Category Archives: doctor

Inside a Chilean Hospital

The pain came on so fast and with no warning. I sat down and tried to think clearly. As soon as Cara and her friend’s Starbucks orders were ready, we left with the plan to get a cab back to the hostel. Before making it from Starbucks to the corner, I had to sit down on a bench. The pain in my legs was excruciating.

Taxi back to hostel. The three of us took the quick ride back to the hostel. We dropped off Cara’s friend and I went to my room to bring the Argentinian prescription to the hospital. I figured this medicine was the culprit since I had been fine otherwise.

The staff at the hostel suggested we go to the private hospital. This was promising since I learned from my Uruguayan hospital experience that private hospitals are supposedly better, they speak English and it’s more efficient.

In the taxi, I profusely apologized to Cara. She had such a calming presence and we both said how thankful we were that we were together and I wasn’t alone.

Taxi to private hospital. We arrived to a nondescript building and here, I took a number, like you would at a deli counter. Then we settled in for what we thought would be a long wait.

After no more than 5 minutes of waiting, my number was called. I went to the desk to get registered, which was basically them taking my name, my emergency contact and my passport number. The pain had minimized but my concern about why had not.

I returned to the waiting area with Cara and seconds later my name was called.

If you’ve ever been to the ER in the United States, what happens next will shock you.

I was called in, and instead of sitting for an hour waiting to be seen, A NURSE WAS WAITING FOR ME. We spoke for a few minutes about what had happened in Argentina, the medicine I was prescribed and what had just happened less than an hour prior.


Then, while we were conversing, the doctor came in, examined me, told me that I had an allergic reaction, wrote a new prescription and basically said, no charge.

the doctor and i

All smiles with the nurse after the doctor told me everything would be okay.

Cara and I headed to the door but before we left, an administrator ran after me asking for payment. I was so relieved it was nothing terrible and I knew I had travel insurance.

So with a total bill at around $100USD for the visit, I happily paid and Cara and I were off to find another taxi to go fill the new prescription at the pharmacy.

This entire hospital visit was less than ONE HOUR.

Efficient, pleasant and cheap. As healthcare should be.


All is well, until it is not

Arriving into Vina, collecting my backpack and finding a taxi felt like it took just minutes. I was soon en route to my hostel, where I knew I had a bed waiting.

It seemed like no time before checking in and finding my room, which had 8 bunks. After quick introductions and a quick scan of the room, it looked like it was just 3 of us for the night. There were no other backpacks or beds awaiting their owners.

Score! A party town and it looked like I was going to get a good night’s sleep since my roommates were already in bed reading! Unless someone else was checking in even later, this room was going to be quiet tonight.

It looked like everything was finally working out after all. I just had to take my first dose of medicine. Remember that medicine from the pharmacy in Argentina? From the bloody arm fiasco at the hotel in Mendoza?

It was a powder medicine, so I mixed in some bottled water and took my first dose of medicine and went straight to bed.

Woke up after a terrific night’s sleep (and one hell of a long day before) and took my second dose of medicine. Threw on a bathing suit and cover up (after all, we’re in a Chilean beach town) and went to the common area to meet up with Cara and her friends.

Cara had heard there was a Starbucks in town. I don’t drink coffee but I was certainly up for exploring since I had only seen the streets of Vina by dark just a few hours before.

So Cara, two of her friends and I headed out to find Starbucks.

After a short walk and a longer wait we were about to place our orders. And I started feeling a horrible pain in my legs.

Visiting the Hospital in Montevideo

The next morning, I called the Embassy again and they told me to go to the British Hospital — which, thanks to Lonely Planet, was where I was going to visit anyway.

I didn’t think I needed a hospital for my eye but I wasn’t about to take any chances. Romina and I went to the British Hospital. On the way there she told me this was the ‘posh hospital.’ I was intrigued.

We arrived and went to the floor for eyes. I signed in and took a seat.

No more than 15 minutes later my name was called. We were brought into the room (yes, I took Romina with me!) and we met my doctor, who spoke excellent English, and I had a full exam with a diagnosis and a prescription, less than one hour later.

Eye doctor

British Hospital

My total bill? Approximately $100 USD. I had travel insurance which I would need to submit this to but $100 USD for an out-of-pocket payment for an emergency room visit, in a private hospital. Not sure how the hospital industry works but this would NEVER happen in the US. A trip in an ambulance alone costs over $400 in New York City.Outside the Hospital

The prescriptions would mean no contacts for another week and eye drops for the next three weeks but I was well on my way to recovery!

I Wish I Packed Two More Pairs…

Before I left New York I had met three other solo female travelers leaving New York for various destinations in South America just a few days after me.

After one week, I sent them my advice from on the road and a couple of questions – one more urgent than the others, as you’ll see:


J – If you can, get another Eddie Bauer bag. Would be great to have a second. No need to duct tape logo, it peels off after three bus rides.

Day pack

Also, take less than you think you need. I did pack lightly and I still have too much. I also packed 8 pairs of underwear and have not been in a bathroom that is clean enough to wash my own underwear. Will definitely need to do a wash in MVD tomorrow. Wish I packed two more pairs.

C – Are are you in Santiago yet? I’m still in Uruguay but if you still want to do that weekend of the 10th in Vina im totally game. Soy sola Americana en Uruguay.

M – Please can you ask your family if they can recommend an English speaking eye doctor in Montevideo. I think I scratched my cornea the other day and am in pain. Have not been in a city yet so hoping to see a doc there. Will be in MVD for two nights I think. Muchas gracias!

Safe travels ladies. Hope to meet up with you soon!

Just a Sunday in January…on the Beach

My right eye had been bothering me for a few days, but when I woke this morning it was itching more than it had been.

I put glasses on and shrugged it off. Romina, Mariela and I had a lovely breakfast at the hostel before heading to the beach for the day.

We went to the beach, and the girls had packed beach bags. Blankets, magazines and snacks, not unlike what I would pack for a beach. Though it was nice to share a blanket and not sit on my scarf again.

We hung out on the beach, relaxed, chatted and read magazines for a few hours and then, since it was 29 January, I was to celebrate my first holiday on my trip.


Lucky Thirteen

I recently learned that we all have 13 pairs of ribs. Being that I am not a biology expert, this was news to me. I’m not sure how many I thought I had because I never gave it much thought.

Thirteen pairs is twenty six ribs so it is symmetrical but everything else in our bodies are symmetrical and come with an even number. You know, ten pairs of two fingers, two eyes, a pair of arms and a pair of legs. 

I also learned that if you break a rib, there’s nothing to do for it. Could you imagine if you broke your leg and there was nothing to do for it?

Sort of your random tidbits for the day.

Great medical care in unexpected places

One of my fears about traveling is getting sick and just wanting to be home.

After reading this story from Legal Nomads and being surprised with the level of care found in Siberia, it’s good to remember that Western medicine may not be the be all end all, and to have an open mind about medical care while on the road.

Unlikely Places to Sustain Injury

Yep. I have gotten hurt at all of these places.

  • The gym
  • The supermarket
  • On 6th Avenue in Manhattan, twice
  • Work
  • Home
  • On a glacier

I had the bullets of my injury-sustaining locales saved as a draft post for some time. And I sustained injury over the weekend. So perfect. Here goes.

You know you have a tendency for injuries when your orthopedist says ‘what now?’ as he walks into the examination room.

Here’s my criteria to see if you have a tendency for injuries:

1. You must have a go-to orthopedist (check)
2. The reception desk staff knows your first name when you call to make a same-day appointment using your last name (check)
3. You get that same-day appointment (check)

I may not be able to get a table at the hottest restaurant in Manhattan, but damn, I can get a same-day appointment with my orthopedist.

As a recovering hypochondriac (RH) it’s kind of a bummer to hear the doctor tell you everything is fine because as a RH I only go to the doctor now when I am 90% certain there is a problem. Today’s visit, I was 100% sure there was a problem because the range of motion in my right arm wouldn’t even allow me to get dressed and wash my hair using both of my upper extremities.

Number 4: you use phrases like ‘range of motion’ and ‘upper extremities’ as part of your regular vocabulary because you have been injured so much. This one I realized today when I told the doctor that I had limited range of motion as part of my injury description.

There was an issue once he took a look at the x-rays. It’s sort of my ‘I told you so’ when he found something wrong (a busted fluid sack in my shoulder).

At the end of the visit, my orthopedist sent me to my regular doctor. You may think I did this backwards, but my shoulder was in such agonizing pain that I just skipped the regular doctor step because I had gone to the orthopedist thinking that I would need emergency shoulder surgery in order to reattach it to my body – and who better to do it, than an orthopedic surgeon.

My regular doctor wound up sending me for another round of x-rays, of the chest this time. I went into this second round of x-rays thinking he would find something like a punctured or collapsed lung or internal bleeding — okay, maybe I am not a completely recovered hypochondriac, but I do have a very good imagination.

When I went for this next round of x-rays, I basically forced this tech to agree that if he found something seriously wrong that he wouldn’t let me leave the office. He wouldn’t commit to this fully (insurance and legal obligations I am sure) but he didn’t stop me from leaving so I felt pretty darn relieved walking out of medical facility number three today.

While the injury I needed to tend to today was more about bad luck, at least my injury on the glacier makes for a better story.

Making an awkward situation even more awkward

I admit I make grammar and spelling mistakes. But I also admit I am one of those people who circles errors in take out menus. There are more of us, I hope?

So the other day I was in a doctor’s office, and the name of the facility was spelled wrong on one of the five forms I had to fill out. So because I was terribly nervous, and clearly this is when I am a comedienne, I kindly told the receptionist that the facility was spelled wrong. Not so quick on the uptake, she replied ‘That is the name of our facility.’

I replied, ‘It is but it is missing the letter c’ – and then, because now I couldn’t stop making an awkward moment even more awkward at this point, I pointed to the correctly spelled form to show her the difference on the incorrect form (Yes, I really did this and thankfully the waiting room was empty). She said ‘Oh’ and clearly didn’t care at all.

To lighten the mood (the extremely awkward mood I had just created) I told her that I am, in fact, someone who circles typos in take out menus so don’t worry about me finding a typo. I said something along the lines of, I’m sure most people don’t notice. I think this made it a little more awkward and finally secured my spot in the ‘She’s a wacko’ file. I was super nice and friendly to offset the freak factor so hopefully I am not totally written off as some kind of proofreading lunatic.

Are You Feeling Short of Breath?

The past few days I was feeling fine except for this pesky cough that had me hocking up a lung. So I went to the nurse’s office (yes, we have one at work) to make sure everything was okay.

She did the requisite temperature check and the tongue depressor check, and then out came the stethoscope. I always think I breathe too fast for this to work, and I have my doubts.

But this time, she asked me to breathe in and out, in and out, in and out. Yes, this actually went on about ten times until she asked me if I was feeling short of breath?

You’re asking me to basically pant like a dog over and over and over. Um…YES! Of course I am short of breath!