On July 12th, I came down with my first debilitating illness here in Santiago. It started with a fever, then nausea, then vomiting and body aches. After vomiting a dozen times over 18 hours, I decided it’d be best to head to the ER.
My friend Andrea went with me by cab to el hospital militar, a five minute cab ride from my hovel in La Reina. The ER was efficient, working off a number system, like when you go to the deli counter at the supermarket. Within a half-hour, I was on a gurney being attended to by a young doc. He was very nice, and looked like he was 16 years old, sporting the sparsely-haired moustache of a youngling.
The doc ordered tests. A nurse took my blood. Another nurse started an IV. Once I had some fluid inside me, I got up, went into the bathroom, and made pipi into a cup for more tests.
After waiting a few hours, all the tests came back. A half-dozen results were outside of the normal ranges. The young doc didn’t have a firm diagnosis for me. His best guess was that I had a virus, and should repeat the blood tests in a week.
Around 4 days after the onset of my mystery illness, I started feeling somewhat better. The fever was gone. I wasn’t vomiting anymore. But I still didn’t feel right. My appetite was poor. I developed bouts of diarrhea. I continued to loose weight. Seeing the thinness of my naked body in a mirror frightened me.
I went for another round of biochemical tests. This time also checking my caca for salmonella, shigella, yersinia, and campylobacter sp. From what I can tell, the caca tests were all negative, and the results of the blood work all fell within the normal range. But I need to take the results to a bilingual doctor for review. I have an appointment on 8-17 to try to unravel the mystery of this health event.
It’s sucked being sick. But experiencing the healthcare system down here has been interesting. Before leaving for Chile, I bought a travelers’ insurance policy from a U.S. company. The policy has a $250 deductible, and I pay everything out of pocket, then submit a claim for reimbursement. My trip to the ER at the military hospital totaled ca. $240 USD. This same visit to an ER in the tri-state area in the U.S. would have easily cost at least $1,100. Medication is also much less expensive here, about 1/3 the cost of equivalent meds bought in the U.S.
It baffles me that some citizens and pols in the U.S. laud a healthcare system where the costs are clearly absurd, and with the passing of each year, costs become more and more preposterous.