Well this post was to have been about “a day at the office” but due to sudden pressure we instead bring you to this week’s “Peru’s Proven Weight loss Program”, otherwise known as a day at the emergency Clinic International.
Warning: Sensitive information, not trying to be mordid but…
The story is set in the Clinic Internacional, a private clinic, in the upscale neighbourhood of San Borja, a 15 minute walk from Wilma and Ross’ apartment. Wilma ended up in the ER for 6 hours on a sunny Friday afternoon. She was assisted quite quickly for which she was extremely thankful since she couldn’t really remain vertical for any amount of time at this point. After the customary blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen level readings, an IV was inserted very expertly by an attending nurse, after very carefully seeking a vein in which to insert the needle. Wilma knows all too well that nurses often have difficulty finding an appropriate vein in which to insert IVs, from a medical saga she experienced when she was 22, more than thirty years ago – that is a tale to tell for another time.
She was administered two doses of medicines through the IV, each followed by a dose of sodium chloride if what she could read in Spanish was correct. Subsequently she received 3 or 4 bags of saline water ? drips solutions (by this time she was losing count of all the bottles of drip she was receiving). It was after 5 p.m. when Wilma began to wonder “when/why were they not releasing me”. A nurse had come in to take her blood pressure, manually she would add, and after two from what she gathered as unsuccessful attempts to get a reading, she was quickly wheeled by about 6 ER staff to another stall and hooked up to a machine reading BP.
It turns out, rightly so, the emergency clinic staff had become concerned that her BP was so incredibly low. Of course they didn’t realize that Wilma’s BP is naturally low albeit still within the acceptable range. As any observant and cooperating patient would do, she dutifully informed them of this fact in her best Spanish, having listened and learned from one of the nurses that BP was called pression (say it will a French/Spanish accent). Wilma’s BP or pression was so low that the nurse could not get a reading doing it the manual way.
For some reason, it didn’t occur to them that perhaps her BP was so low since she had not eaten anything by that time for almost 24 hours nor had anything to drink since the morning. At no time had any nursing staff asked her what she had consumed nor did they offer me anything to eat/drink which is usual in ERs as there isn’t a cafeteria around the corner. Wilma herself had been once again feeling faint for about the last hour despite her being horizontal lying on the gurney. Fortunately, by that time, she had called Ross, asking him to bring some snacky things, and soon he came to the rescue and was giving her something to drink and eat. And as if by magic, her BP rose to a safe level almost instantaneously. And so it was Wilma was released at approximately 6 p.m.
First stop the nearest pharmacy to get what the doctor ordered: pepto bismol (remember the commercial where they did the pepto bismol dance? You can find it on youtube), paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) and electrolytes. Nothing prescription – humph!! And to think Wilma thought she was going to get some kick ass drugs to kill those nasty bacteria buggers. Fortunately the IV meds did their kick ass work.
An aside – some background on the pharmacy shopping experience in Lima, or rather the farmacias. They are everywhere, mainly two chains, Inka farmacia and Mi farmacia. Almost always all the goods are behind the counter even if not prescription. Sometimes you can buy shampoo & non medicinal stuff on shelves but few have any shelves for this purpose in front of the counters – guards against theft perhaps? So you provide the script from the doctor or you simply ask for X. We had shopped a week before for some antacid stuff since I had forgotten to bring this along on the trip. In Canada one would purchase a bottle of tablets, not here. We were offered a packet of 3 tablets which the sales woman had removed from a small box. So we got 2 sets of 3 tablets at a very small cost. But why couldn’t we just get the whole bloody box so that we don’t have to go back again if we needed more? Canadian logic doesn’t work with this one so you just go with the flow. The paracetamol was also only sold by the pill, again super cheap, fortunately I had some from a previous trip.
Back to the story…
Wilma’s hospital saga was just the culmination of off and on again intestinal irritations. Since her arrival in Peru she had experienced several days of diarrhea in the 2nd week which seemed to rectify itself using electrolytes as recommended by Cuso Peru office staff. However, there were reoccurring episodes, usually only lasting a day or so but they did not show signs of disappearing. Last week she began having fainting spells while seated at her small desk at work, not knowing whether this was blood pressure or blood sugar related. During these episodes, she would nibble at food, finally having a bit of stash of snacks in her one of two desk drawers, and force herself to drink another glass of water. She was only able to alleviate the fainting sensation by moving or eating some food. She also just simply left work to go home and rest. Only lying horizontal provided full relief; putting her head between her knees just didn’t do the trick.
Concurrently she was having gut related issues, not necessarily full blown diarrhea but clearly things were not normal either. She subsequently developed heart burn and acquired the above antacid tablets which did help. On top of it all, throughout she was having great difficulty sleeping. As we all know, sleep is essential to enabling the body to heal. Sleep is challenging here because of all the noise – talk about a contrast from the silence of the farm. Of course this was to be expected and was not something with which she was unfamiliar, having experienced all the city noises on various travels to Cuba and Jamaica – read previous post. As the week progressed, the symptoms did not abate, and she was at the point of exhaustion, and by Thursday evening the fever and chills set in, fortunately mildly. It was at this point, she decided she needed medical attention which saw her go to the ER the next day.
Upon reflection, Wilma is not sure why this situation got to the point it did. Part of her feels it was her good ol’ protestant work ethic kicking into high gear, something that comes to her so naturally. She had gone home a few hours early on two of the days of that week but this clearly wasn’t enough. She had been told during the Cuso in-country training and training in Canada that it was normal that it would take a few weeks for a person’s internal system to adjust, and to not be surprised if one experienced a bout of the shits. But it was week four of the adventure and things were getting worse so this was no longer normal. She also learned that in the in-country training when the medical doctor gave his presentation which was all in Spanish, she clearly missed some key pieces of information, like the need to get electrolytes the moment the problems began (Ross & Wilma are now very well stocked with such a supply expecting similar situations to occur – not if but when). Wilma also knew that she has a sensitive gut, having learned the hard way as a teenager when she would imbibe in drinking alcohol. She had been careful as she had been when traveling to other countries where the water was suspect. I guess she was just lucky to not have had any problems to date. Upon further reflection, Wilma has decided that she will never let things get this far again. If there is any hint of ill health in the gut region, she will be staying home and resting. Her health comes first, work will just have to wait.
Getting to the title of this blog. Ross has also suffered from what appears to be the same ailments, just hitting him a few days later than Wilma. Both of them had gained some weight in the weeks prior to the departure. Well mother nature has seen to it that Wilma certainly has lost those few extra pounds, not that she needed to lose any weight, and it has helped Ross as well.
We hope this story wasn’t too depressing. We are sure there are many of you who can reminisce about their own experiences, feeling a solidarity in sickness.
And with this I do wish all of you the best of health for 2017!! Till next week.