Written by: Deb C
As we settle into our new life on the rock of Roatan, we continue to cross milestones as we settle in as residents. Building our own house gave us plenty to check off the list. Needing medical care has been my latest expat adventure. I have recently discovered that going to a doctor on my now-home rock is nothing like the doctor experiences in my previous life in the U.S.
I had been battling a kidney/bladder infection of some kind for days. The Monday after Turkey Day, I finally decided to pick up some meds that I thought would be suitable for treating it, and I took them for the requisite five days. Here on the island, you can go to the farmácia and tell them what you want (as long as it’s not a narcotic) and they just give it to you, no prescription needed. I started to feel better, and then, unfortunately, not better again. By the following Wednesday night, I decided that it was time to stop Google-medicating myself; I needed to see a doctor.
I called the clinic closest to me and made an appointment to see Dra. C. at noon the next day. I got there about 15 minutes early, figuring I would have to fill out forms, somehow managing to forget where I am. I drove around the plaza looking for Centro Medico Isleno but couldn’t find it, so I called their office for directions. The girl told me that they were located behind ReMax, also informing me that the doctor wouldn’t actually be there until 3pm. But but but… what about my noon appointment???
Okay, no sweat, I should have expected this. I ran a few errands while I was there and went home to wait. At 3pm, I headed back out and finally found the place (Really? Behind Remax? Not quite.) The door was locked, but after some knocking, the girl got up and opened it for me. On request, I gave her my full name and where I lived and sat down to wait. A few minutes later, she walked over to the TV, picked out a DVD laying by the laptop, and started it up. A Spanish movie being played LOUD filled the room (Is this for my benefit? Gee, thanks…).
My time to see the doctor came. She was a young girl who wore her hair wrapped up in what looked like a turban. She had on a very low-cut dress and as a result, her boobs were practically falling out and laying on the table when she sat down in front of me. She grabbed a blank piece of paper, drew an X on one side, flipped it over, and asked me my whole name, age, and occupation, writing it all down. She then asked me my symptoms. I gave her the whole story, yadda yadda yadda. She took my blood pressure (it was normal), and then thumped on my back a few times. She then requested a urine culture.
Now normally, this isn’t a big deal. In my stateside experience, you simply go pee in a cup that they provide for you there, put it in the little compartment between the toilet and the lab, they call you with the results, and phone in your prescription. However, this is not the states. I keep reminding myself: This is an adventure. In fact, I think that will be my new mantra: This is an adventure. This is an adventure…
Here in Roatan, providing a urine culture meant that:
1) I, personally, had to go to the farmácia and purchase my own specimen bottle ($0.80, please). I was instructed to wait until the next morning to pee in it first thing. The doctor told me specifically, her exact words: “I want your first pee of the day.” Ok, then that is what you shall have.
2) I got up the next morning, produced my sample, and had to drop it off at the lab behind the farmácia. ($4, please.)
3) Next, I had to go back to the lab at 2pm and pick up my own results. The girl must have remembered my name because she just sifted through the envelopes and handed me my results, no questions asked. While the casual vibe is nice, it certainly leaves some room for error, one would think…
4) I then took my results back to the doctor’s office, as instructed. After a short wait, she looked at the results and informed me that the antibiotics I took apparently killed all my positive bacteria, but not the negative bacteria. (Interesting… so much for self-medicating…) She gave me two options: a shot once a day for five days or pills for ten. She said she preferred the shots because they are faster-acting. I agreed to the shots, ready to start treatment. But alas, it was not going to be that simple (surprise!).
I was sent back to the farmácia to pick up the medicine we would need. But the farmácia only had 3 doses (surprise again!), and I was told I would need to go elsewhere for the other two required to complete my treatment. They sold me the three they had for roughly $8 and gave me my prescription back.
Medication in hand, I returned to the doctor’s office, was taken behind a sheet acting as a curtain, and was told the shot had to be given in my BUTT. Wonder-freaking-ful. The sheet should have been my clue that there would be no added comforts here. Never before had I considered the Lidocaine they swab on your skin to numb it pre-injection as a luxury, but now I see that it is. The shot hurt like hell. And guess what? There were no band-aids to be had either. My butt bled all the way through my yoga pants on the way home (and no, I don’t do yoga, they’re just pants).
I dutifully went in for three more shots/punishment, only to realize as the days wore on that this medicine was doing absolutely nothing for my symptoms. Desperately seeking further advice, my nurse friend Andrea sent me down to Anthony’s Key medical lab for more tests. I was relieved to be able to pee in a bottle they actually provided there and handed it back to them immediately. They emailed me the results (modern advances!) and I forwarded them to Andrea. She put me on a different medication and I finally felt better within two days.
Last night, when I took a shower, I noticed my butt cheeks still really hurt. When I was drying off, I looked in the mirror and noticed HUGE bruises on both my cheeks, and there were mysterious large lumps on each of them. No exaggeration – they’re bigger than a silver dollar and hard as a rock. I took pictures and sent them to Andrea (and yes, I titled the email, “Photos of my Ass“). She freaked out (after she stopped laughing, of course) and agreed that the doctor really did a number on me. She told me to contact her right away if they got worse. I’m beginning to think Dra. C. is not quite as qualified as her title would suggest. Damn, my butt is sore.
My next purchase was a kid’s inflatable inner tube, which has been my only comfort while sitting as I allow my cheeks to heal.
This is an adventure. This is an adventure. This is an adventure.
Say it with me a few times…