x-ray, the doctor placed Geneva on a nebulizer right away and then reviewed the blood test results. Everything pointed toward chronic or acute bronchitis. The doctor prescribed antifungals, antibiotics, steroids and cough syrup. She also ordered an intravenous injection of antibiotic to be delivered immediately. She asked for follow-up care and wanted to see us again in 5 days. We explained that we were travelers, living in a camper. She said that either we stay overnight, or she would admit Geneva to the hospital. That was an easy decision, since the parking lot was lovely we decided to camp there! After about 2 hours of medical attention, tests, x-ray and a batch of medications we were finished and they handed us the bill. It came to 2,567 Lempiras which is about $120.00 US Dollars. All of the services described here were just over a hundred dollars. Geneva was to return the next morning for another nebulizer treatment. Since we were camped in the beautiful parking lot, that was easy to do! After our morning coffee, she walked across the parking lot and back into the waiting room. They took her to the emergency room and hooked her to the nebulizer. This nebulizer treatment cost the equivalent of $1.50. For that price they also gave her the mask and the diffuser, so we could use it with a home unit. We paid the fee, then packed up camp and drove down to the gate. There we checked out with the guard, who had come to recognize from walking the dog around the grounds. We stopped at a public pharmacy and purchased a nebulizer that would allow Geneva to continue the twice-a-day treatments. Then we headed to Lago Yagoa (see previous post) to wait the 5 days while Geneva took her medicines and rested.
When we returned to the hospital we saw Dr. Altamarino again. She ordered another x-ray and did another thorough examination and she was not pleased with the progress. She called a specialist that works at the hospital and discussed the case. He ordered additional blood tests and agreed to see us in the morning. We stayed in our familiar campsite in the parking lot and the next morning we walked to a small cafe just down the hill from the hospital. The doctor had to do rounds at the hospital and wasn’t ready for us until after noon. He looked at the x-rays and blood tests, listened to the breathing patterns and coughing and consulted with another specialist on staff. Then he prescribed a different regimen of antibiotics and steroids. Then he wanted to see us again in three days. We paid the bill for this visit and purchased the suggested medications. Again the total was under $200 US Dollars (for a specialist, a second opinion, additional tests, another x-ray and more medications)
This time we went to the mountains and enjoyed Panacam while we waited for the treatments to take effect. On the way back we encountered another medical situation which I will describe shortly. When we returned to the specialist he was pleased with the progress. He ordered Geneva to complete the medications, continue resting and released her to travel on to Nicaragua provided that she would seek medical advice sooner if any symptoms returned. We are happy to report that she has continued to improve and is feeling great!
Coincidentally, while Geneva was dealing with this – her sister was in Arizona tackling her own medical issues. A painful shoulder had progressed to surgical levels and she was going to lose use of her right arm for a few weeks. Get well soon wishes should go out to Jessica and she recuperates from the shoulder repair. “I love you, little sister. I am sorry about falling on you and breaking your collarbone when we were younger. I am sure I caused the pain that you have been experiencing lately.”
Now back to Honduras-
The second medical situation involved a complete stranger that we encountered on the side of a dirt road. We were driving down from Panacam on a narrow, muddy one-lane road. We passed by a young man sitting on the side of the road. Geneva noticed that he was grimacing, and as she looked at him in the rear view mirror the problem registered. He wasn’t wearing a red sock, what she was seeing was blood covering his entire ankle and foot. She ran back to ask if he needed help and he weakly said yes. Mike backed the truck up to him, and we loaded him on the back deck. The young man was holding the standard Central American work equipment, a 24 inch steel machete. These are used to chop wood, cut down trees, harvest crops, trim lawns and much more. Every man carries one as he walks along the highways and streets. But this young man had slipped and cut a gash across the front of his shin with his machete. He had a gaping, bleeding gash of about three inches right across his lower leg bone.
Once he was on the deck, we elevated his foot on the back step. Geneva grabbed the first aid kit and applied a gauze pad and told him to press hard on it. Then she wrapped it tightly to hold it in place. By now we all had blood on us and he was looking pretty weak. He said that we should take him to the top of the hill. He held on and we drove carefully to the top of the hill.
When we arrived at the house, some women came out to take a look and started to unload him. We glanced around and saw no car, so we asked if he needed a ride to a doctor. The women replied that they had no money for a doctor, they would take care of him. Geneva said that the wound was large and deep and needed to be sewn closed. The ladies whispered a bit and then said that we could take him to a costrurera down the hill, if we were willing to pay the bill. For those who don’t speak Spanish, they were asking us to take him to a seamstress. Apparently seamstresses are expected to sew dresses, patch clothes and stitch up gaping flesh wounds! Geneva was having none of that and quickly explained that she would like to take him to a doctor (we would pay for it). The ladies argued that they appreciated that, but if we did this there would be no way for him to get back. Geneva reassured them that she would make sure that he had a ride back to this house. Once that was settled, we were bumping down the dirt road with the man on the back deck. We would proceed to the nearest mountain village to seek a medical clinic.
As we came to the edge of the first village we paused to ask directions to a clinic. The folks sitting on their front porch hastily explained a location and we drove away in that direction. A few moments later, they pulled around our truck and indicated to follow them. They had jumped in their car and were going to lead us to the location. Once our little parade arrived, we discovered that the clinic was closed. The next nearest medical care was over 25 minutes away. No problem, we would go for it. We waived the helpers goodbye and prepared for the main road.
By now the young man (perhaps 19 years old) was pretty weak. We were going to hit highway speeds, and did not want him on the back deck. So we moved him into the camper and tried to avoid getting blood everywhere as best we could. He laid out on the couch and dozed off as we drove to the next clinic we found on the map.
We entered the bustling town that we had passed through during our visit to Lago Yagoa the week before. We knew the main roads through town. The first clinic was closed (it was a Sunday) but the cleaning lady directed us to another clinic. We pulled up in front of a Red Cross type facility and arranged to get the young man inside. He was whisked to a care room, placed on a bed (patched in duct tape) and newspapers were arranged under his bloody foot.
The workers unwrapped the bandage, scrubbed him clean and prepped the wound for the doctor by injecting anesthetic directly into the wound. The doctor arrived and hastily put in ten stitches. He prescribed antibiotic injections and pills. He explained to the young man a timeline for the medicines and then he left. From what we could gather, there were at least four other emergencies waiting.
The nurses cleaned the patient up and then walked us to the pharmacy next door to pick up the prescriptions and pay for the medical services. We also bought him some clean bandages and dressings to take home. The entire bill came to 1,150 Lempira or about $30 US Dollars. Yes, that is right…….. full emergency room treatment plus medications for about $30 Dollars.
We put the young man back into the camper with a soda and a candy bar. By now he was pretty weak and tired. We also bought him a new pair of crocs, as his others were extremely bloody. Once he was comfortable we were ready to drive the 25 miles back. We headed back to the turn off for the mountain road that he lives on.
At the junction, we stopped and loaded him into a taxi with his old, bloody shoes in a bag, his new shoes on his feet and a smile on his face. We paid the taxi and said goodbye. We never learned his name. He never asked ours. We didn’t exchange any details. We feel confident that the doctor was able to provide better care than the local seamstress for this medical emergency. And we are hopeful that our contribution to his health care prevented a severe infection or worse.
We stopped at the next car wash and cleaned the blood off the back deck.
After the truck was cleaned up, we headed to the hospital for Geneva’s follow up visit and final results.
Our medical experiences in Honduras cost us a total of about $400 US Dollars by the time they were all finished. We do carry travelers insurance through a company called World Nomads. We will apply for reimbursement with the receipts and documentation from Geneva’s care. Perhaps it will pay off, perhaps not.
We are now enjoying Nicaragua. Watch for a post about our experiences here. And perhaps a few more guest posts, also. Thanks for following along with our journey!