As I sat there alone in the rain watching the people on the other side of the road just stare at me, I started to reflect on my life, the typical cliché. How far had I fallen and how many people had I hurt along the way that had given up on me? It was painful reflecting on the life that could have been, and what had become.
A path that started with private school growing up and graduating near the top of the class and then heading to Vanderbilt, the “Harvard of the South”. Drinking my way out of that University and then going to two other schools while doing whatever possible to continue my toxic behaviors. All of the failure and disappointment in my life stemmed directly from alcohol whether I wanted to admit it or not. All the failed relationships, short term job experiences that I “just did not see a future”, all the different colleges and all the moving around was due to my drinking. It had destroyed my life and was on the verge of killing me. The voice of the psychologist in rehab kept going through my mind as I lay on the side of the road. Your addictions will result in three things “rehab, jail, and death.” Was I going to complete the trifecta?
Living in Costa Rica, I knew that things take longer than normal, but I had never experienced the Costa Rica medical system and the logistics involved with public health care in the land of “Pura Vida.” The officer had gone across the street to call the ambulance at 4:47 pm as I had looked at the time when he had left. I had placed in my mind a 20 minute time frame that I would have to mentally deal with this pain before the ambulance arrived, administered pain medication and took me to the hospital. The 20 minute mark came and went and with it my patience and ability to hold back tears. It takes a lot to make me cry but the excruciating pain running up and down my leg combined with the feeling of helplessness that was going on in my mind pushed me over the edge. Through playing sports in high school and college, I was taught to visualize and in many cases applied that to my life in times where hope seemed to be short…..I could not do it in this situation no matter how hard I tired.
The Cruz Roja (Red Cross) “ambulance” arrived 53 minutes after being called. Having taken EMT classes in the USA, I knew a little bit about how they should respond and what procedures are normally followed, all of which would be ignored in this situation. I would find out that the Cruz Roja Ambulance is no more than a glorified taxi service.
The driver slowly ambled out of the van and headed my way after spending about 10 minutes talking with the police officer. The overweight man stood over me for about 30 seconds looking at me with a dumbfounded look on his face. This was not making me feel more at ease and in fact was pissing me off.
Me – “Vamos al hospital!” – Let’s go to the hospital
Cruz Roja Driver – “Puede Caminar?” – Can you walk?
Me- “NO!!! Vamos al hospital!” No, Let’s go to the hospital
Cruz Roja Driver – “Trates de caminar. Pienso es calambres” – Try to Walk. I think it is cramps.
Angry and to prove this idiot wrong I slowly pushed myself to my feet, took one step and collapsed. Disappointed that his diagnosis of cramps was incorrect and realizing that he was actually going to have to take me to a hospital, the ambulance driver told me to get in the back of the ambulance. I asked the driver for something for the pain and received the response, “We do not do anything like that we just drive the person to the hospital.” With the help of the police officer (not the ambulance driver), I made it to the back of the ambulance where I sat down and began to see how dire this situation was becoming. The hospital was about 45 minutes away, so mentally I sat this as the time where I would finally be treated……”be strong, you can make it”, repeated over and over in my head.
Upon arrival in the hospital in Alajuela, I was basically dumped at the door by the ambulance driver and he pointed me to a window, where they would help me. After going to the window, hardly able to hold myself up I was told to sit and wait for the doctor. I argued that I needed emergency help and something for the pain. The lady gave me acetaminophen and told me to go sit down. Acetaminophen is basically aspirin it was like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.
Thirty minutes later I was sent in to see the doctor. I told him that I thought it was something circulatory and that I needed immediate treatment. He did a quick glance at me and shot me a nice “you do not know what the Fu#$ you are talking about” look and then did what his procedure told him to do…..sent me to get X-rays. I was furious and told him that getting X-rays is going to do nothing and was a waste of time. After a few minutes of arguing back and forth I hobbled my way to the other end of the hospital to get my X-rays taken.
I was close to passing out from the pain and the mental anguish I was going through but pushed on. After getting the X-rays which took close to another hour I headed back to the doctor with them in my hand to show the doctor. I was told to wait that he was busy and it would be a few minutes. After 20 minutes I got up and burst into his office, I screamed it is something circulatory and here are the X-rays. Being that Costa Ricans do not like confrontation he stopped working on the lady with the “bee sting” to attend to me and look at the X-ray results. He was nice enough to state the obvious and tell me that he could not see anything but that would I please take of my shoe and sock. My right foot was pale white and my toes purple, my lower leg was dying.
The doctor told me that he “thought it was circulatory” and that he did not treat that but would bring in someone that did. His co-worker arrived a few minutes later and confirmed what I had thought since the beginning, there was a circulatory problem. You would think at this point they would have seen the need treat me as soon as possible, but remember this is Costa Rica. I was sent to another waiting room for yet another 45 minutes to an hour before they brought me in a back room for what I thought would be to begin some sort of treatment. I was wrong again.
I was laid on the table and had an IV stuck into my arm. Although delusional at this point I asked what was going on. I was told that they would be transporting me to Hospital Mexico because they did not treat what was wrong with me in Alajuela. I was rolled out of the hospital and put into another ambulance to transport me to the Hospital I had passed by on the highway 100 times and reminded me of a hospital you would see in a horror film from the outside.
As the sirens blared on the ambulance we raced down the highway. The pain in my leg had increased, but I knew as long as I felt pain at least it was still a viable limb. If the pain disappeared so would the life in my leg. There comes a point where you just do not care anymore and I had reached it. I had basically accepted I was going to die. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine a place of tranquility, which to me had always been the beach and the ocean. I was there, sitting on a towel listening to the waves roll in and out, but there was someone beside me, holding my hand. I felt peace as they rolled me on the gurney into Hospital Mexico. I did not want to open my eyes but had to come back into reality.