Many North Americans are
concerned about the quality, price and availability of
in a strange land. When we visit overseas we look for adventure, but not of the
medical kind. Yet we can’t live in a bubble or keep ourselves fastened to a few
miles’ radius of hospitals and clinics the rest of our lives – Where’s the fun
*Stuff happens* and
even the most adventurous among us can find ourselves face-to-face with a
surprise health event and must deal with it on foreign soil.
Our unexpected medical
journey over the last two months took us to
Guatemala's national hospital,
Pedro de Bethancourt, a plastic surgeon in Guatemala City with his own personal
operating room on the ninth floor and a panoramic view of the capital city
below, to the inside of a hyperbaric chamber for oxygen therapy. We’ve visited
an array of pharmacies for medicines, gauze, and splinting paraphernalia, and
spent too many hours inside a personally hired taxi for our circuitous route
from Antigua to Guatemala City.
During this time I’ve
had emergency services, dozens of private appointments, local anesthesia, drip
anesthesia and pain meds. I have been stitched up, cut up, oxygenated, X-Rayed
and skin grafted.
What does something
like that cost?
You want numbers? We got
numbers! And they are all listed below. But we have to say, these numbers don’t
tell the whole story.
ring finger was de-gloved
On September 8, 2012,
after a celebratory birthday lunch in the city of
Antigua, we headed back to our
village. Upon leaving the bus, my family heirloom wedding rings caught on
something as I took the last step down, and my right-handed ring finger was
“de-gloved.” Immediately, Billy grabbed a tuk-tuk and we arrived at the
emergency room of Pedro de Bethancourt National Hospital where four doctors
attended to me. My rings were cut off and I was given local anesthesia, a
tetanus shot, was stitched up, wrapped up and sent home. These doctors answered
all our questions, wrote prescriptions and made sure an appointment was
scheduled for the beginning of the following week.
make it that long.
A day and a half later
my painful finger looked cold and lonely so I returned to Bethancourt. Doctors
unwrapped my hand, took an X-ray and two different surgeons spoke to me.
Much of the tissue on my finger was already dead and the danger was that I might
lose it. The head surgeon gave me the name of a Guatemala City specialist.
I was not charged for
any of these medical services and care was personal and attentive.
Moving on to the big
Billy and I discussed
our alternatives and decided to phone Lori Shea from Guatemala Medical Travel.
had interviewed her previously about Medical Tourism for our website and
liked the work she was doing. Lori jumped into action, contacted Dr. Galindo - a
hand surgeon and President of the Plastic Surgery Association - and arranged for
a consultation in Guatemala City that afternoon.
Dr. Galindo's private operating
room, panoramic view
My dominant hand was
injured and I could not fill out the paperwork myself so Lori took all my
medical history. She accompanied us into the office, chatted with the doctor,
and helped get us a better price for services by keeping me out of the hospital.
We chose to deal directly with Dr. Galindo and use the hyperbaric chamber that
was located four floors up in this same medical building. That evening after
seeing the surgeon and having oxygen therapy, Lori drove us home. Concierge
services were donated and Lori only charged us a “taxi fee” to get us to and
from the city.
Over the next six weeks,
I had ten Hyperbaric Chamber treatments, one given to me on a National holiday
where the therapist had to come into the office especially for me. I had eleven
visits with Dr. Galindo – three of which were on weekends or the National
holiday, and two for which we were not charged. The price quoted below includes
all consultations, local anesthesia, one “mini surgery” of cutting away the dead
tissue on my finger, and the skin graft, which included the services of two
nurses and an anesthesiologist.
The fee for our personal
driver covers dozens of trips over mountain roads in both clear and rainy
weather. Hernan picked us up at the agreed time, drove us to the city, waited
for all appointments to finish and then drove us back home hours later. He was
reliable, courteous and professional.
Hyperbaric Chamber sessions
include antibiotics, pain medication, anti-inflammatories, medication to
encourage vein re-growth, gauze, tape, hydrogen peroxide, splint equipment,
Hospital (emergency care, stitches)
shots different angles)
Dr. Galindo (11
Chamber (10 treatments)
(16 trips, Antigua - Guate City)
secondary X-Ray at private clinic)
Instead of an
amputation, I have a living finger expected to be rehabbed into full working
order. While $3,000USD is not “free,” pricing charged was fair and reasonable,
and service was humane and professional. On every level of assistance, people
were personable and supportive of my condition. I was not a patient number or
someone’s car payment and not once was I rushed.
accidents are unpleasant under the best of circumstances. However, here in
Guatemala, treatment was both affordable and accessible. These specific details
should put some space between you and the fears you may hold for receiving
medical assistance in a foreign country.
Plastic Surgery, Reconstructive Hand Surgery - Dr. Juan Carlos
Galindo in Guatemala City. Edificio Sixtino, 6ta Avenida 6-63,
Zona 10, Tele: 502. 2269. 7071 or 2269.7072 or 2269. 7073 or 2269. 7074.
Cell: 5202. 6280 Email: JCGalindo
Hyperbaric Chamber Therapy - Licda. Ana Lucky Potrillo, Edificio
Sixtino, 6ta Avenida 6-63 Zona 10. Guatemala City, Tele: 2269.
7259 or 5208. 5515 or 5472. 2946 Speaks some English
Clinicas Medicas San Sebastian,
5 Avenida Calle Poniente #44, La Antigua, Guatemala. Internal
Medicine and Electrocardiograph clinic. Doctora Rosa Julia Chiroy Munoz,
Tele: 7832. 7019, Cell: 5723. 0780 Email:
Driver Hernan in Antigua Tele:4534. 3651