All medical appointments here are adventures, whether it is getting there or struggling with the language since everything is in español! Plus for my heart only right now, I am using the public healthcare system which here means all doctors and other staff work for the government, which always slows things down everywhere. 🙂 My October appointment had already been moved up to this November week because I was getting a new doctor.
This year they also decided to divide my appointment into two appointments, one for the EKG called electrocardiograma here with no initials used. Both appointments were last week (Tues & Thur), my first week back from a trip, already busy with the usual catch-up:
I get a taxi to the 12 noon bus to Alajuela for my 2 pm appointment which in theory I should take the 1 pm bus (45 min ride), but there are too many possibilities like bus breaking down and long lines at hospital. — I arrive Alajuela before 1:00 and with a taxi to the big government hospital a little after 1 pm, show ID & cita (appointment) to guard and take elevator to the 4th floor for Cardiology and wait in this regular line (photo below):
It is to check in for my 2 pm appointment and then realize the adulto major (senior adult) line is a little shorter and I move to it and from a chair in it I took the above photo. Both lines move very slow and at nearly 2:00 I’m the second person in line for check-in when over the loudspeaker they call my name among several Hispanic names which is always funny (Gonzalez, Rodriquez, Doggett, Rojas). And of course my name is hard to pronounce. This means they see we haven’t checked in yet and so they call us to front of line and check us in. (So why wait an hour huh?)
She sends me to Puerta nueve (Door 9) where I wait with about eight other people for our EKGs. After about 20 minutes I am called in and of course an EKG only takes a few minutes and I’m off to the front door and a waiting taxi to get me to the Atenas Bus. Not bad for free medical service!
And oh yes, now they don’t worry about communicating with each other, the technician gives me a paper copy of my EKG folded into an envelope for me to take with me to my doctor appointment on Thursday. – Now the taxi ride to bus is easy with Oscar, a nice young taxista who handles the Alajuela traffic well and I include a good tip as always (it pays off in the long run as you will see).
It was not until I arrived in Atenas that I realized my cell phone was not in my front pocket. I walk back to our bus station and the nice folks there did not find my phone on the bus, but the Spanish-only young man grabbed a high school kid to translate and long story short he dialed my phone and Oscar in my Alajuela taxi answered and suggested two options of either him driving here to deliver it or me going back to Alajuela to meet him at a place of my choice.
I chose letting him drive to me, all the way to my house mind you! I paid the fare and a healthy tip thinking all the time about how much a new phone would have cost.
Now – Why did it slide out of my pocket in Alajuela? I was wearing some new hiking shorts (almost all I wear here) and I have not yet had my seamstress sew a zipper in my front pocket to prevent the phone from sliding out while sitting. I lost a phone in a San Jose taxi in 2017 for this same reason and all my old shorts got zippers in the front right pocket then. See my 2017 zipper post. Monday or Tuesday I will take my new shorts to the seamstress for zippers! 🙂 Might be Tuesday since I have to go back to Alajuela Monday after my Spanish class to get my prescriptions! 🙂
And that is not nearly all of my heart exam adventure which continues on
Since my doctor appointment is at 12 noon and we have a 10:20 bus to Alajuela, I took it. (All other buses are on the hour and I have no idea why this one is at 10:20!) But anyway, same procedure – get off the bus in Alajuela and grab a taxi (in long pants today since phone doesn’t slide out of them). 🙂
Get to hospital only 45 minutes early this time and go straight to the old folks line and wait to be called to one of these windows to be checked in again:
Same thing happens again today. I wait and wait and I’m second person in line and they call my funny name out among the normal names. I walk up to one of those windows and she checks me in, puts my EKG in my file folder and hands it to me, explaining that I must stop first at the vitals station for temp, blood pressure, etc. before wait at Puerta dieciséis (Door 16) for Dr. Garcia to call me in. I’m given a slip of paper with all my vitals (weight, height, temp, pulse, blood pressure and one more thing). I Carry that and my file folder to door 16 and wait about 20-25 minutes which is really not bad.
My new heart doctor is a kid, looks like right out of medical school (like one I had at my private doctor’s office in Atenas once) or maybe I am just old! 🙂 He was very nice and tried to explain simply to me in English (most of the younger ones speak English) why my current EKG did not show an arrhythmia this time but I still have the condition and he is going to keep me on the same medication, Atenolol and a baby aspirin every day. Last year the doctor wrote one prescription, signed it, then made 11 more copies on his copier and printed out official-looking 12 stickers from another machine with changing numbers and stuck one on each of my 12 months prescriptions. (They are not allowed to give out more than one month of any drug at anytime.) I take these prescriptions once a month to the Public Clinic Pharmacy here in Atenas to be filled for free! Last year he even included the baby aspirin.
Dr. Garcia said they have now consolidated that at the front desk and I had to take my folder back up front and wait in line again for the front desk to print out my prescriptions and make my appointments for next year. I waited about 15 minutes in the same line when one lady called out my name again and took my folder and typed a lot in her computer, then she said (all in Spanish with a nearby lady helping me where I did not understand) “We no longer make appointments a year ahead. You must come back to the “platforma” in main lobby in March to make your appointments – so it was moved from Doc to front desk and now to main lobby in a later month – hmm. I had almost forgot about prescriptions then turned around and asked about that and she told me through the nice lady translator that I had to wait until Monday and then go to the Farmacia in the lobby for the prescriptions. She pointed to which slip I took there and which one for next March. Bureaucracy in paradise! So now I get to go back Monday and again next March 20 (which is sort of an appointment to get an appointment which I now remembered happened once before.) Maybe they think I’ll give up and not return or just die before then! 🙂
BUT HEY! IT IS ALL FREE! The private doctors here (like my GP and Dermatologist) are more punctual and provide a whole lot more services and speak English but you pay for those services! I figure my once a year heart exam was a good way to experience the local “CAJA” medical services like the majority of Ticos. Plus the private Cardiologist in San Jose Dr. Candy sent me to the first time charged much more than fifteen hundred dollars for her heart exam and her prescriptions were going to cost more than $100 a month! So I’m saving around $3,000 or so a year by using the public doctors and getting something for the monthly payment I am required to pay into CAJA as a legal resident.
Below is the Hospital Lobby where I will make my appointment in March and Monday I will go to the Pharmacy off this lobby for my prescriptions with many other people both times.