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So I had an “opportunity” to check out the Hospital in Costa Rica …

Written By: Gary on September 2, 2008 6 Comments

So except for the last trip I’ve never had any “stomach issues” and on that trip it was very minor and passed in few days (no pun intended). This trip the same thing happened for a few days and by Friday I was feeling fine. But then Saturday came…

I think it was the water in something I ate or drank, I don’t drink the water or take ice, but there are vegetables and juices and all sorts of stuff with water. It could have been the bottle of water I purchased from a street vendor on Thursday, the cellophane on the bottle seemed a little loose but the cap seemed sealed but it had crossed my mind enough to check and it seemed fine (but it’s still in my head).

Feel free to skip the rest of this blog post, I avoid getting graphic but it does have a bit on my experience with the health care here in Costa Rica.
Let’s just say Saturday morning I made a few too many trips to the restroom that I went to the farmacia before I left San Jose. I purchased some pills and some electrolyte mixture to add to water. Then I headed out to Samara still feeling lousy. When I stopped for lunch I couldn’t find the medicine anywhere but then I got to my hotel I tore everything apart and still couldn’t find the medicine. And, of course, all the pharmacies were closed by then.

My symptoms got worse as the day went on. That night I got up at least forty times during the night and it got worse as the night went on. The next day, Sunday, all the pharmacies and doctor’s offices were closed so I head on out to the hospital in Nicoya. If I was leaving town, then I was going to see a Doctor…

The hospital in Nicoya was about what I expected not much of a building, no Air Conditioning (fortunately it had been raining and was slightly cool) and they said the Doctor’s did not speak English. I checked in and sat down in the crowd. I starting translating words to Spanish so it’d go faster when I saw the Doctor. I expected to be waiting for hours but I’d say it was only about twenty minutes. The Doctor said he didn’t know English but between what I wrote down and what he knew, we only had to look up a few words. He sent me for an IV and some tests; the IV was really a huge syringe and it as at least an inch-and-a-quarter around and five inches long. It wasn’t too bad but it made me a little dizzy, which they didn’t want to understand as they’re trying to move me to the next room (when I plopped on the a chair and stopped, I think they got the hint).

All of these things had a very short wait except for waiting for the test results. The test results were at least two hours. Then waiting for the Doctor took a while which would have been fine if I could have sat down and not queued up where they had us. He prescribed what I assume to be a similar electrolyte mixture and some pills (more for the stomach pain I believe). Total time four maybe four-and-a-half hours.

The room for the IV was the nicest and I didn’t even need to try and say “utilice por favor una aguja nueva”; it was a specific sentence in the Costa Rican Spanish book for the phrase “please use a new needle”, I assumed it was in there for a reason. Some of the rooms were more warehouse-ish than anything with roofed cubicles in and around the building. FYI – the office for the Doctor and the syringe room were both air conditioned but that was it. I’m sure the building would freak many of you out :)

I got a receipt for the 40,000 colones (about $73) but it’s lacking info so we’ll see what Blue Cross does with it when I try to submit it…

So, I left there and headed towards the main highway, I would have sworn there was an “American Hotel” that I was planning to splurge for but I couldn’t find it. So I drove all the way to Tamarindo (second largest city?) and grabbed the second hotel I tried (the first one was full). I was still sick for about a day and a half, but I was slowly getting better. Part of the problem was that I wasn’t eating either, I normally graze and eat 4-5 times a day but I was averaging less than I meal a day. Monday night, I forced myself out for a second meal hoping only for some soup and a sandwich, and while I’d normally avoid an American chain while I vacation, the Subway fit that requirement for me. I took it back to my room and the soup was so good and I nibbled on the sandwich over the next few hours. From then on I’ve only been feeling better.

It’s Tuesday and I’m not perfect but I’m way better. I’m eating (most of three meals I’ve had) and I got more of a similar electrolyte solution from the farmacia today. I’ve felt well enough to wander around town and the beach a few times and I’m in a hotel I really like so that makes it even better…

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6 Responses to “So I had an “opportunity” to check out the Hospital in Costa Rica …”

  1. kilax says on: 3 September 2008 at 10:53 am

    Ugh! What a bummer. I am surprised this happened, since you go there so often! I’m happy you’re starting to feel better, and can enjoy the rest of the trip!

  2. radioactive tori says on: 4 September 2008 at 1:29 pm

    I’m glad you are feeling better! What a pain to have to deal with though!

  3. Gary Said... says on: 5 September 2008 at 12:12 am

    I found the drugs

    I found the medicine that I purchased at the farmacia the other day in San Jose that I couldn’t find later. I really have no idea why I …

  4. elle in portland says on: 24 September 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Gary–found your blog via Google checking 2008+e coli+Samara-hit #3!!

    I’ve been reading CR blogs/listserves for the past couple of months ’cause I’m on my final plans for a couple of vacations there-and whats on my mind right now is the e coli I’ve been reading about on one of the lists I’m on.

    I was at Samara a couple of years ago just for a very brief visit and loved the place-however as a long term beach bunny I know it would kill me to not go in the water-try to surf again (it’s only been 30 years since I last surfed), and I want to spend a week there in Jan-2009.

    Is it just some scaremongers who are posting gloom and doom e coli wise on Nicoya, Samara specifically, or is it really a bad situation. IYO of course as I don’t think you’re a doctor or play one on TV??
    Your comments re: hospital visits remind me of my last trip there, when I had to get a blood transfusion pre surgery..scary much??? So very unlike any clinic here, but efficient and inexpensive amazingly so!
    Any assist you might offer appreciated. hope you are much better now.

    elle in portland oregon

  5. Gary LaPointe says on: 24 September 2008 at 3:58 pm


    To clarify: I was sick before I arrived in Samara, I picked up whatever I had in San Jose or Montezuma. But still I never got to play on the Samara beach this trip (I did last April)

    I wouldn’t hesitate to go in the water if there are other tourists in the water (I say “tourists” because I figure the locals are generally adapted to whatever else is going on). Especially if they are surfing because you know they spend a lot of time in the water.

    Even when Tamarindo had their “flag” taken away (water safety) the beaches were still busy with travelers and surfers.

    I love Costa Rica but the beach towns seem to like to criticize the other beach towns; it’s feels more like a “high school rivalry” than anything. Not sure where you’re reading your info.

    But really, what do I know, I’m the one who got super sick :)

  6. Gary LaPointe says on: 5 October 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Actually, there have been a lot of new reports in the paper lately. I get the weekly English paper delivered to me but it takes a while to get here so that was on the front page from a few weeks ago.

    Jaco was on the list (or close to it this time), I don’t think I saw them on it before, but they’ve had so much development that’s not a shock to me.

    In the past (and this article) I’ve seen info on the problems but no solutions…

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