July 25, 2012 Edition

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The rest of the story

Leslie Ginn
Guest Writer

And here is what Paul Harvey would call "The Rest of the Story..."

The exciting news is that I broke my ankle in Costa Rica the day before I was to board an airplane for home.

The not exciting part! I broke it while getting out of the shower. I slipped on that beautiful, colorful and very hard tile that I have been raving about all month. There was a lot of yelling out of pain.

Healthcare in Costa Rica was a little different. I broke my ankle (actually dislocated it and had three breaks in the two bones that attach it to the leg) at 6:30 a.m.

A doctor (who thankfully spoke English) arrived at my host family's home within 35 minutes, accompanied by an EMT. After evaluating the ankle and confirming that the really odd angle meant that I had done an excellent job of breaking it, he began to arrange my transportation to a hospital.

First they confirmed that I had insurance and that the insurance would pay for my needs. (I am ever so happy we bought travel insurance!) Then I half-hopped, half-dragged myself on the shoulders of the EMT and doctor to the back of a waiting SUV so we could drive to the ambulance. Then I hopped/dragged myself again from the car to the ambulance to start the four hour drive to the only public hospital in Costa Rica, which is in San Jose. The EMT drove and the doctor accompanied me until I reached the hospital. I have to state here that for the first hour and a half there were more potholes than road. (Just had to say that.)

Let me describe the ambulance for you. It was more like a van with windows in the back. There was a bench seat on the side of the "bed." The bed never moved in or out, even though it had wheels. It was just a bed. But I was very grateful for it. There were no medical supplies or machines in the ambulance; it only had the supplies brought by the EMT and doctor. I definitely used the painkiller.

The hospital was top notch, although I did have to climb out of and hop to the rolling hospital bed from the ambulance. The surgeon was waiting for me with X-rays and capable hands. He set my foot before permanent damage set in and then performed three hours of surgery at 7 p.m. (My doctor's office here evaluated his work and said that he must have been a world-class surgeon.) I left the hospital the next day (Sunday) for a hotel room to await the flight on Monday.

Several other differences are notable. Every single person that I came into contact with was kind. My original doctor tracked me down at the hotel to ask about me. My surgeon stopped by the hotel room (The Hotel Room!) to talk with my teacher and me and to change the wrapping on my ankle. And the bill was only $6,500 for all of it. Wow.

I am back from Costa Rica, honest. Just not up and around much yet. Take my advice about two things. Travel to another country some time and really enjoy it, and always buy travel insurance. The whole accident cost me only $84.

(Leslie Ginn recently completed a month-long immersion program as part of her education. She is a studying to be a Spanish teacher.)

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