Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Being Sick in Cuenca

The last couple of days have been rainy in Cuenca, and the Tomebamba river is running high and fast outside of our apartment. It's just as well that these last couple of days have been rainy because I, Deborah, have managed to get sick again. I'm not sure it is something I ate this time though, because it was only a fever and headache/eye ache. Gil & I ate the same foods, and he didn't get sick, so I think I came down with some mild flu bug. (Or maybe he just has a tougher stomach than I do.) I'm taking Cipro anyway, just in case it is a swallowed bug. I'm already much better.

One thing we have noticed is that even a mild fever in this altitude really knocks out us lowlanders who are already always teetering on the edge of becoming fatigued with too much activity. Since it's extremely important to stay well hydrated, the added fever and the way it dries out your system just wipes you out. (My fever is gone now, was only ever between 100-101, and lasted only 24 hours. But it sure did zonk me out.)

That brings us to the matter of today's post. Many of you have asked about the healthcare in Cuenca, and some of you have expressed concern that we might not be able to get the best care here. So we wanted to give you some information about that and hopefully put your minds at ease.

Gil and I toured a healthcare facility near the apartment we are currently renting and want to share some of what we learned so that you will know that we will be in good hands, healthcarewise, here in Cuenca. In fact, Cuenca is quite on the cutting edge with regard to healthcare.

First, as you can see, there are indeed operating facilities here. You'll note that there is plenty of lighting, an adjustable operating table, and plenty of room for the surgeons to move around the patient while the surgery proceeds.

If you are worried about sanitation, don't be. Here you can see that there are autoclaves for sterilizing medical instruments. Okay, sure, it looks a bit old, but who's to say it doesn't work wonders in sterilization. It just has to heat them up, right?

I know you all think that Cuenca, and Ecuador, probably don't have modern technology, but to prove you wrong, here is a photo of an x-ray machine. While we haven't, fortunately, had need of this machine while we've been here, we have no reason to think it won't work just fine.

Should we have the need of an iron lung. Not to worry. See, they have one. It's positioned outside the hospital so that the patient can have a view while they are trapped in there, and so that the noise of the machine will not disturb the other patients. Very forward, humanitarian thinking, don't you think?

And finally, God forbid that the medical technology doesn't work, don't worry. Our remains will be properly stored and catalogued.

JUST KIDDING!!! Of course, by now, you know that.

There is a museum of medical history right next to our apartment and we took a tour of it a few days ago. Quite interesting.

The truth is that Cuenca does have very good hospitals and doctors. One of the hospitals was finished just last year, and is affiliated with Boston University hospital. Another one is affiliated with John's Hopskins Hospital. Many of the doctors speak fluent English, and we have been provided the names of several of them. Fortunately, we haven't needed them (knock on wood), on this trip. In addition, like in much of Europe, you don't need a prescription for most medications (only for narcotics), and medicines are much less expensive here than in the US.

In fact, medical tourism to Cuenca is becoming more prevelant. Our landlord has another apartment near Mt. Sinai Hospital that he is making completely wheelchair friendly, because more and more people are coming here for healthcare. We're just hoping the medical tourism doesn't drive the cost of healthcare up too much.

Well, I'm going to go drink another big glass of water now.

Hoping your are all well.

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