I hadn’t plan to blog about my accident but Tom suggests that I may forget where and what happened so here goes… On our morning at the Ecobox Andino hotel, I made eggs and toast for breakfast, then set about gathering our drying laundry that I had washed the day before, and packing us up. In the bedroom I bumped rather violently into the corner of the platform bed. As my family and friends know, my skin rips easily and I was faced with a three inch tear in my leg. We mopped it up and I bandaged it but it looked bad so Tom asked the hotel receptionist if there was a doctor in the vicinity. This area of Nevadas de Chillan is extremely rural with little mud huts, rudimentary cottages and farms except for the tourist hotels. But she advised us to check in at the ‘posta medica’ which sounded very primitive to me, like a post office with bandages.
In the tiny hamlet of Recinto, we found the posta. Inside it looked like a doctor’s waiting room. A line of local farming people were waiting at the reception. I got in line behind them. A door opened onto the corridor and I noticed a sign “Urgencias.” I maintained my place in line as I had not been in a car accident and didn’t think I was urgent, but a young woman pulled me into a small room and put me on a examining table. I told her briefly what had happened, she scrubbed and donned gloves to check the wound and then got on her cell phone to the doctor. The room was cramped with two other nurses, all in uniform, folding gauze into small squares to be used to clean wounds. I made small talk for a few minutes.
Soon a young doctor in navy blue scrubs and sneakers swept in, he introduced himself in Spanish but when he examined my leg, he announced that I needed ‘puntos’ (stitches). It’s a good thing my Spanish is decent because he asked me all about whether i was diabetic or had high blood pressure and a whole list of things as he scrubbed, got gloves, set about cleaning, disinfecting, then stuck me with a tiny needle full of anesthetic about ten times, and began to stitch. I tried to amuse him with stories as well as keep my mind off the process which took a long time as my skin is so thin. I did ask how much this would all cost. And, take note, all you Americans who have recently been to the ER, the first visit to a doctor in a posta medica under the Chilean Public Health System costs NOTHING. He stitched my leg, bandaged, gave me two prescriptions for pain, swelling and a three day course of an antibiotic that I recognized and told me to check in to another posta in three days for a bandage check at no further cost.
So much for developing countries. How can they afford to treat everyone, everywhere at no cost when the same procedure in the States would have taken hours and cost many thousand dollars? Something to think about.
A postscript: I checked the papers the doctor gave me and he is a surgeon from the University of Chile. I wonder if young doctors have to do time in the hinterlands, he did tell me he lived in Chillan, a 45 minute commute.