Hospitals

On April 29, 2013

I arrived in La Paz around noon. The city lies in a valley and the views entering the city from El Alto (the higher sister city) were breathtaking. I decided to base myself in the hostel closest to the bus statin so I wouldn’t have to ride on the insane streets and because it was cheaper and quieter. The downside is that I’m far away from everything I need for my next few weeks.

The pain I get when walking a week after my injury is pretty scary for me. I don’t want to risk damaging my knee further, even if everything is fine now. I also don’t want the pain to spring up in the Peruvian Andes. At multiple times during my 40 km ride to Ventilla I was laying on the shoulder of the road in complete agony just trying to straighten my leg. I decided to try to see a doctor immediately. I asked the receptionist at my hostel if there was an English speaking hospital. Of course not. The cool part was a guy getting off his shift found out about my problems and decided to take me to a location with 3 if the best hospitals since it was on his way home. We hopped on one of the thousands of minibuses that are so extremely confusing and numerous for a foreigner to figure out. It cost 1.50 Bol whereas a taxi would have been 15 Bol. We had a nice chat on the way and I got to see how the locals travel.

I went to CEMES, or Cento Medico Especializado. Not sure where that acronym came from. There I immediately asked if there was someone to translate for me. There was one doctor on staff who spoke pretty good English. After examining my knee for 5 minutes she determined it was internal and I’d need either an X-Ray or MRI. Since the hospital didn’t have MRI capabilities she referred me to another doctor so I wouldn’t waste any money at this hospital. She gave me an address and number and explained that I could probably be seen today or tomorrow since healthcare is so different than the States. I promptly explained that since my Spanish was not the best and that I didn’t have a phone that perhaps she could call for me. She did and got me an appointment at 5:45 the same day. She was extremely nice. That part was free.

I had time to kill so I walked around the embassies (where I ran into that police officer from the last post). I also stumbled upon the presidents residence which was underwhelming besides the mini army guarding it. I didn’t take any photos. There was also a real coffee shop with American muffins and pastries where it seemed all the diplomats went. It was expensive but worth it after getting over a sickness that started in Ventilla.

After killing some time I took a cab down (literally) to the suburb where my doctor was. It took a good 15 minutes driving a 4 block section and asking every person near enough to find the building once we got there. We only had a building name and a street. All buildings are named here. It is an extremely wealthy suburb with boutique clothing shops and more restaurants than street vendors. I was the most underdressed person in the entire suburb. The building I got dropped off at was actually the wrong one but the receptionist at the wrong doctor’s office was very specific on where I needed to go. Only off by a few blocks. I got there and the doctor spent a minute before ordering an X-Ray. Oh that was 220 Bol. Wow…. That’s how you get a swank office and a nice suit. He told me to return after and he would be in the office until 8 pm.

I got a prescription for an X-Ray and had to walk 4 blocks to another office to get it. The radiologist was napping when I entered but quickly turned professional. It was 170 for two pictures of my knee after a 33% discount. Pretty cheap. I stopped at an ATM on the way back in case the first doctor wanted another chuck of change for my return visit.

After examining the X-Rays my doctor determined that nothing was broken. I didn’t get charged for the return visit. I still have swelling and pain so I got a prescription for Clofenac and physical therapy. I was pretty proud at my Spanish speaking ability at this point. The prescription was 20 Bol for 20 pills. So after 10 days I’m supposed to return and see how everything is. The last photo is the swelling a week after my accident while taking ibuprofen.

As for the future of my trip, I think there is going to be a major shake up. I decided its going to be the end of the cycling portion. I cycled 6170 km (3833.86 miles) from Ushuaia, Argentina to Ventilla, Bolivia. I cycled through Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Mendoza’s irrigated farms, Salta’s desert, and Bolivia’s mountains. I’m proud of how much cycling I’ve accomplished in almost 4 months. I’m going to ship my bike home and expand my trip to include a few more countries. It will be a nice change of pace. I don’t want to risk the potential for more injuries to my knee and would like to fully heal before hopping back on the bike in the States. I’m super excited to compare different traveling styles and to get to visit some areas that I wouldn’t have time to cycle to. Stay tuned for some very different posts!

5 Responses to “Hospitals”

  • Wow! I’m glad and am sure your family will be glad to hear you got it checked out and very glad to hear there wasn’t anything broken!

  • Nick thinks its a big bummer you have to stop cycling! (I was talking to him while reading this). He wants to know if you’re still gonna have all of your camping stuff with you and how you’re going to travel with it!

    I just hope your knee feels better, and this small detour just leads to bigger and better adventures! Glad nothing was broken!

    • I think I’m going to ship all my gear home too. I think I can fit everything I need into a pretty small bag which I’ll have to buy. Current plans are to head up to Columbia and work down to Peru so I won’t need too many warm clothes either. It’s not worth carrying a 2 person tent and sleeping bag if I only use it a few times. It’ll be a major change to my current traveling style. I hope my knee feels better by Ecuador since I hear surfing is great there.

  • Glad to hear you’re not seriously hurt Mark. Way to be flexible on the travel plans. Traveling by something other than bike will give your body a break and will be fun. So no more camping either? And will it cost an arm and a leg to ship all your stuff back? (I’m just thinking how expensive it was for Mom to ship that little cord to you!)

    • 2,260 Bolivianos through the local Bolivian post and it’ll take a few months. It was almost 40 kilos! So pretty reasonable. I shipped back all my warm clothes, bike, camping gear, and bike gear.

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