It would be just my luck to end up in the hospital in a foreign country! Although I came out of it feeling infinitely better than when I went in, I must admit that I was ill prepared. That being said, I am posting this entry to make sure the same thing does not happen to you. Learn from my mistakes, amigos! You will be much better off if you do.
First, I shall share my story to give you a bit of context.
Prior to leaving the United States we were all told to make sure that we had our medications in order. We were instructed to speak with our doctors and sort out any prescription needs. We were told to make sure that we pack any over-the-counter medications (e.g. Benadryl, Excedrin, etc.) that we typically use in the U.S. and may not be able to find in Costa Rica. Since I was not on any prescription medications and had not had a serious migraine in over a month I figured that I could scratch “medication organization” off of my “to do” list. I now realizing that was not the smartest move.
A few days before I left for Costa Rica, a friend of mine shared her own immersion program experience with me. When she explained that she had a number of headaches due to exhaustion and foreign language overload, I surrendered to the possibility that I might suffer from the same ailments. My (naive) strategy of dealing with these potential headaches was to drink a lot of water and get enough sleep. Well, obviously that was not an effect strategy. Being in Costa Rica for 2 days with no sign of a headache or exhaustion made me think that I had nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, the third day was the charm. Finally, the change in altitude, constant bombardment of a foreign language, less water intake than I am used to, stark weather differences, and not having enough sleep finally caught up to me. I made it through the morning and afternoon with a dull headache and was relieved to go home and lay down at the end of the day.
[Enter "gory" details of my little headache turning into the most horrific migraine I have ever had in my life.]
My host family was kind enough to call a Taxi to take me to a nearby hospital. My wonderful host mother comforted me the entire way. Once we arrived I was immediately whisked away to a hospital bed. Not able to speak for myself and without my passport, the situation could have gotten so much worse if it had not been for the organization and quick thinking of Dr. Nilda Clark. (I appreciate you, Nilda! I cannot thank you enough for all of your help.) Thankfully, for me, she was readily accessible and prepared. I certainly was not.
This is where my message to all of you comes in: BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING!
Prior to your trip to Costa Rica you are asked to provide emergency contact information and then you are also given a copy of your international insurance information. I strongly suggest that you print out both pieces of information and carry it with you AT ALL TIMES, along with a copy of your passport and the phone number/address of your host family. (Do NOT carry your actual passport with you. That is something you do not want to lose or have stolen.)
Having all of these pieces of information organized and readily accessible will make it easier for you and those around you. Take my word for it. I will certainly be better prepared for next year’s trip to Ecuador. Everyone wants you to enjoy your trip. The last thing you want is to be worrying about what will happen to you in case of an emergency. If you gather the necessary information and have it organized, you will be all set.
( With: Alex Maestre and Tatiana Reis)