Sick in Santiago (part one)

It is flu season in Santiago and the entire family got hit.  Monday afternoon, Jack’s nebulizer came out because his asthma always flares up when he is sick. We plugged it in to give him a treatment, started a movie and next thing you know, the machine is ON FIRE, billowing smoke across the living room. We absent-mindedly plugged it in with only an adaptor and not a converter! Good news: we didn’t burn the house down. Bad news: we had to find a way to get Jack his medicine and buy a new nebulizer in Santiago Chile.

We had the name of an asthma specialist John had visited at Clinica Alemana as we were contemplating the decision of moving to Santiago. John called her office and they explained they had medical equipment at the clinic and he should come down to the clinic. What luck!  Relieved, John headed to the clinic to purchase a new nebulizer.

John returned a short time later empty-handed. Turns out, they literally meant the equipment was at the clinic – they said to bring Jack in and they could give him his treatment at the clinic. So we all loaded into the car and headed out.

No one in the clinic spoke English (no surprise). I muddled my way through with the receptionist saying “Mi Hermoso,” “Daniella,” (the name of the nurse we were supposed to ask for) and pointed to Jack and sat down.  We were basically in a fancy ER that looked more like a high-end doctor’s office than an emergency room. They had a woman selling espresso, football on the television and we sat among all the beautiful Chilean mothers decked out in the right boots and fashionable dark winter layers. After more than an hour,  the nurse came into the waiting room and we were ushered back into an exam room.

The kind nurse greeted us with no English. She took Jack’s temperature and shared the reading in Celsius  in Spanish. We all stared at one another with polite smiles but no ability to credibly exchange information and she left the room.

Next came in our lovely English-speaking nurse the doctor had suggested we visit. She  asked us for the vial of medicine to give Jack his treatment. We never thought to actually BRING the medicine to a hospital. A hospital has medicine. But, they literally intended for John to bring Jack AND his medicine. So the doctor explained they don’t have the same medicine in Chile and they could use “the equivalent.”

What exactly do you do with that information as a parent? Do you say, “Yes, please do give my sick seven-year old (who is allergic to everything) a random steroid that I have never heard of.” And, as you are making that insane statement, do so in a new language where miscommunication is inevitable. But, there was no better option, so we tried it, and thankfully, all was fine.

Next, the nurse came back in and said that Jack should go ahead and start taking his “stronger steroid” given his medical history. This “stronger steroid” is a medicine I try to avoid at all costs, but I also know that when he is very sick, he should take it. We nod and agree to do it. Once again, they don’t have the exact “stronger steroid” but they have one that is given in only two doses, equivalent of ten doses in the States. Do we say, “sure, give my sick seven-year old this even stronger version of the “stronger steroid?” Assuming of course that it was not a mistranslation. But, there was no better option, so we tried it, and thankfully, all was fine.

As we were ready to leave, I claimed the visit a success and Jack stopped me to say, “not quite yet mom, we still need to figure out how to pay.”  It cracked me up.  Truly every step has its challenges.  And, he was right, American Express has put a hold on my card because they believe our purchases in Chile might be fraud. I have called three times to get it resolved, they have even sent me a new card, insisting my card does not have a hold. But once again, I can tell by the expression of the cashier, that it is not approved.  Thankfully my ATM card worked and we head home.

2 thoughts on “Sick in Santiago (part one)

  1. sounds like a complete nightmare…hopefully things will get easier…this truly will be the adventure of a lifetime!

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