Dear Tico Times:
We are residents in Costa Rica, previously from Canada, and are proud to support the Social Security System (Caja). In fact, we try not to use it, as we have real concerns that the system could easily become overloaded and fail if we all start taking advantage.
But I recently needed some “female” surgery, and could not afford the private system at CIMA Hospital. So I used the Caja to get my medical needs taken care of.
From the day I signed up for surgery to the actual operation was three weeks. This was, of course, after the usual tests and specialist appointment, which I did privately. On a recent Sunday, I showed up at San Juan de Dios Hospital in the heart of San José for surgery, which took place the following day.
From initial admission to my departure three days later, I experienced some of the best medical and patient care I ever have had. Some impressions: My Spanish improved tremendously while I was there. The doctors usually do speak English, and most of the staff understands it. Patients chimed in when I didn’t know words or helped me figure out what I was supposed to do.
I was in a six-person ward, an experience I wouldn’t want to miss again. My fellow patients were also in for surgery and the camaraderie and kindness were humbling. Entire families came for visits. Noticing me without a huge family contingent, other visitors made a point of dropping by my bed to wish me well.
The ward was spotlessly clean and breezy. Although there was no air conditioning, louvered windows were positioned to catch the wind. Operating rooms were state-of-the-art. Chaotic as San Juan de Dios Hospital appeared when I first entered, it is run like a well-oiled machine. Quiet and without stress, the actual administration could not have been more efficient.
My surgery went fine. Surprisingly, they don’t pump you full of painkillers and antibiotics after surgery. In fact, I was the only one who asked for something. They explained that painkillers slow healing. None of the other patients in the ward asked for painkillers. There were no complaints at all – just stoic acceptance of discomfort.
You cannot have cellphones in the hospital, nor are there televisions to keep you occupied. They do have volunteers who came around on day two and gave each of us a piece of cotton fabric with hand-drawn designs of flowers. We were also given a small bundle of embroidery threads and a needle.
Well, folks, there I was, in a ward of perhaps 30 women – all of us merrily embroidering. Believe me, I had at least 20 people come over to observe my handiwork. Many compliments. The volunteers would not allow me to contribute to their program. Maybe you don’t need painkillers when friendliness is so natural and obviously healthy.
The nurses were exceptionally nursing, always on the floor checking up, fluffing pillows and just being with patients. I watched one nurse sit on the bed of a sleeping patient with multiple health issues and hold her hand for a few minutes. Are these not the healing arts?
My surgery was nearly one month ago. I am fine and well. I recovered with no complications (no painkillers or infections either). I have kept in touch with my fellow patients and we are having a celebratory lunch next week. All are well, although some are still a little sore. But they’re all in good spirits and looking forward to seeing me again.
I cannot thank Caja doctors, nurses and patients of San Juan de Dios Hospital enough. My present health and recovery was not only medical, it was dependent on being in a world of caring, with modest people who genuinely want you to get better.