Thursday, May 29, 2014

Adding to My List of Accomplishment: Emergency Surgery

Well.  I was suppose to share with you guys a few weeks ago and then I decided that emergency surgery in my second language would be a fun thing to add to my list of accomplishments.  Sorry to cut out on you like that!

It was weird, one day I felt fine, was going about my business of cleaning up from the Easter Holiday and then next I was curled up on the floor in pain.  My husband finally said, "We are going to the doctor.  Get in the car!"  Even on the way there I started to feel a little better and kept saying, "it's probably nothing.  We should just go home."  Am I the only one who does that?

We are blessed with a completely bilingual doctor who has a heart for missionaries and does a fantastic job of walking us through the medical care here.  While he was trying to figure out what was going on, he finally looked at me and said, "did you tell anyone here you were in this much pain?"  "No."  "Ok, we are heading to ER."

The clever thing about the doctor's offices here in Costa Rica is that they are in the hospital.  So, when the doctor said "We are heading to ER" that meant going down an elevator and around the corner.  Which was good, because I was in a lot of pain. You know the scale deal, 1 to 10?  Probably around a 8.  Sorta like labor, but no break in between contractions.

They had the typical hard time of finding a vein for an IV, but in just about a half hour, they wheeled me down the hall to radiology and I had an ultrasound to figure out exactly what was going on.  The same ultrasound doctor we had with our last baby came in and gave us much less exciting news.  Instead of discovering we were going to have a baby boy, we found out I had a giant cyst, well, two giant cysts (that actually turned out to be one big huge one that had twisted twice...but I am getting ahead of myself.)  After I learned the new vocabulary word "quiste," we also learned that I was going to be having surgery that night.  As in just a few hours.

When we thought I was just going to hang out in the ER for a few hours, we had called friends that lived close to the hospital to come take our two littlest for the day (we live about 10 miles from the hospital, but it takes 45 minutes to get there).  So, at the point we learned I as going to have surgery, they were already with there.  Those same friends picked our oldest up from school, and took care of all the boys for the next three days.  Can you say AMAZING friends?  Yeah, all at the drop of a hat.

The hospital we were at is one of the best in Central America, Clinica Biblica.  People actually come here for medical tourism and a lot of the staff has some English.  And yes, the nurses still wear the cute little nursing hats here.  The surgery was successful and they got that nasty thing out.  Also, my Spanish is much better under the influence of pain killers!  I got to spend two days in the hospital. 

Meanwhile, we had tons of support!  People jumped right in to take care of the boys, to bring meals, to get groceries, to take care of our dog, to help our families in the States know what was going on (yeah, that is a whole story in and of itself! Stupid internet!) My mom was able to come down for about a week and a half to help!  Amazing!

The pathology report came back and everything is fine, for which we are thankful! What a wild few weeks! 

But all this brings up some questions, some we had thought about ahead of time and some we hadn't.  It might be good for you to think through some of these in case you are in the same situation!

  • Where would you go to take care of minor medical issues?
  • Where would you go for major medical issues?
  • What language is the medical care in?  How comfortable do you feel in that language?  Is there anyone who could help you navigate in an emergency?
  • What would happen with your kids/pets? 
  • How would you communicate with family/supporters in your passport country?
  • How does your medical insurance work in your country of service? 
  • Does your mission provide any support/services for emergencies?

Alright, your turn.  What is your best story of medical care overseas?


  1. oh my - our medical experiences while overseas have ranged from extraordinarily wonderful to terrifying...

    while in Niger, we chose to use the local medical system most of the time, sometimes consulting with our local misso dr friends if there was something we didn't understand. in 14 years, we left the country once, when both local drs and misso drs recommended following that path. i returned to the states for the delivery of our youngest due to some potential concerns, but everything would have been fine if we'd stayed. :-) the local language was french and the occasional doctor who could throw out an english phrase, but for the most part - our understanding of french was better than their ability to explain in english. our misso/local friends community was great - helping with our children, house, bringing us meals while hospitalized, staying at the hospital with us, etc. our communication was via email and a single phone call to my parents to get the word out to other family members or when we didn't have access to email. no surgeries, but two babies, a significant eye injury, complicated/resistant cases of malaria and dysentery, fractured bone, and then there was typhoid... we had an hsa for awhile and we submitted those claims. otherwise, we never bothered because we never came close to the deductible, when overseas. we did have evac insurance - but don't know how good it was because we never had to use it.

  2. Our best/happiest/"different-est" story is from when our daughter broke her arm a few years ago. We went to our little rural hospital, which is supposed to be the best around for "traumatology," even if they don't do much else. :-) It was the evening, so the x-ray lady had already gone home. They sent the ambulance out to get her. She did an x-ray, and then sent my husband off to buy plaster and other cast supplies, while I sat with our daughter. Ah, yes, I already wrote about all this:
    (I do have to wonder a little: the best traumatology center, and they don't have casting supplies? And then they mixed the plaster up in a soup pot, with water heated in an electric tea pot, both just like I have in my home kitchen.)

    Language is no problem with medical stuff for me now. I've only parented on this side of the ocean, and children's health vocab is actually more comfortable for me in Russian than English. But babysitting for other children... that's been the hard part. After our last baby was born, I stayed in a maternity hospital in another town. I thought I would starve! My husband was home with our older children; all the other women there had their mothers and other relatives bringing them food. Your questions to consider are really good ones.