Well it has been a while since my last post, but I think it is time for some updates! I thought I would start off with a tale of heartache, woe, and and political intrigue, but cast those thoughts aside to focus on my bank-breaking experience with the Honduran health care system! In actual fact, it was a remarkably pleasant experience (on the wallet, anyways) and opened my eyes to how medical care currently works in this country.
It all started with me having this inexplicable bump on my right leg just below the kneecap. At first it did not hurt, but it did not go away either and continued to grow. After a few days it was the size of a grape and became extremely painful when moving my leg (which is something I frequently do when I walk).
There were some ex-navy SEALS who were providing medical services in Trujillo for the official opening of the cruise ship terminal who were able to take a quick look at it. They said that it was definitely a spider bite from a brown recluse. I didn't see any fang holes and when I looked up the range of the brown recluse later, they did not seem to be indigenous to Honduras, but they were quite confident that it was a brown recluse, so perhaps I will never know.
Usually, I believe that personal growth is a good thing, but at this point I decided that it was time for my abscess and I to part ways. Naturally, I decided it would be a good idea to sterilize my dive knife with hydrogen peroxide and lance the little sucker myself. My mom is a nurse, so she loved hearing this story. I assume she loved it anyways because she was speechless when I told her. I cleaned the knife, made two small incisions in an "X" pattern and proceeded to "express" the pus from the wound. Immediate relief!
Fast forward three days later. For some reason that had absolutely nothing to do with me administering my own medical treatment, the abscess was back... with a vengeance! Now it had become more inflamed and looked the size of a small golf ball (assuming there are different sized golf balls) embedded in my leg. At this point, I decided it would be a good idea to go to the doctor.
I arrived at the doctor's office to find that he was closed for the long weekend. I thought that I would be back in Canada soon enough and that I would have it looked at then. After some persuading by friends and the latent fear of sepsis and long emergency room wait times for a non-life-threatening issue, my girlfriend and I decided to go to the hospital to have it taken care of. After checking in at the hospital, I had to go register myself as a patient using a Spanish form. The clerk did not allow me to only have one last name. I tried to explain that I only have one apellido, but that would not do. I needed to have two. I tried to make up a Spanish name for myself using my mom and dad's last names, but when she wrote down my name on the form she took the first names of my parents, so now there is a file for a patient at the Trujillo hospital for Evan Daniel Dan Rosie. I call him Dan-Dan for short.
I then spent a total of maybe 15 minutes in the waiting room before a nurse was able to see me and brought me into a room with 4 beds separated by curtains. Then the fun began. She started by sterilizing my absceso with what looked to be iodine. After that she extracted a blade that looked remarkably like an X-Acto knife blade from its sterile packaging and went to work. She made two incisions into the wound with the blade in a similar pattern to what I had done several days earlier. My girlfriend Nadia, offended by the sight of cutting and blood, turned her gaze away. So far so good, minimal pain. Then the nurse proceeded to squeeze the pus out. Muchas pain! Nadia, like my sister, is attracted to the sight of a good pus extraction, so she peeked back over. The nurse, too, seemed to enjoy the process as a cruel grin and maniacal flash of sadistic pleasure crossed her face as she unapologetically pressed with white-knuckled force on either side of the incisions causing the abscess explode in an eruption of blood and pus. The colours kind of reminded me of the Canadian flag... and home. A topical anaesthetic would have been nice, but it felt like the infection was being purged through pain. I thought she was finished, but through clenched eyes, I saw her wipe away the pus, her eyes widened, and I heard her mutter something that sounded like "uchas" and she grabbed the blade again. I saw almost the entire head of the blade disappear into my leg as she started using the blade like a spoon and scoop out some string-like pus. Finished, she sanitized and dressed the wound. The pressure was relieved and the pain was gone. She smiled and bid me farewell.
After leaving the room, I went to another counter where I received a course of antibiotics, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and ....to pay. We had visited the doctor a few weeks earlier and were charged about 10 USD for the visit, so using this as a benchmark, we had a rough idea of the cost of this visit. Maybe a little bit more, but otherwise still a lot cheaper than healthcare in the United States. When the clerk stated that the total cost of the visit was 5 Lempira (about 26.5 cents CAD at the time), I triple checked that I had heard her correctly. I then asked her how much for the antibiotics. She told me again that the 5 Lempira is the total of the entire visit including the medication.
As it turns out, the hospital I went to provides free medical care and the total that I paid was for the medication. I now understand why there is a check box on the Honduran entry card that asks if the traveler has taken advantage of the Honduran health care system. I am still in shock at the cost, speed, and quality of the service ( I was always told you could only pick two at a time from this list). Great, quick service that cost less than what it would have cost for a postage stamp to mail the claim to my travel insurance provider!