The College of Saint Rose and UDELAS in Panama

A partnership about education, culture and the exchange of ideas

My Adventure At The Doctor’s

-Liv Alvarado

While on my trip to the Islands on Sunday, I was sleeping and dreaming peacefully in the sanctuary of my hammock.  Or so I thought.  I was abruptly wakened my sweet slumber by the sting of a wretched insect on my upper thigh.  I went from a blissful slumber to an agonizing and shocking pain in my left leg.  WOW!  From the heavenly dulcet dream world into a world of  throbbing and aching, that no one should ever have to know on a “deserted” island of tranquility in Panama.

After regaining my senses from being so rudely interrupted, I managed to refocus my eyes and locate the stinger still lodged within my thigh.  Using the best tweezing ability that I could muster with my finger nails, I “Ramboed” myself a cure by pulling the giant stinger out with the tips of my nails and gritting my teeth the whole time.  Instantly my leg began to swell and the white ring of pain surrounded by a world of red be gain to grow and grow. WOW.

Normally I am pretty tough and can look past such things… so I did.  Despite the fact that I still have no idea what stung me, nor the fact that every two hours my the redness was spreading and the swelling was growing.  By this morning, my leg had doubled in size and was no longer simply red, but the area surrounding the singer was turning purple.  Maybe it is the Marine in me, or the fact that my father instilled in me the fact that “if it ain’t bleeding or broken, you don’t need a doctor.” but until today, I was refusing to go to the doctors.  What could change my mind? you might ask.  My husband can never convince me to go to the doctors (not even after I fell down a flight of stairs at the movie theater and broke my coccyx) So why here in another country with notable flaws in their medical system?  En serio (seriously) it was the cleaning lady at my hostel.  She is also one of my English students on Monday and Wednesday nights and I have faith in her, and when she took one look at my leg, she knew that the purple and the swelling was nothing to be ignored.  Since I have no knowledge of the insects from here, nor the medical systems in town, I went with her and her son of fifteen years to the clinic in town where she walked me through the process of how to register and see the nurses and eventually the doctor.

My first impression of the clinic was “Wow, there a lot of people waiting here, I have to work in 1.5 hours, I hope that I can get out of here soon.” My second impression was “Wow, I am the only white person here, and everyone is staring at me… I am going to be here a while.”  But to my surprise, I was called in more quickly than any emergency room or sick call office in the US.  They were courteous and really tried to help me.

The first thing that Rosaria (my student and the lady from my hostel) did was to direct me to the registro (the registration window).  There, the questions were simple, license (passport), your name, your date of birth, parents names and that was it.  I took the slip of pink and white paper to the caja (cashier window) where I paid my $.50 for my visit/checkup.  From there I was directed to sit in the waiting area to the side of the caja.  There must have been more than fifty other women waiting for the doctor to call them in.  Again I thought “Wow, I need to work at 12:30pm (in 1.5hours).”  Trying to keep the Panamanian mentality in my mind, I sat down and did what any one would do:  got out my cell phone to text and play games while I waited.   The girl to my right even had a book to read.  She must be planning to stay awhile too.  To my joyful surprise I was called only after 15-20 minutes. The nurse called me in, weighed me then asked me to sit back down in the waiting area.  This, I thought, must be where the loooong wait starts.  But no.  After only about 10 more minutes, the same nurse called me back in to see the doctor.  He took one look at my leg and I thought that the old man was going to have a heart attack.  But no.  He knew just what to do and walked me over to the aula de inyecciones (injection room) and talked to the female doctor inside and told me to wait outside in the blue chair next to the door.  While waiting I decided to take in the hospital.  I noticed that men were seated in different areas than the women and that the children were so well behaved.  None of them were screaming or whining.  I even saw one of my students from school there with his mother.  He waved and with the respect that is so common amongst my students he greeted me with the typical “Hola Profe.” (Hello teacher).

Soon my nostrils filled with the delicious smell of fried food, but I had not seen a food stand anywhere.  My stomach was beginning to ache for lunch. “Empanadas!  Empanadas!” the old woman was yelling as she walked through the waiting room.   The words “Empanadas! Empanadas!” were growing closer as I saw the little round woman turn the corner.  She was carrying a metal pail with a lid in one arm, and in her other were brown paper bags in which to put the empanadas once purchased.   Children and their parents alike were buying up paper bags filled with the delicious greasy empanadas that smelled so good, that even I was tempted to spend my  money reserved for the doctors on them.  Just in the nick of time the nurse opened the door to my left and called me in.  Once inside the nurses looked at my leg.  Then in disbelief called over other nurses and then again the doctor to confirm that I was indeed okay and to show off the enormity of my purple, red and swollen leg.  After reconfirming everything with the doctor, the nurse directed to the caja farmacia (pharmacy counter) to put in my order for my injection.

The pharmacist read my prescription, filled out the necessary billing forms, then directed me to the caja (cashier) cashier once again.  I paid my $2.68 for my medicine and then returned to the nurse n the injection room. Everyone was more than happy to help me and did not discriminate against me like I was originally anticipating.  The nurses made sure that I was comfortable and understood what was going on.  I watched as they cleaned my skin with alcohol and prepped clean and fresh needles just like in the US.  Nothing was out of the ordinary, much to my surprise. I have had injections literally all over the world from corpsmen cutting infections out of my feet in the middle of the Australian outback to CO2 activated injections in the AE school house in Pensacola, FL, and this was one of the best servicios (services) that I have ever received.   The process was so simple and straight forward.  No insurance forms. No inflated bills.  No need to sign your life away for something so simple.  For less than $4 I received great care and in a timely manner that far beat much of the care that I have received by the US.

Que suerte! No?

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2 Comments»

  lkpanama2011 wrote @

Wow! Glad everything went all right!

  George Lorang wrote @

Hey Liv,
This is Mr. Lorang’s class back on the campus of St. Rose. We all miss you. Sorry to read about your bug bite. We hope you feel better. How are your students? Do they learn English as well as we learned Spanish :)? Hope you are taking a lot of pictures. When are you returning to Albany? We would love to see you again.


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