Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ecuadorian Medical System

I woke Maya up at 6 AM, cooked her oatmeal for breakfast and got down to wait for the bus on time. Only too late did I realize that school did not start today! So we were up early, with time to catch up on email and movies and practice violin before 9.

I called the only Ecuadorian physician I knew, who happens to be a neurosurgeon who trained in Canada. He works at the military hospital near Catolica University, and asked me to come and see him at 11. Somehow, with traffic and not knowing exactly where to go, we were late and missed him. I keep forgetting that I do speak Spanish, so I just have to ask to find out where I am going, but instead, I tried to find my way around on my own. When I finally saw Hernan, he listened to my story and reassured me, telling me that when hit on top of the head like I was, the brain just moves up and down in the skull and usually does not get damaged. He was more concerned about my neck, and when he examined me found some abnormalities in my reflexes. He insisted on an MRI and a neck Xray, which I had to pay for in cash only. The total was $133. I wanted to delay a day or so to save Maya the wait, but before I knew it, I had both procedures and was looking at my very intact brain and very damaged neck. I had a horrible skiing accident over 15 years ago and injured my cervical spine at that time. This recent event exacerbated the original injury, and Hernan was concerned.

I did not want Maya to hear any more (she was distressed already), so I agreed to return for an MRI Thursday. Hernan was helpful, the system felt efficient and not at all harried or stressful, I was relieved to have a working and uninjured brain, and appropriately worried about my neck.

Maya and I were to meet Maria and Gabriel (Hernan's wife and son) in Cumbaya, so we took the bus from Floresta through the Guapulo road (much shorter and bumpier route) to our destination, for a relaxed afternoon catching up and eating at our favourite Spanish restaurant. We had to rush back to Quito to make it to ballet class on time (we were late). I was going to go shopping and get dinner ready while Maya was dancing, but found myself catching up with the mothers at the ballet school. For months I was too scared and embarrassed to talk to anyone, so they probably thought I was unfriendly, but now that I am entirely comfortable with the language, I am getting to know all of them. Our children are together 9 or 10 hours a week, and it makes sense for the parents to know each other too. Patti was so distraught when I told her about the accident. She feels that I have had so many difficult experiences here in Ecuador, that my impression of Ecuador and Ecuadorians will be skewed. I tried to reassure her that I have many more positive than negative experiences, and that when I leave in three months ( as long as nothing horrible happens in the next three months!) I will miss this place. I am not sure I convinced her.

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